ow to keep our teenagers out of trouble

By: Rev. David B. Smith

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-3)

Four of the boys at training tonight are preparing themselves for
their first fight at our forthcoming Christians vs. Lions
promotion, scheduled for only three weeks hence. All of these
lads are boxers.

Three of those four - Joel, Daniel and young Dave - are friends,
finishing their last year of school together. They are a great
example of how guys from different ethnic backgrounds
(Australian, Latin American, and Lebanese respectively) can still
be the best of mates. The fourth guy, Louis, is an enormous
Islander man. I’m not sure whether he’s Tongan or from the Cook
Islands, but he’s a gentle giant really. He reminds me of
Mahendar - a regular here at the Youth Centre. They’re both big,
black and burly, but with gentle hearts. Louis has a few years on
the other boys who were there tonight. He’s a natural in the
ring, and plays the role of the older brother very well indeed.

These four boys are the cream of our crop in the fight club at
the moment. They are all capable pugilists, but more than that,
they are each a good embodiment of what our club is on about -
courage, integrity, self-discipline and teamwork. This isn’t to
say that none of them have ever been troublemakers. Indeed, I’ve
got a court appearance coming up with one of the boys, scheduled
for shortly after his fight, and he’s on quite serious charges.
Even so, I’ve seen nothing but positive growth since he joined
the club, and I’m hoping for positive results both in his fight
and in his court case.

What is it that makes fight training such a powerful tool in the
molding of young lives? There was a time when I thought of
fighting as just another form of sport. I have come to believe
though that fight training taps into something deep in the male
psyche, in a way that no other sport does.

When I used to talk to my old girls in the church about the
problems we had with our young people, they often used to say
‘what we need is another war’. I always thought that that was a
terrible thing to say - that a war was the last thing that
anybody wanted.

And of course the girls didn’t really want a war.
They had just experienced the benefit of being part of a
community that had learnt to pull together through difficult
times. And they had seen the positive effect that soldiering
could have on the lives of young men.

I believe that men were made to fight. It’s part of our genetic
makeup. We may have managed to emerge from the jungle, but
there’s still a bit of the jungle in each of us, and pugilistic
activity keys right in to those ancient impulses - releasing the
wild man within.

This theory isn’t original to me of course. It’s part of the
fabric of the Bible - there behind every great warrior-king who
showed himself to be a ‘mighty man of God’ in battle, and behind
Jacob, who went toe to toe with God Himself and yet lived to talk
about it (Genesis 32)! These were men who knew how to fight and
pray and bleed and serve.

For a more philosophical exposition on the significance of
fighting, we need look no further than Plato’s Republic.

For those who haven’t read it, in the Republic Socrates explores
the concept of justice through examining both the just society
and the just individual, and then he goes on to delineate their
common elements. On the societal level he notes that a just
community is made up of a number of vital components parts:
rulers who govern, workers who labour, and an army that functions
to protect them both. In the individual he finds a similar
configuration - the mind that governs the body, the limbs that do
the work, and the ‘themos’ (which is often translated as ‘temper’
or ‘aggression’) that plays a parallel role in protecting the
individual. Justice in the Republic consists in having all of the
component parts (in either individual or society) being present
and working together properly.

In the wisdom of the ancient Greeks then, the ‘themos’ is the
vital third component in the human constitution, along with the
mind and the body. Without the ‘themos’, no individual is
complete, and at a social level, no society will ever achieve a
true state of justice.

It is my opinion that one of the negative legacies of feminism in
Western culture has been an attempt to deny the ‘themos’, which
seems to be more strongly present in men than in women. This has
been for the most understandable of reasons - because of the
excesses of male violence. But perhaps it’s time that we realised
that trying to eliminate ‘themos’ from society altogether is like
trying to eliminate spiders and snakes because we find them
distasteful. We soon discover that the created order needs all of
its creatures - even those that some of us find ugly - if it is
to function properly.

My experience with a vast number of men is that they tend to be
either functioning as doormats to their wives and girlfriends, or
they’re beating up on them. This is a reflection of the same
crisis in dealing with the ‘themos’. When we attempt to repress
the themos’, it often spurts out in the most horrible and
destructive of forms. When we successfully repress it, we
emasculate our men, so that they’re no longer able to stand up
for anything. Ironically, of course, such modern day men are not
only unable to offer any strength to society. They’re no longer
even attractive to the women they sought to please.

The only constructive alternative is for us to reharness the
‘themos’ and channel it creatively. We need to get in touch with
that distinctive male energy - recognise it, affirm it, and then
learn to bring it under control so that it can be put to good
use. Perhaps when we are able to do this, then we will see this
country produce leaders of the calibre of Martin Luther King Jr.,
Mother Theresa, or Mahatma Ghandi - strong people of principle
who stand up powerfully for what they believe in. As it is, our
leaders always seem to come across as being either ‘wooses’ or
criminals or both. God knows we need some real men in this
country who know what it means to love their women, to be fathers
to their children, and to serve God and their community with
their strength!

Fight training, I do believe, is a means to getting at that
‘themos’ and learning to bring it under control. When done in the
right way, fight training can help a young person to discover who
they are and can help them to bring their futures into focus.
They can then come to see their role as warriors in this society
who will stand up and use their energy to build a better
community and to fight for things worth fighting for.

What about these boys who I watched training with me tonight?
Will they go on to become ‘mighty men of God'? I don’t know. But
they’re on the right track, and they’re further ahead now than
when they first started their training..

Kids and Teens

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