This week CBS News released a short documentary that asked, “Is there a better way to raise boys?” It explored the challenge of raising boys to avoid the trap of “toxic masculinity,” and the crew visited our home in Franklin, Tennessee, to get the perspective of a conservative Christian family. You can watch the documentary here:
I write and speak quite a bit about masculinity in America—not because I represent any sort of ideal but because our nation faces an immense challenge in raising boys, and any discussion of the challenges of modern American society (including deaths of despair) that does not explore the masculine identity crisis is missing a big piece of the cultural puzzle. It’s true that men still achieve well at the apex of American society (they fill boardrooms, legislatures, and CEO chairs), but in the rest of American society, men are starting to fall behind.
There are complex economic, cultural, and spiritual reasons for the struggles of millions of young men, but one reason is that our nation is losing its understanding of virtuous masculinity. Note well, I’m not arguing that we’ve lost an understanding of virtue—we know we want children to be kind, to be truthful, and to be brave, for example—but we’ve lost a sense of what it means to translate these virtues through a distinctly masculine filter. Or, to put it another way, the effort to raise a child to become a good person is quite often different from the effort to raise a boy to become a good man.
Yes, we’re all just people. And no, men are not all the same. But as a general matter, men and women are different, and that means (again, in general) that we’ll be disproportionately plagued with different vices and disproportionately blessed with different virtues.