Monday, September 10, 2007

Wild at Heart...

Recently i was at a meeting where this book by John Eldredge was given a very critical review. If you were there and have never read the book you are probably never going to read it. If like me, you were there and have read the book and found it excellent, then you were probably left feeling embarrassed.

I've been thinking about this a bit over the last few days and felt i had to have an outlet somewhere where i could review the book from my perspective to add a little more balance to the argument.

I have read this book probably about 3 times and have given countless copies away as gifts to other men. I have found it to be a great book to read with a few guys as it provokes a lot of positive discussion amongst men who are perhaps not that open and vulnerable but yet they are able to find some truths within the book that they can relate to at the deepest level of their own experience.

I found the book brought me to a greater level of understanding myself, why i am the way i am, and it often reassured me that i am normal! Eldredge spends a lot of time emphasising the importance of parental roles, especially that of a father, in child development and how this can impact our behaviour throughout our adult lives. Parents (or significant adults) have a massive role in affirming their children. Men and women each have a deep question that needs to be answered. How these questions are answered during growing up will affect them for the rest of their lives. The question for men and women is different.

The question for men is ‘Am I really a man? Have I got what it takes?’ A man’s strength, not just physical but also at soul level, is very important to him hence the desire for adventure, climbing trees, wrestling, etc. If this question is unanswered or answered negatively then it makes for weak men in adulthood who lack commitment in relationships and when the going gets tough, they up and leave. The question for young girls is ‘Am I lovely?’. A woman’s beauty is very important to her, not just physical beauty but also her heart. This explains the desire of young girls to dress up as a princess and look beautiful. If this question is not answered positively for a young girl then it can have devastating effects on her self-esteem throughout the rest of her life. Only parents or significant adults can properly answer these questions.

The book, as you would expect, also highlights some of the struggles that are exclusive to men and sets them within a useful context that helps you to understand why certain areas could be weaknesses for men. Eldredge emphasises that we all have a 'battle to fight' as we seek to be more like Christ and presents a helpful strategy for this.

The book of course has criticisms. Firstly, it is American written which presents obvious cultural differences that come through as Eldredge talks about his family life and experiences but i think the discerning reader can look beyond this and find value from his teaching. Secondly, if you are looking for a Bible Study of considerable theological depth then you will be disappointed. That said the book has Scriptural references throughout to support and communicate the views presented in the book.

Personally speaking, i would happily recommend this book to anyone (male or female). I would be interested to hear other opinions of the book in the comments section below to see what the general consensus is!


dave wiggins said...

good work neil. i'd reccomend it too. made me feel more comfortable with myself. you want a light a fire or cut down a tree later on?

Anonymous said...

Interesting post.
I have dipped in and out of the book on occasion (very much enjoyed the girls' equivalent 'Captivating').

I am very anti violence and have always struggled with letting my sons play with weapons. Son no 1 was never allowed toy guns etc. Son no 2 is 10 years younger and I have changed the goal posts a bit! Reading 'Wild at Heart' made me understand that wanting to be the hero and the rescuer is part of being a boy/man. Fighting and weapons are part of that whole scenario, something my son probably needs to explore, and does not mean he will grow up into a violent man.

So yes... although I react to John Eldredge's American and at times 'macho' style, I found the book helpful.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to sign that last comment! Nina

Sam said...

Hey Neil.
I'm one of those people who isn't such a fan of wild of heart for a number of reasons. Getting past the cultural differences, I feel he lacks a theology of singleness, and also don't understand why if he's writing a book about being a 'man of God' why he doesn't use Jesus more as an example. He pigeonholes masculinity in a very narrow way - some of my friends just couldn't identify with the picture he painted. He does make some helpful points but for me a lot of it was lost by his using bits of the bible to try and back up his ideas which just came across as not being prepared or able to take the time to build his argument on solid theological foundations - maybe that's because there aren't any for some of what he's saying (that should stir it up a bit!)...

Anonymous said...

hey man, have really enjoyed reading your blog over the last couple of days. I have read Wild at heart. At first I was a little skeptical. I did however find the book at a ground level correct. i believe that men do have the warrior instinct and that we in some ways need to protect women etc. Although i believe some people can take it out of context. I would be happy to recommend this book to someone who I knew would understand it and not read it out of context. you know what i mean?

charlie said...

Definitely a few americanisms in this book, definitely a few generalisations, definitely a few times when he takes metaphors a little bit too far but ever since i read the book i've found myself processing life through the lenses he provided. i think he put into words alot of what i knew in my heart. It's a book that deeply impacted me for the better i think.

Boaly said...

I have to say that when I read Wild at Heart Christ used it in amazing ways to help my relationship with my dad. And to help me as a man as well as many other areas where I was helped greatly.
However in leading a men's fellowship through it, we decided to drop it half way through finding that it was somewhat repetative and not as Christ centered as we were looking for in a book to follow!
I would agree with what charlie says in the comment above!
Although I have reservations about some of this and Eldridges other books, Praise God for them, and how He has used them in my life.