Dear son,

First, before I tell you how much of a mess this world is, I think it would only be decent to give you a name. Let’s call you Luke. I like “Luke.” Something about it rings well with my last name, and I think it would fit you well, considering the subject of this letter, and the guy I’m naming you after was a doctor.

Precisely because the world is a mess is why I hope that one day, you are no longer just a thought. It would surprise you to know, that others think the complete opposite. They say that because the world is a mess, they don’t want to bring children into the world, so that they may not see or experience suffering.

I understand this benighted logic. As I pen this letter, there are stubborn rumors of a THIRD world war, there’s much ado about the climate and its role in human extinction, the nuclear family in Western society is disintegrating, standards of living in first world countries like ours are in sharp decline, crime and drug use are running rampant, trust in public institutions are low. It seems like everything is falling apart.

In my opinion though, Luke, the answer to a world that seems to be falling apart isn’t to abstain from having children, but to have more children. To build them up, strengthen their hands, and help them plant their feet firmly. It’s not books and theory and philosophy that shape healthy societies. It’s strong children.

They are the antidote to chaotic times. They make the necessary sacrifices, burst open with impactful ideas, rebuild, protect, speak the truth, take the lead, and provide order and structure

In the least, if I’m able to impart these three fundamental things with you, I would consider my fatherhood a smashing success: (1) Fear God and keep his commandments, (2) Live in integrity even when it costs you, (3) Make wise, long-term decisions early—preferably beginning at around 14 years old. Why 14, you may ask? Because at the time you’re 14, and enter High School, so many things become enticing, including drugs and girls. At that age I want you to understand how quickly adulthood is around the corner. My biggest concerns will be that you stay focused on academics, arts, athletics; not impregnate anyone or contract any sexually transmitted diseases; and choose the right kinds of friends and affiliations. These factors will set beneficial conditions for you as you prepare to go out into the world on your own. But don’t worry, I won’t leave you by yourself.

Were I to raise you, what it means to be a man would be crystal clear for you, but it’s not so simple for others for a number of reasons. As Western men, we have found ourselves in an unenviable position: we are trying to build consensus on manhood. Something our male ancestors never had to do. The conversation is warranted, however, and more nuanced than I make it sound.

(…) we are trying to build consensus on manhood. Something our male ancestors never had to do.

The loudest voices that are teaching masculinity today, are prioritizing the attaining of status and stature, rather than strength, purpose, and fulfillment. Furthermore, they have disregarded a crucial element of man: EMOTION. Men are very emotional beings, and emotions are more real to human beings than almost everything else.

Due to many reasons that I will not overwhelm you with, men have been held in disdain for the past four decades. We’ve been primarily treated as utilities and resource pools for others, and then quickly discarded when we’ve outlived our usefulness. That’s all that most of us have known ourselves to be. We’ve been misled, and are searching for answers in a post-traditionalist world.

In the midst of all the adversities that our current society faces, the emotions and mental pain of men haven’t seemed to matter; this particular fact is the primary driver that gave rise to those voices. They are trying to help men who are jaded, frustrated, and struggling with their self-esteem, to make sense of the world and their place in it. They are helping those men begin to tell themselves different stories. To be fair, it’s a better alternative for them, than the dark places they would otherwise naturally steer toward.

There’s always been a heavy burden of performance upon us. We have duties that society insists we fulfill, and we are dangerous when we are emotionally chaotic. This is largely due to our ability to cause tremendous physical harm. So, when a man confesses emotional pain, the world hears him saying that he’s becoming less useful or increasingly harmful. I think it’s wrong. It always has been. Men are healthier and happier when they are heard. It is not feminine to say so, it is wise. I believe this is part of why they seek power. It is that strong of an incentive.

A root cause of confusion for men today is centered on a simple question: how are men to navigate their emotional pain, in a world that is understandably anxious about their negative emotional expressions?

A root cause of confusion for men today is centered on a simple question: how are men to navigate their emotional pain, in a world that is understandably anxious about their negative emotional expressions?

I believe the modern world has fundamentally demolished manhood. It has attempted a vile thing; to reverse engineer a man and make him into its own image—a living utility and nothing more. His negative emotions and his pain be damned, I shudder for the generation after mine. The past has been distorted for them. They live under a new official history, and so would you. They have no mainstream or shiny examples of the past to look to. They have been told that any and all forms of masculinity in the past were toxic, oppressive, or barbaric. They are left with neither precedence nor guidance. But there’s great potential.

It may sound contradictory, Luke, but I think despite all this, it’s an exciting time to be alive, and to be a man at that. Men are learning so many things—liberating things—on a mass scale. They are taking back hold of the conversation about their identity, and demonstrating masculinity on their terms, for better or worse. On one hand, they are much more emotionally involved with their children, and are more open to the idea that their children should not only be seen, but also heard–because it’s healthy for their development. On the other hand, many of them are becoming more unpleasant to women, seeing the majority of them as untrustworthy and sexually deviant due to certain perspectives provided by prominent voices on the internet.

Things which men in older times either didn’t have the time to process, or the cultural context and awareness to even be allowed to consider, are now being considered. This is cross-cultural. They are redefining manhood in a compelling and explosive way. A lot of the messages are rough-edged, and very few are viable in my opinion.

Much of it is largely unsettling. But it’s a fabulous thing to see men doing what they can to build each other up. For so much of history, men seldom comforted each other. For they themselves were seldom comforted. They were not strengthened. They were not fed with wisdom and understanding.

Surely, if you are my son, you would ask me: Dad, what then? What do we do?

Surely, if you are my son, yo would ask me: Dad, what then? What do we do?

Well, firstly, let us ask the question for these times: who is properly armed for battle? Deep within every man, I believe, is an eagerness to war, and to war for a cause. Whether they understand this about themselves or not, men are oriented towards combat. Unfortunately, few choose the right kinds of fights. Too many become distracted with jealousy and pettiness, crippled by loneliness, discouraged by their self-pity, pacified by pleasure or the lure of comfort and luxury.

Even if that fire inside flickers faintly, the fire never dies. Devious men, charismatic men, charlatans and great speakers know this truth. It is why they can engage masses of once-dormant men, incite them into a frenzy, and convince them to commit great evil in the name of good. Think Hitler, think Mussolini, think Stalin, think Mao. All of whom you would be introduced to at some point.

We all want to fight. We like to fight. But most of us are poorly armed. This is especially true for broken or hurting men. For many of us, our combat vests have been stripped, our weapons are dysfunctional, and we are often attacked by well-fed and well-equipped bands of raiders. Those raiders are the amalgam of media companies, magazines, non-profits, and personalities who subtly and subversively trivialize men’s emotional pains and traumas. Officially and publicly, they profess the virtues of mental health awareness, but by their deeds you shall know them.

If men are muzzled, they will express their pain and anger in a much more destructive way. Manipulative people will use them and dance circles around them. This is why hurting or broken men are dangerous. They force their emotions into darkness, where those feelings morph into tormented organic things that rise up to the surface to in turn torment them, to in turn torment us. But they are powerful, when they know how to make themselves heard. How to assert themselves.

Hence, we enter the art of vulnerability, and this is the challenging thing. All men – and I mean ALL men – must master the communication of themselves. When a man is angry, sad, depressed, grief-stricken, the very metrics by which we value him—provider, protector, mentor, instructor—are seen as potentially compromised, because the vitality, commitment, and focus to perform these functions may degrade.

There is an ethos which the “boomer” generation is familiar with: it so goes that they were not allowed to feel prolonged periods of sadness, because they found work to distract them, or work was found for them if they were children—including tedious and menial work. This was a tactic primarily applied to boys.

I often think of the mass of men who throughout history were not allowed the luxury we have now. Who through high stress, crushing grief at the loss of a spouse or child, sadness at the dissolution of a marriage, heartbreak at the betrayal of a friend or family member, they still had to “power through” and work. The coal mines, the factories, back-breaking agriculture. Sure, maybe it was good for them as a distraction. But what if it ultimately wasn’t?

What if their hearts were crying out with no one to hear them? What if, aside from the dangers of labor, it was precisely this element that helped lead men historically to earlier graves than their wives? You would tell them, therefore, to speak! To master the art of communicating themselves. To make themselves heard. The caveat is to make it clear that though they voice whatever pain or negative emotion they may have, there need be no alarm. They must learn how to do that well. Otherwise, we will remain where we’ve always been—suspects, aka “whiners.” You would tell them to express themselves wholly. Not just share the highs, but admit the lows with grace and humility. Let the world do with that what they will. When he speaks, whosoever will lift him up, may it be well with them. Whosoever is indifferent, let them find their way and pass by quietly.

Now…in their vulnerability (I admit this is hard to do), they must erase any expectations of being offered any meaningful help by whosoever hears them. They must become comfortable with effectively communicating their negative emotions into the world with a sense of strength, not as dogs with their tails tucked, but as wounded lions, nursing their injuries, and staying in the hunt as best they can. On the other hand, if they want help, they must pursue it diligently with the hope that things can get better for them in their lives.

No great man you know was a man who couldn’t artfully communicate himself. All powerful societies of the past taught their high-born boys to speak and write masterfully. The Feudal Japanese, the Europeans, the Romans, the Greeks, the Chaldeans, and many more. The essence of masculinity is self-mastery, and to master the communication of yourself, is a major hallmark of that

Therefore, the conclusion of the matter is that they speak of their negative emotions with strength and confidence, and not be ashamed. Lastly, as they are learning to communicate themselves well, it is also important to find places where they are heard, felt, appreciated, and encouraged towards beneficial, joyful, and productive purposes.

This, I believe, is the way forward for hurting men. I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve seen it for others.

There is much more to say. All in due time. Until my next letter…

Be here,
Your hopeful future father.