Getting Slapped in the Wrong Direction

I write this post knowing that it will be dismissed by many as “a knee-jerk reaction” from “some youngster” who simply could not stomach “the facts.” I am young, it is true, but both of my knees are currently very still, and the words below are the product of several days’ reflection and long talks with family and dear friends. If it is dismissed, so be it. But I do take encouragement from the fact that I’m not alone with these concerns; others, including men and women older and wiser than myself, have expressed the same.

Earlier this week, Pastor Ben Merkle published a piece on “why, all things being equal, it is stupid for young men to get into a romantic relationship in the first two years of college.” I can appreciate the basic idea – if you’re going to plow, plow; if you’re going to marry her, marry her. Romance is not for men with waffle-batter constitutions.

What I do not particularly appreciate is how Merkle goes about making his point. Frankly, I found his tone to be condescending and rude, not to mention overly hyperbolic. Nobody likes being around an engaged couple? Really? Or how about this:

When you are eighteen, your standard for what constitutes a fine catch still consists primarily of someone who is impressed with the fact that you have a driver’s license.

Tell me that’s a joke. As one fellow observed, if that’s how our Christian boys and girls are being raised, so that’s all they see at age 18, the cause is lost already. Major damage has been done, and short of a miracle, two more years in college ain’t gonna fix it.

Merkle goes to great length in describing the ridiculousness of spending four years “with a moonface.” But instead of encouraging the moonface in question to step up and get his affairs in order and just marry the girl, he shoots down the relationship altogether. It feels less like a kick in the pants and more like a punch in the face. Commenter Tim’s objection is right on the money: “You know well enough that the maturing process occurs more in the context of service than in the context of academia, and there is no better training ground for that than marriage itself. If you want the young fellow’s feet on the ground during college, then by all means discourage him from courting through his whole college career, sure. If by that you mean: Get the courtship over with, get on with marriage.”

Why play the waiting game? Immaturity among boys my age is a real problem. But why are you telling us to back off and go back to playing Wii? How is that constructive? Does not this sort of advice perpetuate the very immaturity we’re trying to battle?

A good friend put it this way:

If I understand [Merkle] correctly, in our world of painfully immature boys, instead of encouraging them to step up to the plate and be real men and live in the real world, raising a family in a honorable and godly manner, they should: Remain in their boyish, financially unviable Wii world, not daring to risk looking stupid or sappy to all their ‘friends’, while they remain in their college world bubble, surrounded by and tempted by attractive girls and other immature young men, and, supposedly, this is going to enable them to grow into maturity, so they will be ready for marriage at some future date. Then, and only then, will they be ready to engage in their “ridiculous, juvenile, unbearably cutesy and generally tedious” behavior.

Yes. Apparently.

Now, I’m all for slapping young men upside the head. I’ve needed it more times than I care to admit. But if you’re going to slap a guy upside the head, at least slap him in the right direction. The video game room is not the right direction.

There. I said it.

11 thoughts on “Getting Slapped in the Wrong Direction”

  1. I think you are right. From what I’ve seen {which granted isn’t all that much} falling in love and being in a serious {emphasis on serious} is one of the best things that can happen to a young adult as far as making them grow up goes.

    And I totally agree about not telling them to go back to Wii. I’m sure Wii is a lot of fun but it doesn’t really prepare you for life very well and isn’t that what the teenage years into the early twenties are about? Getting ready to be an adult with responsibilities? Good post Ink {Is that what people call you? I don’t see any other name on your blog.}

  2. Articles like this one here is why I love you so much, my friend. Christian maturity is not measured in temporal years. It’s measured in gospel depth, viz., by decisions and actions approached and accomplished through a life founded and grounded in Christ, and Him crucified.

    Thoughtful article. It reminds me not to generalize young people, especially in externals, like Samuel going down the line among David’s brothers. Well said.

      1. Pastor, I reread it and do remember reading it now… I guess I should have reread what I wrote, because my “generalizing” comment was not a critique on Ben Merkle, but rather the effect of Corey’s thoughtful article as a reminder to me personally; because I do understand Merkle’s context.

  3. With regard to the dichotomy you draw out of Merkle’s squib, that he asserts that the ‘young man’ should either marry the girl or go back to his Wii, you quote from, but do not address the fullness of, the following paragraph (I hope that my HTML tags work):

    And I know that this sounds a bit over the top. But I actually mean it. I have seen so many young men distinguish themselves during their first few years at college. I’ve seen young men grow leaps and bounds in their Christian maturity, through spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, evangelism, service, repentance, spiritual toughness, godly comradery with other young men, etc. Why lose this chance to grow and excel as a young Christian man by wasting your entire college career with a moonface, when you could limit your time with a moonface to a few months and spend the rest of your time growing as a man?”

    Merkle writes rhetorically. He also writes in a particular context, in terms of where he ministers and what he sees. He lays out starkly, even forcefully, what the issue is…either be a man or don’t. And he clearly lays out in the paragraph I have included what and how he thinks the appropriate approach work on ‘manhood.’ To approach what he has written without addressing this paragraph is, I am afraid, the misrepresentation of his argument and the assertion of a dichotomy that he does not create. Merkle offers a preferred tertium quid.

    As one commenter says…”I work with teens and young people in a big city with three major Universities, and what you’ve pointed out here is invaluable for them especially if they haven’t had the luxury of a Christian-World-View-Enhanced, Mid-Western upbringing.” Another says…”There is no reason why the years 13-18 can’t be spent focused on service, study, camaraderie, financial stability, and emotional/spiritual/relational maturity.” These two, I am sure you will agree, are far from mutually exclusive.I totally agree with both and, if you will remember, I have written some similar things about young men and what they need to be. But not every young man, not even in small, tight-knit, Christian colleges in Idaho, can lay claim to that kind of 13-to-18 experience, not to mention the ‘big city with three major universities.’ Some certainly do and, as Merkle clearly states, “exceptions abound.” But how do you deal with those who are not ‘exceptional?’

  4. Corey. This is wonderful. :) And, as you know, I really couldn’t agree more. The way you worded it, and the points you made, are perfect. (Like a boss). This is just exactly what people need to hear.
    Thank you! A

  5. Corey, I so admire you for being willing to take on any topic, despite your age. You’ve really shown yourself to have more wisdom and maturity than most seasoned older men. Tremendous article, so well written and, of course, I whole-heartedly agree! Thank you so much, Corey!
    A few thoughts on the original article: If Mr. Merkle had been addressing the serious problems related to endlessly dating/trying out various girls in college, that would be one thing. I would agree wholeheartedly. But he instead is addressing young men who want to start their marriage and family young in life, which, if they are mature and prepared (like young men should be encouraged and exhorted to be), is very commendable and should not be criticized in such a demeaning manner. If we are to be raising our children to think counter-culturally, and to actually create culture where there is little to none, why would we belittle the desire to go against the norm and do the honorable thing instead of subjecting themselves to four or more years of what usually involved immaturity, temptation, foolishness, regret…? I know this isn’t always the case, and there are some who can come out unscathed and with more maturity, but I would say, in most cases, pretty accurate.

  6. Mostly, my advice to young men has been that they should wait until their twenties to either start dating or go to college, because in either case it’s extremely rare that they actually know what they’re looking for before then, and regrets are likely. Of course there are some who mature younger, and others who never mature…

    It doesn’t hurt to concentrate on working hard and learning actual skills and lessons during that time to make yourself more worthy of the woman you will find. I used to recommend joining the military (as I did), but times are different now. College is overrated (this is coming from a guy with a bachelor’s degree) unless you can get into a place like Liberty or Hillsdale.

    Work. Gain experience and worthwhile skills.

    If a young man has the seriousness and maturity to truly be a man and assume the responsibility of marriage, he should be cautioned but not prevented, in my opinion.


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