How To Build Antifragile Boys: Let Them Suffer

Even though we work hard to help parents build antifragile boys, I’m often still perplexed why young men get so excited about some of the adventures we offer them. As one example, every three years we offer a trip to canoe a circuit of frigid lakes in the damp far reaches of British Columbia. The guys are required to schlep the canoes, seven days-worth of food and gear up muddy trails while the mosquitoes treat us like a human happy hour. 

We assure the young men that after the mosquitoes have their fill many of them will have faces that resemble whoopee cushions.  If warmth is to be had it is only found on the other side of a pile of wood that must be perpetually chopped. Their major source of protein is … SPAM; the meat product of all great risk takers. 

On this trip young men are willing to do laborious chores, the easiest of which back at home they would creatively and desperately seek to elude, and they are willing to suffer deprivations that would cause a fountain of complaints to whine from their mouths if it was mom asking it of them. All of this is sandwiched like cramped bookends between 2 days of solid driving in a van full of un-showered adolescent males. 

 But even after all these threats they still choose to come. We never have trouble filling this trip. 

Young Men Still Want To Follow Older Men Into Adventure

We have good reason to lament the fragile culture we have allowed to grow up around us. Many young men today sit tied like Odysseus to their gaming consoles following the siren song of their video games into a life of perpetual purposeless adolescence.  But we nevertheless have better reason to hope. As this trip reminds me every three years, young men, like generations before them, are not only willing but eager to follow godly men into a life of hardship and adventure. Placing boys and young men into contexts that challenge them, with the help of older and experienced men, is how we can build antifragile boys who are ready to do great things for others.

Succeeding and Failing Well

We have all seen our sons find their way into undirected adventure … we call that mischief. Our job is to help them scratch that itch for adventure with the guidance necessary to succeed, and when they don’t succeed, to show them how to fail well. 

What a wonderful analogy and training ground experiences like this offer to show these young men the great adventure that our Lord Jesus has called us to; a journey that in our carnal thinking makes no sense whatsoever, but the vision of which, when cast before young men, produce deeply committed world changers. Men like Jim Elliott willing to wisely “give up what they cannot keep to gain what they cannot lose.” Men with not only willing, but with eager hearts keen to experience the deep joy of sacrifice and suffering for something far greater than what the world tells us we should desire.

Let’s Build Antifragile Boys Together

What kind of boys are you building? Strength can only come after the pain and sacrifice of difficulty. Suffering is not only a reality we need to prepare our boys for, but an important part of  growing in strength. Any person who has ever exercised knows that this is true. Our job is to show boys that they are stronger than they think they are. In this fallen and hurting world we cannot, and should not, protect our boys from every pain and difficulty. Though they may push against us and complain at the beginning, the greatest joy in a boy’s life is when he realizes he could do what he thought was impossible.

Here is a story of a boy whose life was changed.  He was a city boy who found out that he didn’t have to let fear conquer him. God made this possible because of the patient outheld hand of an older man.

Brigade is here to help you in the adventure of building strong boys. If you’re not yet familiar with our ministry to men and boys check out our website. We help equip men to disciple boys through ministries in local churches. Take a look at the about us pages to find out more.


Adventure guided by experienced men helps build antifragile boys

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