"And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
When Ryan was in kindergarten at a private Christian school, the headmaster would take the time to train the boys on the mechanics of a proper greeting. If he approached Ryan, he would extend his hand and say, "Well, hello Mr. Courtney. How are you today?" If Ryan looked down at the ground (like the average five-year-old), the headmaster would patiently and gently tell Ryan to extend his hand, look him directly in the eye, shake his hand firmly, and with confidence say, "Fine, thank you." When Ryan would do so, he would say, "Atta boy, Ryan -- good firm handshake." It was a great example to me and proof that boys as young as five can learn to greet adults respectfully.
Keith and I continued to enforce this school rule of etiquette in our home, and to this day our boys are generally at ease when greeting and conversing with adults. Had we not remained vigilant in training our boys in basic communication etiquette, they probably would be like the many boys who stare at the ground and grunt disrespectfully when adults speak to them. While I realize that many boys may be justifiably "bashful," this does not mean we should allow it to be an excuse to respond to others with silence.
Ryan was my bashful child, and we had to work with him to overcome it. I recall a time when we came to a standoff over his bashfulness. He was about ten years old, and I had told him we could rent a particular movie he had wanted to see. When we pulled up in front of the video rental store, I told him that I would wait in the car while he went in to ask if they had the movie in stock. He begged and pleaded for me to go in and would not budge from the car. I stood firm and told him, "Ryan, you have to learn to take care of things like this. This person behind the counter does not even know you. You have nothing to lose." Finally, he gave up, faced his fear, and went into the store.
I realized that because of his bashfulness, I had grown accustomed to communicating for him over the years, and now it had become an expectation on his part. I had effectively prevented him from learning necessary communication skills that were vital to his future. It was now or never. From that day forward, if he was looking for a particular item to buy with his allowance, I would have him take the initiative to call stores and find out the basic information. He was hesitant at first, but if he wanted the item badly enough, he would eventually break down and call. Today you would never know that Ryan ever had a bashful/shy side to him. Had we not recognized his bashful tendencies early on and made a concentrated effort to help him overcome them, I doubt he would have had the skills to go out and find his first summer job this past year.
If timidity is allowed and even cultivated in our sons' lives, it can breed a spiritual timidity over the years. If our sons are allowed to shy away from uncertainties, what will keep them from shying away from matters that require faith?
Do you recall the story of Gideon sending out his messengers to summon the warriors for a battle to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Midianites? In order to make sure that there is no question that the Israelites would be delivered by the hand of God, Gideon is told by God to pare down his force of warriors so they will have fewer men than the Midianites when they go into battle. To make the first cut of men, God tells Gideon this in Judges 7:3: "Therefore, tell the people, 'Whoever is timid or afraid may leave and go home.' Twenty-two thousand of them went home, leaving only ten thousand who were willing to fight" (NLT).
No doubt, it would take a great amount of faith for the warriors to believe that they would prevail in the end, especially with fewer men. If your son were of fighting age, would he be among the remaining ten thousand who were willing to fight, or would he be among the twenty-two thousand who wimped out and went home? Without intervention by parents or others, timid boys almost always grow up to be timid men. Warriors have no reason to be timid and afraid; they know whom they serve.
It is my belief that our culture has hijacked many of the components of biblical manhood. They have blurred the lines of what defines a man, leaving our boys and men confused and suffering from an identity crisis of sorts. Many men have abandoned their roles as providers, protectors, and spiritual leaders. Families are falling apart, marriages are in shambles, and gender roles have been redefined. The fallout is great, and today we are experiencing a shortage of real men. If our sons are to be real men, we must first help them cultivate the warrior spirit within. We must prepare them for the battlefields of life and groom them to be warriors, not wimps.
Originally posted August 8, 2006.
Excerpted from Your Boy: Raising a Godly Son in an Ungodly World (Broadman & Holman Publishers). Copyright © 2006 by Vicki Courtney. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Vicki Courtney is the best-selling author of TeenVirtue, a national speaker, and founder of Virtuous Reality Ministries. A former agnostic and feminist, she professed faith in God during college. Vicki lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three children.