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  • Writer's pictureMen's Corner

A Boy's Unmet Longing—a Man's Ever-Present Need.

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

I need to be small with him

I need him to be big with me

I need to play with his fingers

I need to rest in his hands.

I need to crawl all over him

I need to nip his ears

I need to pull his tail

I need him to catch me when I tumble.

I need to sleep on his chest

I need to drift in his scent

I need to fall into his skin

I need to dream on his body.

his body feeds me

it makes me safe

it makes me real

it teaches me how to be close

it shows me how to trust.

his body makes me whole

his body is my home

his body makes my body

I hunger for it still.

Rick Belden, ‘My Father’s Body

Whether we like it or not, whether we have grown up with fathers whose ‘patterns’ we have found worthy of emulation—or have recoiled from and moved against—is not the point here. The point is that, despite the nature and degree of human brokenness, male children are destined to follow a masculine pattern—to set a design, to blaze a trail—for their lives; and a masculine pattern can only be given by a paternal force.

A Boy’s Most Desperate Need

Gordon Dalbey, a New York Times bestselling author and an ordained minister whose best-selling book Healing the Masculine Soul pioneered the Christian men’s movement a couple of decades ago, writes:

The father calls forth the masculine in the son. Without this essential input from Dad, the boy can't later see himself as a man. Quickly, fearfully, the gap between the man's inadequacy and who he longs to become fills with shame. His spirit cries out for a father to save him.

A boy can never reach the fulfilment of his budding manhood without his father and without being introduced to his father’s world—and deep in his young heart, he knows it. This is why from a very early age he subconsciously looks up to his father in a special, unique way; and this is why, if the father does not rise to the occasion and take the boy into his world, the boy will resent him—and subconsciously resent a part of himself—forever. I know many men who have experienced that in childhood and have subsequently spent decades living as though they lack a vital part of their inner self, as if something in their soul which should’ve been there, had been amputated.

Like in the story of the sour grapes, masculinity that is not made available to him by the father through an intimate connection, is cursed by the son; but it is the son who suffers in the end, for his own manhood is cursed with the same curse he had used to cut himself off from his father.

But boys cannot be expected to know these things—they simply trust their parents. A boy deprived of this masculine gift, cannot simply ‘go and get it’ from somewhere; and he cannot just receive it from a source different from the deposits of his own father in his very body, and the world of men which the father provides a connection and a doorway to.

Even though it is rarely felt or acknowledged, and mostly unspoken, every boy craves an intimate connection with his father. Besides having been nurtured and thus assured of his mother’s love, he also needs to have received the gift of unconditional love from his father, maturing in a state of continuous physical closeness with him—only then would he be able to grow up with all his inner faculties intact, ready to embrace his destiny and develop his inner gifting in order to not only live a life of service to others, but also thrive in spirit, soul and body, as he does it.

‘Masculinity is bestowed’, writes John Eldredge in his best-selling book for men, Wild at Heart; and goes on to say that, ‘a boy learns who he is and what he's got from a man, or the company of men.’

Yes. Unless a father pours out his warm, strong, masculine love into his son’s young being, the son will never truly become his father’s son—and never feel like he’s a true, fully-developed, fully-matured, fully-masculine, man. Not to mention ever being able to act accordingly…

Such father-love represents not simply a verbal display of the father's feelings toward his son, but rather, an active father-son relationship, through which the boy's needs are met; it is only through such a relationship that the boy can receive what he needs from his father, and feels secure in his father's love.

With regards to this ‘receiving’, best-selling men's author Robert Bly writes:

When a father and son spend long hours together, we could say that a substance almost like food passes from the older body to the younger. The contemporary mind might want to describe the exchange between father and son as a likening of attitude, a miming, but I think a physical exchange takes place, as if some substance was passing directly to the cells. The son`s body – not his mind – receives, and the father gives this food at a level far below consciousness. During the long months spent in the mother’s body, his body got well-tuned to female frequencies… Now, standing next to the father, as they repair arrowheads, or repair ploughs, or wash pistons in gasoline, or care for birthing animals, the son's body has the chance to re-tune. Slowly, over months or years, the son’s body-strings begin to resonate to the harsh, sometimes demanding, testily humorous, irreverent, impatient, opinionated, forward-driving, silence loving older masculine body. Both male and female cells carry marvellous music, but the son needs to resonate to the masculine frequency as well as the female frequency. (‘Iron John: A Book About Men’)

How many of us can honestly say that they have enjoyed such a close, active relationship with their father and the world of men? How many can testify of their own father's close connection to the masculine world—a connection through which they themselves have been invited to join it?

I cannot say that I have, though I wish I could; and I know that many readers feel the same way. You see, without a strong, loving, and passionately involved father to introduce and welcome us, in Bly's words, ‘into the ancient, mythologised, instinctive male world’, we stand no chance in life; we are on our own…we are alone.

Fear of the Father’s Presence

I myself have been deeply affected by this lack of invitation into the world of men; I have been afraid of men since my very first years. I remember a dream I used to have about a boy who was in my preschool group. He was a tough, wild boy who I was deeply afraid of. In my dream, I talked to him in a nice, calming, friendly voice, as though I was trying to placate him, to make him my friend, and perhaps, to make sure he won’t hurt me, if it ever came to that.

Unbeknownst to me, that wild, sharp, aggressive boy manifested to me the wild, sharp, streetwise nature of my father—which in turn called forth in me something I did not have. And since I did not have that wild, masculine nature, and could not ‘meet him where he was’ and freely respond with the same—either in caution and enmity, or warmth and camaraderie; but nevertheless, in a brave and masculine way, and not in fear and hiding. I saw other boys do that—boys who were much more like my father than I was—and either fiercely oppose, or playfully embrace each other.

But I was not like that. No matter how much I tried to be, I could not make myself be free in their masculine communication and uninhibited presence like they were. I was simply…different. I had always been.

But what I did not know was that there were reasons for my being ‘different’. It was my father’s presence that I feared and avoided in other boys. It was his sharp, piercing gaze that I never wanted to have rest upon me—whether from him or others like him. In my eyes, he belonged to a different tribe. He belonged to a tribe of men. I belonged to nothing. He was open, loud and fearless. I was hidden, quiet as a mouse and afraid of many things—but most of all, afraid of other men.

Because I could never rest freely in my father’s presence as a boy, I could not freely be—without any shame, without a mask—in the presence of other boys. I could not feel like a ‘man among men’ because the man had not made that world available to me, back in those early years.

Around other men, especially those who were posing as being stronger and more dominating, I felt naked and exposed. This was why I hid from them.

If our father does not make his presence freely and unconditionally available to his boy, the son will grow up struggling with presence. He may perhaps hide from it, whenever it manifests through other men—like I did—yet seek to fill his need for it in other ways.

In whatever way the problem with not having received the father’s strong, loving presence may manifest, the result is always brokenness in the son.

Fathers wound their sons because, of course, they themselves are broken...


If you have found this reading interesting and want more, get your newly-revised and updated copy of my e-book 'The Father-Wound' by clicking the links below:

With much gratitude and respect,

George Stoimenov

Eastbourne, East Sussex

Great Britain


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