In addition to directing the Brookside Institute, one of the "hats" that I wear is that of men's pastor. This means I help lead and shepherd a network of men's Community Groups, and spearhead an event every now and then. And I spend a lot of time with guys. I sit with a lot of men in my office, hearing their praises and their problems. I get to know guys over lunch or coffee and hear about what "normal life" looks like for them. I've spent time with men at football games (#GBR) and baseball games and shooting ranges and hospital rooms and backyards.
Most of the guys I interact with are legitimately trying really heard. They're trying hard to find fulfillment and do right by their families. They're putting in effort (most of 'em) to make relationships work and keep the utility payment current. In my experience, a lot of men want to do the right thing.
The problem is, they don't always know what the right thing is. A lot of men I meet are trying really hard, but many of them are lined up on the wrong trajectory. I know guys who are putting forth the effort, but their aim is off. As I encourage and exhort men, then, my focus isn't as much on trying to draw forth effort as it is to direct the aim of their lives and where they're pointed. It's not necessarily men's trying that needs attention, it's more often their trajectory.
As I work to point men in the right direction (and keep my own alignment on track!), Darrin Patrick's Dude's Guide to Manhood will be a helpful tool for this task.
Darrin Patrick, The Dude's Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World of Counterfeits. Thomas Nelson, 2014. 186pp.
What? (What's the Book About?)
True to the subtitle, Darrin Patrick's Dude's Guide to Manliness is designed to help men discover what it means to really be a man in the midst of confusion and counterfeits. In the introduction, Patrick spends time highlighting the reality of the problem men face (confusion, counterfeits, and incomplete examples). Here are a few quotes that get at this, in Patrick's own words:
Dude's Guide doesn't focus solely on the confusion and counterfeits facing biblical masculinity. After identifying the problem in the introduction, Patrick quickly moves on to constructing a positive vision for men. He lines up our trying with the right trajectory. He helps us aim our effort in the right direction. Patrick further explains this goal by saying "This isn't a self-help manual designed to fix yourself by focusing only on yourself. Manhood, as we'll see, is discovered as we relate to other men" (p. xx). He then goes on to state his goal most clearly:
"...I aim to provide a guidebook for true manhood. Though I am not a sociologist or a psychologist, I am a fellow struggler. I've walked down this road myself, and as a pastor I have helped countless other men do the same. I want to be your coach and navigator through a world that is complex and confusing. In the pages that follow, you will hear stories, be exposed to principles, and learn some drills so that you can be the man you were made to be" (p. xx).
After this introduction, then, the "meat and potatoes" of Dude's Guide is constructing this positive definition of manhood and pointing guys in the right direction. The Table of Contents shows the areas Patrick zeros in on:
WHY? (WHY DO - OR DON'T - YOU RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?)
Like I alluded to in the introduction to this post, I get excited about books that help set men's trajectory in the right direction. As a whole, Darrin Patrick's Dude's Guide to Manhood does that, and I feel I'd be able to recommend this book to guys without having to add a whole list of disclaimers. It's a good book. I especially like that Dude's Guide included chapters on contentment (ch. 5) and emotions (ch. 9) - topics that often get neglected in other books with the same target reading audience. Pretty much every chapter included one or two fresh insights for me, into the particular topic being addressed. Again: this is a good book!
With that said, I nevertheless wish Dude's Guide had "front-loaded" life with Jesus, and living in light of the implications of the gospel, more than it did. The last two chapters did a fine job at much of this, but my "let's-be-realistic" concern is that many men may read only the chapters that are of pragmatic interest to them (and thereby miss the last two chapters). Or many men may start reading at the beginning but not make it through all the way to the end. In his introduction, Patrick states that he doesn't want this to be a "self help manual" (p. xx), but I'm not sure if individual chapters always fit this approach. A lot of them felt pretty self-help-ey. Not that this is entirely bad - men need practical principles and drills, to be sure! Based on Patrick's comments in the introduction, though, I was expecting something different, I guess.
To correct this, Patrick could have expanded more at the front of the book on how the gospel gives us the motivation and the means to live as God designed us to as men. He could also have woven this mentality into the individual chapters more than he did, rather than storing most of this up for the end of the book.
WHO? (WHO SHOULD CONSIDER CHECKING THIS BOOK OUT?)
I would recommend this book first to men who need a basic, simple (neither of those are meant negatively, just so we're clear) guide to what it means to be a man. This book is basic in the best sense of that term - helping point men in the right direction in foundational areas. It's practical and makes good use of illustrations that will speak well to most men. I would recommend this book to men who didn't grow up in the church, or who need an initial example of what godly guy life looks like. (And there are LOTS of guys most of us know who need this sort of entry-level book into godly guy life.)
For guys who have been following Jesus for a long time and/or already have their trajectory set in the right direction, other Christian books targeted at men may be a better fit. (For a few other Christian books for guys, see below.)
HOW? (HOW SHOULD THE BOOK BE APPROACHED?)
Three things come to mind as I consider how I'd encourage others to work through this book:
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.