I wanted my recent Desiring God Post “Talking About ‘Man-Boys'” to be the beginning of a new kind of conversation between men and women about male immaturity. It’s easy to pass the buck from gender to gender, playing hot potato with responsibility. I wanted to escape that cycle – that relational feedback loop. If men admit responsibility, then that means they have to face their fears and avoidances, which is obviously scary. If women stop attacking their male counterparts (i.e., “telling it as it is”), then they are left in whatever state they are in, with no one to blame. That’s scary, because in those situations, we often blame ourselves, and hate ourselves. Two genders, one fear, zero conversational productivity.
After posting, I got a flood of feedback from both women and men, on topics from dating seriousness to masculinity, from female tendencies to male shortcomings, from pushback to hearty “Amens.” I consider the result a great and rare acquisition: honesty. Men saying “Yes, I fail.” Women saying, “No, it’s not right when I do that.” Men and women saying “You’re completely wrong!” All of it was welcome and celebrated.
At the end of the day, I was less trying to make a big deal about masculinity, and more trying to address the fact that our culture, and especially Christians, make an inordinately big deal about masculine laziness, when it is in fact merely a surface-level manifestation of a deeper issue. The solution to male immaturity is not always (or mainly) combativeness, but genuine relationships, in which confession and honest failure is safe – that is, it won’t be met with playground ridicule, which has unfortunately become the form of discourse with which the church relates to male twenty-somethings.
Calling a man “childish” to his face in love is one thing. Using the term “man-boy” is quite another. One is justifiable. The other lacks not only gentleness and grace, but understanding and profundity. Scripture warns against immaturity with grace (Heb. 5:13). Using the term “man-boy” is both brute and belligerent (PS – it’s also unattractive).
I hope that in being honest, those who responded, or benefited from the responses, were assisted in taking a step into vulnerability, and therefore toward facing the very fears that causes escapist laziness, pride, judgmentalism, and unhelpful speech. May we continue to grow as we seek to use words that “give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Through doing this, we can honestly face our unique weaknesses and utilize our unique strengths, for the glory of the One who matures (Phil. 2:13), and out of love for our other-gender neighbor.