Raising good men who aren’t safe

This is an opinion column

When Susan inquires about Aslan, the lion king in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she’s concerned about the prospect of meeting the great beast. “Is he—quite safe?”, she asks, ” I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” The response from a talking beaver speaks to the crisis in modern masculinity. “‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver. ‘Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.’”

America cannot make men safe enough that we don’t have to worry about their character. Reimagining a lion with evil intentions as an ankle-biting chihuahua will only work until he recognizes the size of his teeth. Many of our boys are ticking time bombs capable of sexual abuse, suicide, assault, or even mass shootings. We should understand why.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than a quarter of children (26.5%) in the United States live in single-parent households, more than any other country. Almost 80% of custodial parents are mothers. In so many other households, fathers are absent because of work or other priorities.

That’s a huge problem, particularly for boys. Yes, we should continue to praise the work ethic and resilience of single mothers, but every boy, at some point, will look for a masculine example. They’re cubs seeking a lion to emulate, and they will fill that need one way or another.

When testosterone hits boys like a Mack Truck, they’re turning to Internet pornography to guide their sexual urges. Pornhub’s press information claims the website averages “over 100 billion video views a year. That’s about 12.5 porn videos per person on earth.” Regardless of the morality of pornography, the science increasingly points to a massive crises impacting the next generation of men.

An academic review published in 2016 of 135 peer-reviewed studies “provided consistent evidence” linking online pornography to, “greater support for sexist beliefs,” “adversarial sexist beliefs,” a “greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women,” and “a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.”

We’re not talking about the next generation’s Playboy. Today’s pornography is on par with drug and alcohol dependency from a neurological standpoint, and the addiction is particularly easy to feed. American society has willfully declined to protect our children from known harms of pornography.

The alternative sexual reality is just one component of a digital fantasyland that’s literally consuming boys. My sons will go on a video game bender for hours or days if we don’t carefully monitor them and limit their access. While my wife and I don’t have moral objections to games like Roblox and Minecraft, even content-appropriate games become immersive alternatives. The reward propositions in modern gaming are as much human psychology projects as digital goods. Developers design them to keep users coming back for more.

As American boys transition into adulthood, many don’t have male examples, their brains are porn-fried, and we’ve topped off the toxic combination by creating alternative realities where “success” comes easy.

When they’re forced into the responsibilities of adulthood, anger and frustration explodes as they discover meaningful relationships and personal fulfillment are much more complicated and difficult to obtain than they’ve been led to believe.

So what do we do about it?

Adult men must show up for their boys and those who don’t have male role models. When my boys were young, I sold myself the lie that my function was to provide my family with all they wanted. What they needed and really desired was my time.

That time is necessary to teach our boys instead of taming them. Teaching boys to drive a nail, fix a tire, or grow plants leads to men with myriad productive outlets. Minecraft doesn’t hold a candle to a hammer, saw, and a few items dug out of a construction dumpster. As it turns out, the limited reality is the digital one.

Part of that teaching is handling failure. A few weeks ago, I unearthed a boulder that I was barely able to budge. I loosened it up and then told my three boys to get it out. They tried every possible way, but they just couldn’t do it. They failed. So I helped them. They helped me. Before we knew it, that boulder was rolling across our lawn. Seeing failure as a common reality that leads to new opportunities and creative solutions builds a critical resilience that keeps explosive anger at bay.

As the father of boys, I’ve also recognized that they are biologically programmed to answer “good” in response to at least 97.3% of questions asked. Adult men need to set better communication examples. That means engaging our emotions, discussing them, and explaining how we’re responding to them. I don’t particularly enjoy it when, for example, my boys ask me about my brother’s suicide. I do need them to see me hurt and discuss it with them. It’s not fun, but it’s vital if I want them to do the same.

Most importantly, we need to teach boys to act justly, to love mercy, and carry themselves with humility. They won’t accidentally stumble into being ethical men with strong character. YouTube and TikTok are not acceptable replacements for parents, mentors, and coaches whose lives demonstrate personal integrity.

America faces an increasing number of dangerous, morally adrift, lions in our society. The news is replete with tales of their tragic choices. The answer isn’t to make all lions safer; it’s to raise many more who understand, like Aslan, the personal cost and meaning of being good.

Cameron Smith is CEO of the Triptych Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The Triptych Foundation promotes a virtuous society through investments in socially impactful media and business. He was recently executive director of the Republican Policy Committee in the United States House of Representatives. You can reach him at cameron@triptychfoundation.org.

First published on Al.com – Click HERE to see the original article.