I’m going to take a big risk here, because my next statement may alienate many of you. I really loved the movie, “Napoleon Dynamite!” There, I said it. Now that you know this warped truth about me, you will have to decide whether or not to stay connected with my website. Anyway, there is a scene where Napoleon talks about having skills, such as being pretty good with a bo-staff. In fact, another movie, “Six Days, Seven Nights” (which in my opinion was much lamer than Napoleon Dynamite) has some interesting dialogue about whether or not Harrison Ford is one of those men who have Skills.
We men seem to put a lot of stock in having Skills of various kinds – competencies in different things that seem to reflect authentic masculinity. Sometimes we take this way too far, and get caught up in what John Eldredge refers to as “posing,” or a different response of just plain old hiding. Both of these reactions are natural when we equate our masculinity with our level of Skills. Let me be clear…our value as men is not measured by how much Guy Stuff we know or can do. Character is a FAR greater factor in the equation of masculinty.
However, there is still something about having Skills that helps us walk a little taller as men. And today, I find myself walking a little taller. My wife recently bought this really cool thing for our son that is like a cross between a rope swing and a pogo stick. He had played on one at a friend’s house, and absolutely loved it. So she suggested we get one for him, and I agreed it was a great idea. I scoped out the perfect place to hang it in our backyard. There is a fairly high, sturdy limb in our live oak that forked at a place that would provide the perfect distance for the swing from both the trunk and from the swingset/climber in the yard. I pulled the pogo swing out of the box, and had it assembled and all stickered up in about half an hour. So far, so good. All systems go.
Then it occurred to me. I’m going to have to tie this to that branch somehow. It is really important that this crazy bouncing swing be secured very well. And my knot-tying skills basically consist of the one basic around-through-pull knot that a six year old girl could tie. This is trouble! I suddenly became very aware of a deficit in this particular Man Skills department. Oh, if only my buddy Dave, the Eagle Scout / Scout Master were here. Or his teenage Eagle Scout son, for that matter. Then came the follow-up thought. I do have that copy of “The Dangerous Book for Boys” that I haven’t really shared yet with my five year old son. I think this would be a good time to pull it off the shelf.
So, with the help of my pickup truck, a six foot wooden ladder, my wife holding the ladder, and a brick tied to the end of the additional rope, my son watched me secure the extra rope to the branch with a well tied bowline knot and tie the swing rope to that rope with a firm sheet bend knot. Now, I’m not saying I’ve eared a Scout badge in knots yet, or anything. But I really do feel more competent and less intimidated by this once mysterious Skill. And my son is having a blast!
My encouragement today is this. If you find yourself lacking in a Skills department that seems important to you as a man, don’t just pretend to be competent, and don’t hide from situations that would expose your lack of Skills. Do what you’ve got to do to learn and develop a basic grasp of that Skill. Ask your buddy. Ask your Dad. Ask your son. Consult a good book. Do a Google search for crying out loud, but do yourself a big favor and learn that Skill by expanding your comfort zone. You’ll be glad you did. So for those of you who have always felt less than, because you can’t drive a standard transmission…
A bit more Dangerous,