In the wake of the #MeToo Movement and the empowerment of women over the decades, it appears that the value and esteem of males are diminishing. Young women under 30 in 147 U.S. cities now out-earn our boys. Single young women are buying homes at the rate of two and a half times the rate of single men. In one generation, young men have gone from 61 percent of college educated to a projection of 39 percent. It’s the opposite for young women. Today young men between 25 and 31 are 66 percent more likely than their female counterparts to be living with their parents. Between the age of 10 and 14 boys commit suicide at almost twice the rate of girls, boys between the age of 15-19 commit suicide at four times the rate of girls. The U.S. jail and prison population increased by more than 700 percent between 1973-2013; 93 percent are male and disproportionately young.
In the ’70s, more and more women entered the workplace, and there began to be a significant rise in the divorce rate. Many children were living primarily with their moms. The courts rarely awarded primary custody to dads because he was seen as the breadwinner, and women were seen as the caregiver. By the early 2000s research began to surface, pointing to “Dad Deprivation” as a leading contributor to social, psychological, academic and physical health problems for boys and girls. But most recently, research is showing that Dad deprivation for boys has an even more detrimental effect and is longer lasting than for girls. Warren Farrell, the author of The Boy Crisis, credits it to a compounded effect of dad deprivation and a “purpose void.” “Men are the role models who either offer our boys structure and inspiration or leave them rudderless and depressed.” There are always exceptions to the rules, but boys tend to become what they see in the men around them or what they don’t see.
“If a man knew how important he is, he’d never leave.”
Let’s look at some of the research findings to support the magnitude of importance a man plays:
- Children with father loss have, by the age of nine, a 14 percent reduction in telomere length- the most reliable predictor of life expectancy. The telomere loss is 40 percent greater for boys than for girls.
- Students coming from father-present families score higher in math and science even when they come from weaker schools.
- Living in a home without a dad has a higher correlation with suicide among teenagers than any other factor.
- Worldwide, the amount of time a father spends with a child is one of the strongest predictors of the child’s ability to empathize as he gets older.
- Boys who do not live with their dads become more demanding and coercive toward their moms.
- The more contact children have with their dads growing up, the more easily they make open, receptive and trusting contact with new people in their lives.
- Even when race, education, income and other socioeconomic factors are equal, living without dad doubles a child’s chance of dropping out of high school.
- Boys living with dads have better-enforced boundaries, leading to better impulse control and fewer discipline problems.
As a single mother of four, my respect for the role a father and husband plays has skyrocketed. That’ s not to say I have less respect for the purpose of women. The Scriptures are clear that women are equal but different.
Much of my passions for marriages and families are born out of the death of my husband, Paul May. Paul was diagnosed with melanoma and died eleven months later. In a moment, I became a widow, a single parent of four children: Amanda 14, Paul Jr. 9, Molly, 5, and Houston 4. Beyond the grief and trust that God was sovereign, I was at least comforted in that we were cared for financially. Within a few months, I began to grasp the devastation of my loss and the loss my children would experience the rest of their lives. The loss of things that no amount of money would compensate: the loss of a husband, a father, our spiritual leader, our family shelter, our feeling of physical safety, emotional support and protection. The loss of loving a father and being loved by a father, the loss of loving and being loved by a man. Paul wasn’t a perfect man, but he was a steadfast, wise, loyal, adoring father and loving husband who cared for us under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I realize that many of you reading this never experienced the blessing of a loving father and husband. I’m deeply sorry for any pain you’ve endured. Had I not experienced what we did, I’d never have grasped the magnitude his presence, love and sacrifice had on our lives. Although I appreciated him, I wouldn’t have fully understood the weight he carried, and the impact he had, as a father and husband. I would have taken it for granted because it was what a man was supposed to do, and I would have known no different.
The kids lives changed very quickly. My oldest, Amanda, almost immediately had to assume the role of an adult and help me take care of the other kids. I’m convinced her love of the grocery store was birthed running in for me while I sat in the car with the others. Houston, as a four-year-old, spent more time on her hip than mine. Molly got caught in the middle and went along with whatever the blur of the schedule demanded. Paul no longer wanted to play sports or go to anything where other fathers might be. Doughnuts for Dads was almost a crisis every year for all the kids. Amanda and Paul felt the loss all of their life, and Molly and Houston grew up with little to no memory of life with a father. They all have their stories. No father to stand on the side of the sports field and be their guard, no father to run to when they had a broken heart, no father to walk them down the aisle, no father to tell them they’re beautiful, no father to say “you can do this,” no father to show them how to love a woman well, no father to say “I love you,” no father to instill a holy fear if they were disrespectful to me or crossed a more life-defining boundary, no father to point them to Jesus for forgiveness.
A Father can lead his children into heaven or hell
My dad made it easy for me to understand a relationship with Jesus. Like Christ, he loved me unconditionally, but like Christ, I knew if I didn’t obey him, there would be consequences. I knew that if I didn’t come home on time, like Christ with the sheep, he would come looking for me. I knew that he’d support me and come to my aide if it served me best, but like Christ, he’d guide and allow me to make age-appropriate choices. Even as a young adult, when I made poor choices, like the prodigal son, he’d welcome me home. Like Christ, he sacrificed for our family and for me. We were second only to God on his priority list. Like Christ, he was faithful and kept his promises. Like Christ, I knew he’d give his life to keep me safe. So, in February of 1967, at FBC Eau Gallie, Florida, it was easy for me to accept Christ as my Savior. I understood all the evangelist, Johnny Higginbotham was saying because my earthly father had not only shown me what Jesus was like, he made me feel His presence.
Today, my children are grown and profess a relationship with Christ, but it wasn’t easy or smooth. They heard about their earthly Dad from others at least once a week. They know what I’ve told them. They’ve seen pictures and read stories in our family photo albums. They’ve read his prayer journals. They’ve seen the notes in his Bible. They know about their Dad, but they don’t know him. Knowing our heavenly Father and seeing the character and love of Jesus isn’t easy in today’s world if you’re not looking for it; trusting Him is even more challenging when our earthly fathers are absent.
When a mother comes to Christ, her family will join her at church only 17 percent of the time, but when a father comes to Christ, his family joins him 93 percent of the time.
With 68 percent of our homes no longer headed by both biological parents, many don’t have the blessings of an earthly father, and some have experienced deep betrayal at his hand. Sadly, we can’t change the past. We have no choice about the family we were born into, but we do have choices about our future. We can decide to heal our marriages, restore our relationships with our children, love sacrificially, and be intentional about keeping our families together.
The magnitude of a man can’t be understated. The Scriptures are laden with stories of families and kingdoms impacted by men for better or worse. When a man is all he’s called and created to be under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we can not only see Jesus, but we can feel His presence.
Will you be that man?
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Lisa May is the Executive Director of Live the Life South Florida etc. She can be reached at [email protected] or by mail at 5110 N. Federal Hwy. Suite 102, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308
For more articles by Lisa May, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/lisa-may/