On Boys and Bravery

By Hannah Benac

The word brave is really in right now. It’s painted on signs, printed on t-shirts, and plastered across all kinds of paraphernalia geared towards little boys. “I want my boys to be brave!” all boy moms would say in a heartbeat and yet I can’t help but wonder if our actions in raising these little men are matching up to the words out of our mouths or the signs we hang on their walls. Bravery is a very appealing concept until you actually think about how that might effect your parenting in everyday life. That is until we face the reality, as mothers, that teaching our kids to be brave also requires us to let go.

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Oh boys…always trying to save something!

The actual definition of brave is: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. Ok hold on, wait… did it really just say ready to face and endure danger? Or pain? On second thought, maybe I’ll pass on actually teaching my boys how to live a life of valor- I’ll just put a cute t-shirt on them that says “brave” and call it a day.

As moms we are protectors; our first reaction is to put a stop to whatever is happening if there’s any chance of someone getting hurt. Typically the two biggest things we want to protect our boys from are danger and pain and rightly so, this is part of our job as their moms. But, I’d love to challenge us on exactly how we are going about protecting. It seems to me there are two ways to help our kids navigate the challenges of life: you can hover over them or guide them through it. There are huge differences between these two: Hovering means following our kids around everywhere they go removing every ounce of risk that’s in front of them. Guiding is giving them the space to explore while advising them in wise ways to take on what comes their way. Hovering is always intervening; guiding is only intervening when necessary. Hovering always says you can’t; guiding says you can and here’s how.

Currently I am reading through 1 Peter and am struck by the bravery of the disciples and the early church. In Chapter 4 Peter writes to them, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

It’s interesting to me that Peter is not telling his audience to avoid suffering, he’s not apologizing for it or telling them to find ways to make it more comfortable; he does in fact tell them to rejoice in it, to endure it and expect it. Hmmm this is sounding very familiar- ready to face and endure danger or pain, showing courage. The early church is embodying bravery at its finest. Bravery is not looking for trouble but it is being ready to endure and stand against it when faced with challenge or opposition. If our goal is for our kids to follow Christ, they will face challenge and opposition and have to be prepared to stand up under it. They will need bucket loads of bravery to live the counter cultural life Christ calls us to. If we don’t give them opportunities to show courage now, how will they be prepared later?

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This picture pretty much describes how I feel with my boys all the time…they are 2 steps ahead and we’re hanging on to them for dear life

The experiences we give our kids now are helping shape character for later. Bravery is the foundation for so many things I want for my boys when they are grown:

  • I want them to take risks for the gospel (believing takes bravery)
  • I want them to marry women who believe in them. As their mom I am modeling a woman who believes in them in all the things they are trying as they grow. The more I let them try, the more their confidence grows and the more they learn their limitations as well.
  • I want them to stand up against what is wrong. This takes confidence in stepping into opposition.

In sum, boys are shaped by experiences. If we, as their mothers, only give them experiences of comfort and ease then more than likely they will either grow up to be the kind of man who walks the easy road and only looks out for himself or one who is ready to face a challenge but does not know how to navigate it wisely. Instead, lets ask Jesus to help us overcome our fears and grow up a generation of valiant, bold and heroic men. This is hard but we can do it…in fact, we have to do it for the sake of not only our sons, but the world they will one day impact.

 

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