"Whether these people will endure it, I do not know; but I know very well that no man will who has a sword!" - Lucius Verginius, in Livy's History of Rome*
Boys tend to be raucous. The overthrow of the harmony of home or school, and the bane of many a parent's or teacher's peace of mind, boys' over-the-top if not downright chaotic energy can seem a serious flaw of nature. We want to throw up our hands: what is going on? Why can't they be calmer and more focused?
There is much in play here. There can be significant aggravating factors that are chemical/biological as well as of course family and social environment. These must be considered. But regardless of circumstances, there is clearly something of nature at work here. And it always behooves us to turn a docile ear to what nature is saying. This can make a great difference in how we think about our troubles with boys. If fighting seems to come more naturally to them, what might this bespeak?
With boys, it's always ultimately about fatherhood. Whatever from nature is brewing and bubbling within them, it must have to do with their call to be fathers. This is the key to what is at work in them, and to how we can work with them to help them become the men and fathers they can be.
Fatherhood requires the readiness to fight. It gives it meaning, direction, purpose. It also gives it limitation. Fighting is never an end in itself. If there is not something that makes us refrain or cease from fighting, then there is nothing worth fighting for. And a boy must learn this. Especially in his home. The rich, shared life of home—and the goodness, virtue, and joy it entails—is the very archetype of something worth fighting for. Of something worth living for.
In this video, I suggest that this trio pertains to manhood: fighting, building, fathering. One fruit of such a perspsective is the insight it gives us into boys: the little ones, the bigger ones, and the ones that are always inside of every man. And it can help us recognize and cultivate this challenging gift.
*This quotation is from one of the most dramatic stories in ancient Western annals. It took place in Rome in the mid 5th century B.C. and is told by Livy (59 B.C.–17 A.D.), the great Roman historian. Appius Claudius, a tyrannical member of the infamous decemviri, lusts after the daughter (Verginia) of a faithful Roman centurion Verginius. As a way of getting Verginia, Appius has a collaborator claim that Verginia was in fact a slave of his. His plan is proceeding apace when, informed by friends, Verginius rushes home from the front lines and boldly strives to preserve the honor and chastity of his daughter. Ultimately, seeing no alternative Verginius chooses to kill his daughter rather than subject her to Claudius's evil intentions.
John Cuddeback. "Boys: Fighters So They Can Be Fathers." LifeCraft (September 28, 2022).
Reprinted with permission from the author. Image credit: Édouard Manet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
John Cuddeback is professor of Philosophy at Christendom College and the author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness and Aristotle's Ethics: A Guide to Living the Good Life. He and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children—and a few pigs and sundry—in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah.Copyright © 2022 John Cuddeback
back to top