Second post in the preview series for Ignition, my upcoming e-book for men.
It starts early:
“Let’s have a race.”
That sentence has been uttered on playgrounds across the world. Boys are stacked against each other. The fastest wins. The strongest survives. Young faces look across the starting line and take inventory. Why is he bigger than me? Can I win? What if I don’t?
The primal urge tells them to run. It plants the seed that grows throughout formative years. We tell our boys to be tough. Don’t cry. Be a man. Walk it off. Stifle your emotions. Eliminate weakness. Don’t be afraid and if you are, God forbid, don’t show it.
Every aspect of adolescence is placed against a measuring stick. Our education system is funded on test results. Athletics become tickets to college scholarships. We split students into groups and skill levels, tracking them through more than a decade of school meant to prepare them for the world when, in the end, all it does is create a stock member of society. Our boys are set for a lifetime of work at meaningless companies where they’ll find themselves at the starting line again in the race up the corporate ladder.
What if it could all change?
What if we foster our boys and their passions? Allow them to explore their feelings and know what it means to be sad, angry, or upset? What if we teach them the value of peace and teamwork, that the race is fastest when completed together? What if we help them celebrate their differences and reach across racial and economic lines?
There is hope for the future and it takes redefining competition.
Jesus calls us to a high standard in the Sermon on the Mount, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 3-10
Remember, at this time, Jesus is speaking to the minority population living under Roman rule. These statements were like bombs exploding the status quot. The dove of peace was flying in the face of the Roman eagle. Jesus was redefining competition, laying down new rules, creating a new field of play.
The Creator had come to change the game.
As fathers we can easily get caught up in the spirit of competition. We see our sons in contrast to their friends. We live vicariously through them (sit in the stands at any youth sports event and just listen for a while). We see them as extensions of us and not their own individuals.
So what can we do?
–Teach them to serve: Go to a local charity or outreach. Donate some clothes, toys, or food. Tell them what you are doing and why you are doing it. Their world will expand when they see the realities of life and existence.
–Teach them to love: Empathy can change reality. Want to stop the violence? Fight poverty? Build bridges? Make peace? Show your boys that others are important, that they are called understand feelings and make someone’s day better. Help them to have a good heart. It will go a long way to their future.
–Teach them to pray: This is so simple and so powerful. Carter prays every night. The prayers of children can change the universe. I get emotional listening to the cries of his heart as it calls out to God. Prayer builds a foundation that they will have for the rest of their lives.
The world’s view of competition can be harmful but, with effort, it can be reclaimed for good. As fathers, our work is never done. As men of faith, our sons must see a legacy to follow. They are our mirrors. Always give them something positive to reflect.
Redefining competition is a great place to start.
Soundtrack inspiration: A great song from Common. Listen closely to the words as the man is a poet.