Several years ago, my niece married too fast, too young and for all the wrong reasons. Predictably, danger signs soon appeared on the “dashboard” of the marriage. She had married a very angry young man. And, it wasn’t long before his anger exploded toward her, their unborn child and even their cat.
Thankfully, her parents (and the legal system) rescued her. Today, she is married to a fine man and their life is a happy and deeply committed walk with Christ. Her current life bears no resemblance at all to her former one.
A view from the bench
While my niece’s first marriage was disintegrating, I found myself sitting next to a beautiful and delightful lady on an airplane. She was a wife, a mother, and . . . a family court judge.
After we had talked for quite a while about children, church and crabgrass, I suddenly asked her, “From your view on the bench, what is wrong with men today?”
She needed no interpretation or clarification of my question. I was stunned to watch the very pleasant wife and mother recede; I saw “the judge look” come to her eyes. I quickly grabbed a pad of paper and begin taking notes.
“Men are angry,” she said in clear and clipped tones. “They are angry at their fathers, at their mothers, at law enforcement. I think they’re angry at God.”
“Why are they angry?” I asked.
“Because they have been abused, ignored, abandoned and lied to by their fathers.”
This lady had very informed and burning opinions about what she saw in the human parade which passed through her court daily.
“So why are they angry at their mothers? At cops? At the Lord?” I asked.
“Because their mom and God did not protect them from the cruelty of their fathers. And they are angry at cops and God — the Lord gets it twice from them — because they are male authority figures. Their anger makes them addicted to control.”
So, I told her about my niece; I gave her the ugly details about her husband’s anger. The judge quickly said, “Listen; she better get away from him. He has to control her. And, because of that, he will probably injure or kill her. I see it every day.”
“What makes them so dangerous?” I asked.
“Their pain is so great that they have to inflict it, to pass it on. Some will torture animals. Some will fight. And, some will abuse or kill those they love. They must have a sense of control. They are profoundly antisocial. And, there is a very large population of these guys. They are already destabilizing the social order in cities. And, trust me; it’s gonna get much worse.”
Mad at Dad
David Blankenhorn has described the process which leads to the judge’s chilling observations.
“Both clinical studies and anthropological investigations confirm the process through which boys seek to separate from their mothers in search of the meaning of their maleness. In this process, the father is irreplaceable. He enables the son to separate from the mother. He is the gatekeeper, guiding his son into the community of men, teaching him to name the meaning of his embodiment, showing him on good authority that he can be ‘man enough.'”
“In this process, the boy becomes more than the son of his mother, or even the son of his parents. He becomes the son of his father. Later, when the boy becomes a man, he will reunite with the world of women, the world of his mother, through his spouse and children.
“. . .When this process of male identity does not succeed – when the boy cannot separate from the mother, cannot become the son of his father – one main result, in clinical terms is rage.” David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America (New York, NY; Basic Books, 1995). p. 30
In a matter of speaking, a breakdown in the transmission of values and civilized behavior has resulted in an explosion of rage. That blast is not isolated or contained; it is shaking every socio-economic, religious, and racial group. Tragically, America’s women and children – the proverbial “first in the lifeboats!” group – are living with those who not only fail to protect them but who increasingly kill them.
Can this crisis be reversed? Do we have the tools, the skills and the patience to help build a renaissance of fatherhood? How far would that go to breaking the cycle of anger and violence?