Identity Distortion: The Questions

Last time, I mentioned that everyone is faced with one of two questions in their lives; the answer to your question determines the identity you will tend to choose for yourself. There is a question that all men have to answer, and there is a question that all women have to answer. They are questions deep in our hearts that are normally answered when we are children. I’d like to take some time to discuss these questions now.

In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge identifies the man’s question as “Do I have what it takes?” There is something interesting that happens in the minds of young boys. There is an adventure, and there is danger. If you’ve ever wondered why some boys get into so much mischief, this is why. It’s how their brains are wired! Deep down there is the desire to cheat death, and end up a hero. That is why boys love super heroes. That’s why everything is a gun. That is why they pretend to sword fight with sticks, and that is why they play with fire trucks and little green army men. They are practicing to be who God made them to be!

Every risk they take, every tree they climb, every dragon they slay, and every explosion they walk away from is an attempt at answering the question, “Do I have what it takes?” On their own, the answer they’ll come up with is “Yeah, I bet I could do that,” but an answer that comes from themselves means nothing. The best person to answer this question is also the only example of true masculinity that they have: the father. They watch him, and they try to do everything exactly the same. They struggle to carry the same weight load dad can, and they want to use the same power tools. They want to change the oil in the car the way dad does. They want to build a bonfire like dad; they want to drink coffee because dad does. And they want to be the knight in shining armor, rescuing the damsel in distress just like dad. For every great quality they hope to have, they look to their father. Or at least…that’s how it’s supposed to be.

John Eldredge identifies the woman’s question as, “Am I lovely?” Ever wonder why little girls play dress-up? Ever wonder why they have the desire to put on makeup? Ever wonder why they sing and dance everywhere? Ever wonder why they cover everything in glitter? They are practicing to be who they were created to be! All on their own, little girls can look at themselves in the mirror and say, “Yeah, I bet I could be that.” But, like the boys, this question can’t be answered by themselves. Much of this is already in their hearts and minds. You don’t have to tell a little girl that dancing and singing is fun. You don’t have to tell her that glitter looks pretty. For much of it, though, she will rely on her mother. From their mothers, little girls learn how to put on makeup or a training bra. From their mothers they learn how to cook the best meals or to stay balanced in high heels. The mother is the example of everything they aspire to be.

While the mother is certainly important in this process, it is the father who truly answers the question. When a little girl wants to go ballroom dancing with prince charming, she runs to daddy. When she wants to look pretty, hearing that she is pretty doesn’t count unless it comes from daddy. When she becomes curious about dating, she listens for daddy’s response. The knowledge that any boy would be lucky (and maybe in danger of dying) if he wins her heart has to come from daddy.

The desire to be sought after, wanted, and treasured exists because it is the man who will later seek her, want her, and treasure her. The only way for little girls to know that they are worth the pursuit by a man is if it comes from a man. It comes from the only man in her life. From him, she learns to look for a man who is strong and brave; she learns to look for a man who feels confident in all he does and who is passionate about what he loves. She learns to look for a man who craves to bring her on an adventure with him–a man who gives her little gifts and tells her that he would move heaven and earth just to be with her. Or at least…that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Most of the time, that’s not the way it happens at all. Where did we go wrong?

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