Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Boys will be violent...

By now, you may have seen news reports regarding the brutal beating death in Chicago of 16-year-old Fenger HS honor student, Derrion Albert. If you haven't, you certainly will, because someone captured the tragic events on a cellphone. The footage shows a group of male teens kicking and striking Albert with splintered railroad ties during the attack.

Boys will not just be boys. Too often, boys will be violent--deadly violent-- especially if they don’t have the guiding hand of a good father. My sense is that you won’t have to do too much investigating to connect the perpetrators of this heinous act to a family cycle of fatherlessness. This was certainly the case with the DC sniper shootings. In fact, research shows that male inmates overwhelming come from father-absent homes. A key and essential role of a good father is to teach his son how to use his power and strength in the right way.

Interestingly, boys are often encouraged--as is evident from the gang that attacked Albert--to define themselves by how they use their power. Real men, and good fathers in particular, define themselves by their ability to restrain and direct their power in the best interest of themselves, their families, and their communities. Indeed, the real difference between boys and men is the ability to say “no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things.


  1. Great post, Roland! I tweeted it (@donnypauling) after seeing the link tweeted by Donald Miller Stuff like this makes me so angry - it also makes me want to get involved with Don's mentoring project.

  2. It doesn't hit a bulls eye as a response to this important post for all men to read and respond to, but I have to offer this...

    Outside of urban American, the violence I see is glorified in UFC shows, local Tough Man competitions, pay-per-view cage matches... all attended by "real men," sponsored by companies owned by "Christian men," fueled by the inner rage and vengeance "common men" seek.

    I know nothing about gangs but I know how to stand up and say no to "wrong things." Violence is not okay in any of it's forms. Whether truth or myth, the monk Telemachus has lifted a cry I will repeat with my life. "In the name of Jesus, STOP!"

    To the Albert family, I am heart broken by your loss.

  3. I think its hits pretty darn close to a bulls eye.

  4. very well said!

    "the real difference between boys and men is the ability to say “no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things."

    So true in MANY facets of life.

  5. King Solomon appealed directly to young men not to get their feet tangled up with those bent on violence. The perpetrators of the Chicago violence were not all hardened thugs, but because they were caught up with them, they participated in these terrible beatings.

    Solomon's appeals in the biblical Book of Proverbs begin with "My Son...", so they are patterns for fathers in how to talk to sons about violence. His conclusion: They ambush their own lives (much to the lament of all the parents--of victims and of perpetrators).

  6. First, my condolences to the Albert family.

    Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens everywhere in the world. The question that we must formulate is: What motivates such hatred within these perpetrators? The lack of a father, among other things, may indeed play a crucial role in their development. However, we must also consider the roles that OTHER people in these boys' lives play (i.e., teachers, community leaders, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts...). When we can begin to recognize that children such as these perpetrators are filled with such hatred, we can then begin to extinguish that anger and replace it with competency in any capacity. We must rekindle the fires that have long been extinguished by providing a hopeful future. We can do this in many ways (i.e., alternate programs for teens that have been disenchanted with schooling, stronger mentoring programs for teens and parents…), but we must take steps; we cannot just talk about it. We should consider looking toward departments of education for change.

    These young men that participated may not have all been "hardened thugs," but they were definitely susceptible to weakness due to influences that they found enticing. We must remember that identity plays a crucial role within the "teenage community." The need to belong at that age can outweigh the consequences of actions that proceed. In fact, there is no thought of consequence; there is only the moment; and, within this moment of violence there is only anger and, subsequently, relief from that anger. Have you ever wanted to punch something when you were happy? It's absurd.

    The aftermath of such a violent act, unfortunately, reinforces feelings of superiority, or success, in the minds of these perpetrators. It is the same feeling a “normal” person may experience after, for example, completing a project for work that no one else has ever done; learning a new song on his/her instrument; climbing a mountain, or learning and becoming proficient at anything that may set them apart from others. This is the basis for formulation of identity. However, when there is no success the self becomes unable to identify with anything meaningful and, therefore, reaches out for anything to identify with, even if it means being the toughest person on the block.

    It is indeed difficult to extend compassion towards human beings that seem bent on violence, but we must ALL demonstrate compassion in order to begin chipping away at the hate and rage. Let’s start listening to those children that have issues we think are so “juvenile” and begin to address these issues by approaching their concerns in a genuine and compassionate manner, rather than a judging one and help them build, build, and build that foundation for success and happiness. After all, a happy person would find it rather difficult to engage in violence, whether a man or a boy. What reason would he/she have?


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