The other day I came across another one of those deeply sobering studies about how America is worried about our sons, especially regarding boys growing into successful adults. This study, done by the Brookings Institution, found that 41 percent of Americans agreed or strongly agreed with this concern.
Of course, as all things seem to be in America in 2021, there were partisan differences in the results, with 48 percent of conservatives saying they were worried about the state of American boys, compared to 41 percent of liberals (who were slightly more worried about girls). But both sexes agreed, albeit by different margins, that they were more worried about boys.
As I wrote in my book, “American Restoration,” much has been made about the crisis of young boys and men. We see that crisis throughout our culture as we have witnessed many boys and young men “fail to launch” into adulthood, seem directionless, and unwilling to accept personal responsibility, engage in violent acts, and fall into increasing despair. These issues end up causing all sorts of societal issues such as fatherless children, substance abuse, and ever-increasing incarceration rates.
But these are just symptoms of a greater problem. That greater problem is what has happened to our boys over the past several decades that has led them down this destructive path. To cure what is wrong with our boys, we must regain an understanding of the concept of a gentleman.
This “gentlemen gap”—the lack of direction many young men experience as they enter the adult years—can be attributed to a lack of excellent male role models to guide and point them in the right direction. Because of the breakdown of the family, this problem now encompasses two generations because many men in their thirties and forties did not have these role models, and as a result have no idea how to be a role model to their boys.
Thus, these boys grow up in a world that values accomplishments over personal character, career over family, and pleasure over responsibility because they know no other way. What is communicated to them is the antithesis of being a gentleman—a man who respects women, loves children, and takes his role as a provider and nurturer of his family seriously.
To fix what ails the American male requires instilling boys with a purpose. When young men find a purpose in life, they become disciplined and focused. They realize their lives are not their own. They come to model self-sacrifice and unconditional love to those around them. They become what is called a “good citizen.” They become gentlemen.
Unfortunately, when they do not find a purpose, they are weak in spirit instead of strong, prone to temptation, out of control in their actions, and bow to no authority. The results are tragic for men, but in all too many cases, for women as well, as they face a dearth of responsible and capable men.
Our present culture has played a major role in creating this lack of purpose in boys as they mature into manhood. One aspect is the lack of consistent rules and expectations for proper behavior. Sadly, our culture now celebrates not following these rules, instead of abiding by them. The second, as mentioned earlier, is the lack of excellent role models in other men for them to follow.
So, ultimately, if we are to no longer to be worried about the state of our boys, the buck, as President Truman said, stops here—with us. We can all play a role in getting them back on the right track by modeling the behaviors they need to emulate to become successful in life and become gentlemen. Whether we are a father, grandfather, uncle, teacher, employer, or just a family friend, by demonstrating personal responsibility, hard work, and respect for others, we can start to reverse the societal trends that have resulted in the current state of male aimlessness.
As it has been said, change occurs one life at a time. Let’s start with the lives we can directly affect today. If we do, we will see positive change, because great gentlemen make great citizens. And great citizens bring cultural transformation—starting first in their homes, then permeating all aspects of society.
If we succeed, we will not only restore confidence and purpose for our boys but also bring about societal restoration.