|Print | Back||June 19, 2013|
Raising the Rising GenerationWhy We Are Losing Our Boys, Part 2
by Emily S. Jorgensen
The problems uniquely facing parents of boys and the young men themselves could fill a book. Indeed, they have filled many on the market.
However, for the purposes of this column, I have chosen to focus on just three myths common in LDS culture that I think exacerbate the issue.
The myth I am focusing on in this segment is one I have heard many times in Sunday School, testimonies, and occasionally from the pulpit. It is: “Women are just more spiritual.”
Now perhaps I have missed the memo and this is canonized doctrine, but I don’t think so. I think this is a myth. Every time I hear it spouted from the pulpit or podium, I wage an internal battle.
Roll my eyes? Or cringe? Roll my eyes or cringe? ROLL-MY-EYES-OR-CRINGE?
Sometimes I do both.
My first problem with this myth is that it is just not true.
My second problem with this myth is the (often) unsaid portion of this myth, which is “….than men.”
I do not buy that women are naturally more spiritual than men. First, and foremost, Jesus is a man. As is the current Prophet. As are the apostles, mission presidents, and all the other amazing men who lead this Church.
Do we really think they are just flukes?
I will grant that not every man is a potential General Authority. Of course, nor is every women a potential member of the Relief Society General Board. However, there are more than enough men Churchwide who are adequately spiritual to be inspirational leaders at all levels of Church organization.
I suspect this is a cultural belief hailing from a different time when the “ideal woman” was more gentle than strong, more demure than educated, and more soft-spoken than standing up for her convictions.
There is nothing wrong with being gentle, demure, and soft-spoken — but these things do not equate to more spirituality.
The specific issues that call women and men into a lifestyle of the “natural man” may be different, but they are equally potent, and both men and women have to conscientiously work toward a state that is closer to the Spirit, or “more spiritual.”
I resent the implication that it must be easier for me as a woman to shun evil and embrace the good. It is sometimes incredibly hard for me to not give into temptation.
If we buy into the idea that women are naturally more spiritual than men, I fear this may have a trickle-down effect on the way we raise girls and boys.
If girls are thought of as potentially more spiritual, then we may be more comfortable discussing testimony and sharing feelings with them, and asking them to express theirs.
If boys are thought of as potentially less spiritual, then we may be tempted to assume they are building enough testimony so long as they are going through all the right motions. We can perhaps sense a bit more reluctance in them to discuss feelings of a sacred or spiritual nature, so we may not provide them with as many opportunities to share them.
For example, compare the experience we provide for our Young Women at Girls’ Camp with the experience we provide for our Young Men at Scout Camp.
I remember my first year of Girls’ Camp. Ah, finally, I felt like I was getting the kind of experiences boys had been getting in Cubs for the past four years. Fire building, canoeing, campfire stories, stargazing. It was awesome! At the end of the week there was a testimony meeting around a campfire. It was special and I felt uplifted.
The next year when I attended, I was quite peeved to find that many of the first aid, outdoor skill, and recreation activities had been supplanted by “spiritual” activities. Commitment hike. Phhht. Solitary scripture reading. Double Phhht. Evening with the bishop. Grump-grump-grumpity-grump.
I was not thrilled.
However, as I continued to attend over the next few years, I grew to appreciate those experiences for their testimony building value. I saw them as they were — opportunities to search my feelings deeply and commit to a Christian life in the Church.
Now, I am not trying to knock Scout camp here. My experience with it is admittedly limited; I have attended one of the Family Camps the BSA puts on, and it was tons of fun. I love all the skills and activities the Scouts get to participate in, as well as the leadership opportunities and the camaraderie of hangin’ with the boys, away from parents and girls. These are important, positive things.
But it seems to me that the experiences they aren’t given at camp is somewhat telling.
Where are the opportunities for our Young Men to have quiet time in the woods alone with only their scriptures for an hour? When is their campfire testimony meeting? What about their evening with the bishop when they can ask him any question they want anonymously without their parents around?
It makes me wonder: are we giving them adequate opportunity and encouragement to develop their own relationship with the Savior?
Are we providing an environment where our boys feel safe to express their tender feelings about God and His gospel?
My dad is a crier. I love it about him. He cries at the drop of the spiritual hat. Feeling the whisperings of the Holy Spirit is hardwired to his tear ducts.
This is why, when in high school I was dating my now-husband, and I caught him teary-eyed a time or two at Seminary, I knew he was the guy for me.
I was rather disappointed to discover that a mission had dried up his tear ducts.
Yes, of course, I was glad he served an honorable mission. But, being around all these other men who more successfully held their emotions in check while discussing spiritual things seemed to have “toughened” him up a bit and he no longer wore his emotions on his sleeve.
Over time, however, I am glad to report that fatherhood has brought them back to some extent.
I think it is sad that he felt comfortable expressing his spirituality in an open way with his high school girlfriend, but not with his mission companions. I wonder how common an experience this is, and whether we are doing enough to nurture a willingness in our young men to be this in-touch with their spiritual feelings.
At the end of the day, the “women are more spiritual” myth seems to feed the “boys are broken girls” philosophy. Boys are capable of spirituality that is just as deep and feelings that are just as powerful as any girl has. They may express it somewhat differently, but we as an LDS culture can make those expressions more frequent if we make it safe to have them.
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