Letting Boys be Boys in a “Toxic” Culture

Stephen Ashton 2 Comments

No matter what our culture says, boys and girls are different. Discussions about “toxic masculinity,” a blurring of gender lines, fewer and fewer fathers in the home, and the watering down or extinction of programs that train and equip boys to become men have left too many boys frustrated, fearful, and floundering in their struggle to understand what it means to be a man. More than ever, boys need a uniquely masculine program where their assertive, audacious, and adventurous nature is celebrated, not sequestered.

Boys need a place where it is safe to be a boy! A place where they are free to conquer and explore. A place where a boy’s impulse to cover himself in mud and crawl through a creek is understood and appreciated. A place where mud turns into war paint, a stick becomes a sword, and an impression in the ground just may be a telltale sign of a dragon they could tame if they only keep hunting.

Boys need a place where imagination can run wild and ideas don’t have to be explained and analyzed to be accepted and acted on. They need a safe place to run bare-chested, jump from tree to tree, build forts, explore, and conquer until they collapse into the tall grass and get lost in the clouds. It is often in the stillness of those moments in nature that boys commune with God. Conversations deepen (even if only briefly) and transformation occurs.

Paul met God while hiking on the road to Damascus. Peter and his friends followed Jesus after a fishing expedition. Holding on for dear life, after an all-night wrestling match with God, Jacob asked for a blessing and was given a new identity. There – in the wilderness – bonds are forged, identities are fostered, and boys become young men. There they are tested, learn what they are made of, find their place in the group, and discover who they are created to be.

Trail Life USA is a place where we know manhood is not toxic, where we believe in boys, and where men are banding together to apply outdoor adventure as a tool to train a generation of courageous young men who will honor God, lead with integrity, and serve others. Troops are growing as Trail Life expands across the country. Join our Christ-Centered, Boy-Focused movement of over 830 Troops with members in all 50 states. Get involved with a Troop near you or begin one in your community today!


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About the Author
Stephen Ashton

Stephen Ashton

Stephen Ashton is the National Director of Marketing for Trail Life USA and serves as an adjunct professor at Clarks Summit University and Anchor Christian University. Prior to his work at Trail Life, he spent 15 years working with at-risk youth in residential therapeutic wilderness programs and served as the Vice-President of the Wilderness Road Therapeutic Camping Association. An author and a speaker, he has written for journals and published a book chronicling the foundations of therapeutic camping. He frequently speaks on the topics of fatherhood, biblical masculinity, outdoor education, and wilderness therapy. Stephen lives in South Carolina with his wife and 4 sons.

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