Man to Man: An Interview With Donald Miller
- Monday, May 08, 2006
So yeah, there are things you will not learn unless you have a father in your home. That said, it's not a hopeless case. I didn't have a father in my home, and I write books, have a great life, teach at a school, interact with people, have good friends. But that's because there were mentors in my life that taught me certain things. What I wanted to do with this book was go through what I had to learn elsewhere having grown up without a father. I missed out on so much, from how to deal with money, to how to make decisions, to how to talk to and engage a woman.
CW: Speaking of affirmation, in "To Own a Dragon," you use a humorous story to make a strong case for what defines a "real man." By offering a definition that, shall we say, is simply based in anatomy, are you opening yourself up to criticism that an overly-simple definition might undervalue cultural rites of passage that help boys slowly evolve into men?
Miller: I may be opening myself up to criticism, but that criticism is based on people not having read the entire chapter. In it I basically qualify by saying look, if you have the right "equipment," God has decided that you are a man. Now, you may not be a good man [yet], but you are a man, which means you have what it takes to go through these rites of passage. God has decided, and don't let anybody tell you differently.
CW: It sounds like from your perspective and that of your intended audience that this is a message many young men might not have gotten.
Miller: The message I got growing up in the church was that I was not a man. It was constantly, "A real man cares for his wife and kids." Well what if I'm afraid of intimacy with women? (Laughs) Am I not a real man? I have no ability to even get there! Nobody came to me and said, "Hey, Don, you know you're a real man - you absolutely have what it takes. Let me teach you how to do this, or let me teach you the right perspective." It was, "Unless you can jump this high, you are not a real man." Well, no father ever taught me to jump that high, so I must not be a real man. That's the assumption that I lived under and it wasn't until my late 20s that I thought this can't possibly be true. I'm a real man; God says I'm a real man. And I stopped living under the shadow of the thought that I wasn't.
It's rare to go to any sort of men's retreat or men's camp or men's anything, or even hear a man talk about manhood, and not have it said that "a real man does [x]." I can get people to do anything I want, for example, just by announcing, "A real man will come over and mow my lawn." Out of group of 100, you'd probably get at least three guys to come over and mow your lawn because they want to be a real man. We believe it's a motivating thing to say, but unfortunately it's not motivation, it's manipulation.
CW: Earlier you brought up a very interesting statistic about prisons; can you talk about your efforts to take the message of "To Own a Dragon" into prisons and rehab centers, and have you visited a prison yet?
Miller: I haven't visited a prison yet, but one of the deals we made in publishing the book was that we would be able to make copies available to prison ministries. Then a beautiful thing happened. I had written a chapter that was sort of a rough draft, and then I rewrote it, getting it really finely honed, but the publisher accidentally printed about 45,000 copies with the rough draft chapter in it. Rather than throw those books away, we donated them to prisons. The book's only officially been out a couple of weeks, but already, thousands and thousands of copies have been distributed in prisons all over the country!
Our church then started a division called the Belmont Foundation - you can read about it at www.belmontfoundation.org - that's a mentoring program for young people growing up without fathers. Our goal is basically to sort of put a band-aid over their wounds, try to fix things a little bit.
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