I’m not sure how long I’ve had Boyhood and Beyond: Practical Wisdom for Becoming a Man by Bob Schultz, but I rediscovered it while going through a box of books after our move. I just finished going through it with my 18 year-old-son. At first I thought it might be a little “young” for him, but it wasn’t. He seemed to get a lot out of it (I should have asked him his impressions before he left for school!) I would say the book would be useful for as young as older elementary-age boys through teens. The truths in it would be good for any young men.
At first I was a little miffed when Bob wrote in the introduction that he had never had sons but had been asked to write this book. I thought it would have been more effective coming from someone who had raised sons. But then I realized that even though I have never raised daughters, I do know a thing or two about being a woman.
I also wasn’t sure at first if it would work for our time together: Jesse and I usually go through some type of devotional book just before bedtime, and so I usually try to find things that are just a page or so long, because at that point in the night we don’t want to get out workbooks or study guides or wrestle through long, difficult chapters. I’m aiming more for just something to think about at bedtime. These chapters are about 5 pages long, but they don’t take long to read, and they are built around one thought or truth.
Bob covers a lot of ground: studying nature, admitting wrong, the Bible, industry versus sloth, leadership, forgiveness, “getting back up,” preparing for a wife and children, even “a time to kill” (the title of that one made me wary, but it was a good chapter). There are 31 chapters, each covering some direct aspect of manhood or relating some Bible truth to becoming a man. Each chapter begins with a quote and ends with a few questions.
I especially appreciated some of the thoughts in the chapter on authority. He had an aspect I had never heard put quite like this: “God does not give you authority so that you can force others to obey your wishes. Authority is the opportunity to use all your skill, all your resources, and all your wisdom to make those under you successful” (p. 26).
There were just a couple of places where I didn’t agree 100% at first. There is one section under Leadership where he describes a boy who doesn’t say thank you or hello whose parents make the excuse, “Joey is just being shy today.” Schultz goes on to say, “The truth is that Joey is just caught up in himself. Joey thinks too much of his own feelings and thoughts to consider someone else. Joey is simply selfish” (p. 111). It depends somewhat on age: I think this kind of reaction might be more natural in a toddler, though as parents we should work even then to teach them to say thank you, etc. There is a difference between rudeness and shyness, and I think a child does need to be taught to overcome his natural shyness to speak to people. At first reading I thought Schultz was equating shyness with selfishness, and my response, having battled painful shyness myself, was that it wasn’t sinful or selfish in itself, but it could easily be selfish if we constantly retreat from people or do let it hinder us from interacting like we should. But after going over the section again, I don’t think he is saying that shyness equals selfishness, but rather that it can cause us to react selfishly if we let it, and I’d agree with that. He goes on to illustrate how a selfish boy goes to a party thinking of himself (what’s to eat, will we do anything fun, will anyone talk to me) while a boy destined to be a leader will look for others who might need someone to talk to, ways to help, etc.
Another chapter on dealing with pain encourages that pain comes to everyone, but we don’t stop what we need to do over every little ache or twinge, whine about it or how hot it is, etc. Again, at first reading, I was a little afraid he was carrying it a bit too far into a macho disdain for doctors or issues that need attention or recuperation. I’ve known men and women who continued to come to work or church when staying home would have helped them get better sooner (and kept them from infecting others in some cases). But a closer look assures that he’s not advocating that kind of response.
Overall it is a good, balanced book with a lot of helpful advice and encouragement.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)