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!