All boys seek out and identify with role models that they want to be just like. It is part of the process a boy goes through to find his identity. I do not understand the psychology behind it. I just know it to be true. It is true with every single boy. No exceptions. I suspect it is true with girls too. But it is especially true with boys. This is a very powerful truth. It is something that every father needs to understand.
I want to explain this a little better by giving you an actual example of what I’m talking about. When I was a boy, I lived in a housing development outside Syracuse, New York. I enjoyed reading Hardy Boys and Brains Benton mysteries. These books were not bad but they did not inspire my young mind in ways that were as good as could have been the case with better books.
I believe those books prepared me for that fateful day in 1966 (I was eight) when my stepfather took me to see the movie, Our Man Flint, starring James Coburn. Flint was a super secret agent who, with a bevy of buxom beauties fawning over him, nonchalantly saved the world from a nefarious bad guy. He did it again the next year in the sequel, In Like Flint. I thought Derek Flint was the coolest man on earth. Never mind that those movies were a total spoof of the whole secret agent “thing” that was a part of popular culture at the time. I took the Flint movies very seriously. I wanted to be Flint.
I idolized this fictional invention of Hollywood to the point that I would not allow anyone to take my picture. How could I ever be a super secret agent if there were photographs to identify me. My parents thought this was cute.
A boy who rode my bus (he was four years older than I) bore a remarkable resemblance to James Coburn, or so it seemed to me. I secretly observed this kid’s every move. I noticed that sometimes the muscles in his jaws would ripple. I thought that was very cool. I figured out how to repeatedly clench my teeth so I could do the same thing. I wanted to be just like this kid because he was the closest tangible example of my secret agent idol. This is the way young boys think and act. (This is also the way they get into trouble).
Then came James Bond. My dad took me to see my first Bond movie in 1969 (I was 11). It was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starring George Lazenby as Bond and Diana Rigg as the Contessa Teresa Di Vicenzo (a.k.a., Tracy). She was the daughter of a European mobster and became 007’s wife. Right after the wedding, Earnst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bundt machine-gunned Tracy to death. I had a new idol to attach my identity to.... I wanted to be James Bond.
I never missed an opportunity to watch a Bond movie. But I didn’t just watch them, I absorbed them. I used my reel-to-reel recorder to tape the movies when they were on television. I thank God there were no VCR’s back then. But there were James Bond books. I read them all. I can tell you these are not the kind of books you want your impressionable pre-teen reading. None of this was good for me.
It is because of this experience of mine, innocent as it was compared to so many others, that I am very conscious of identity-shaping influences in the lives of my boys.
I see the ungodly popular culture around me as a destroyer of boys who, but for the lack of proper identity-shaping influences in their lives, would grow to be men of incredible virtue, honor, and responsibility. The world sadly needs more men like that, don’t you think?
In the next installment of this Blog, I will tell you why I did not become a super secret agent. I’ll tell you a little about what I think a boy needs in order to one day become a man in the best sense of the word. And I’ll tell you about an incredibly powerful and totally wholesome identity-shaping resource for young boys that I discovered three years ago. Stay tuned.....
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