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5 Reasons Why Our Sons Lack Character (and how to reverse the trend)

Just the other day another video surfaced showing a large group of young men in the teen years to early twenties assaulting a helpless man. They did it “just to do it.” No cause and no greater purpose behind their actions. It’s what they do for fun.

It goes without saying that we live during an era this country has yet to see. It is not that America has never faced grave trials, or even been on the brink of social or economical collapse. No. We’ve been thoroughly tested time and time again. Yet, in the past, our men largely responded with great courage and resolve. They were men of character. Yet, those days are quickly fading alongside the memories of America’s glory days. However, if we are willing to humble ourselves before God and resolve to follow His will over our own, He will make a way for us.

As fathers (and mothers), we must be willing to step back onto the battlefield for our kids, put first things first and trust God with the results. We’re called to a life of sacrifice and love. Yet, God ultimately determines the outcome. Regardless of God’s sovereign plan for our families, our job as parents is to serve and glorify God in the roles He has defined for us. It is up to us to set the example for our children.

I love this quote by Roosevelt that I believe has some application as we relentlessly pursue our fatherhood calling.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt, excerpt from the speech “Citizenship in a Republic”

5 Reasons Why Our Sons Lack Character (and how to reverse this trend)

1. We’re allowing the prevailing “me” culture to raise our sons. In doing so, our children are more concerned about what they look like on the outside and what people think, versus who they are on the inside and what God cares about most.

Reversing the Trend: While we’re called to be “in” the world, we are instructed by Christ not to be “of” it. As parents, we set the pace for our kids. As a father, my life not only teaches my son, it also affirms his own calling into manhood. If my life is following after Christ, my son will be undeniably impacted by that pursuit. At the core of our Christian faith, is the precept that God cares most about the man’s heart, i.e. his character and allegiance. Our kids need to hear and see this truth lived out before them.

“It is the distinguishing glory of Christianity not to rest satisfied with superficial appearances, but to rectify the motives, and purify the heart.” – William Willberforce

2. We emphasize self-esteem over God-esteem. In our effort to speak value into our child’s life and create a sense of self-worth, we too often build up our son’s perception of himself apart from God’s divine involvement.

Reversing the Trend: By telling our sons that “they can do anything they put their minds to” yet fail to stress the foundational truth that every person’s value is derived ultimately from the God who created them, we unintentionally cultivate a prideful heart versus a humble heart before God. Our sons and daughters have tremendous significance because they are made in the image of God. He is their ultimate source of self-esteem and self-worth. As they grasp this essential life principle, they not only understand that their lives have great value, but they also realize that their lives have tremendous purpose.

3. We’ve devalued the God-established differences between men and women.

Reversing the Trend: Our boys, and our girls for that matter, are being told by the world around them that there is no inherent difference between the genders. In essence, there is nothing special about who they are as a man or a woman. Our public schools and media are now teaching them that their God-given biological sex means nothing. Yet, we know as Christians this is not true. So why do we allow our kids to take in these lies with no real engagement around what God’s Word says?

In the book of Genesis, we see that God created both man and woman in His image. He created them uniquely designed to complement one another, equal in worth with different roles. As parents, we must combat the world’s lies with God’s truth and model the attributes of godly manhood and womanhood before them. Our sons and daughters must know the immense value and beauty of bound within both sexes.

4. We’ve largely failed to instill God’s greater vision for their lives.

Reversing the Trend: Within the centrality of our manhood calling, is the greater mission that transcends any one life. Our God-given manhood vision is a calling to lead–through our service to God and to others. It is the laying down of our will, our very lives before God and our families. To know God’s vision for our lives, defines not just who we are, but as important, how we live.

It is of paramount importance that our sons capture God’s vision for their lives. This needs to be one of our greatest priorities as parents as we do all we can to cultivate their hearts for the Lord. We plant and water. By His grace, God grows them for His greater purpose.

5. God’s greater glory is seldom the driving passion and priority that compels our lives. Therefore, we should not be surprised that our sons lack a commitment and determination around life’s most important purpose, i.e. glorifying God in whatever they do (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Reversing the Trend: Like almost anything with parenting, this teaching application begins with us. Our sons need to see this truth lived out in our own lives. We need to teach them to always ask the question, “How does this glorify God?” If God’s glory is not a part of something, we need to seriously question whether that something should be a part of us.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred for his faith and willingness to stand up against Hitler’s regime, made the following statement: “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Herein lies likely the most important trait of men that holdfast to godly character: They are men of sacrifice that live to serve God and others. If I do anything right as a dad, my sons will see and learn these two things from my life.

While the times and culture around us will, in some way, always be changing, how we primarily raise our sons and daughters should not. As Christian parents, what matters most to God needs to matter most to us. Before God, it is not the outward appearance of the man that counts most. It is the character of a man’s heart before God that holds the greatest value.

“…Do not look at his appearance…as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

If I'm not taking care of the most important thing, why am I so busy with everything else?