Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

I’ve put off reviewing this book for a long time – so long that most of the content is now just a blur. But the important stuff has stayed with me. The reason I put the review off is because I didn’t know how to tackle it. The book fell into that category that a lot of Christian literature falls into: a mix of truth and misinterpretation. That sounds arrogant, but it comes from having over fifteen years of Christian experience and learning.

Thankfully, Wild at Heart contains much more truth than misinterpretation. My main criticism is the author’s tendency to offer flowery interpretations of Scripture, going beyond the actual meaning of Bible passages. The book also projects a kind of “find yourself” mentality that Americans seem to like. But that’s enough criticism. In the book’s favour, I have to say that it is dealing with a very important theme that is largely being ignored by everyone.

I was finally prompted to write this review after reading a particular news article on a blog. I heard about a college student who used his computer to design a first-person shooter map of his school; other students played and enjoyed it. Then the school administration found out (not that it was a secret) and got the police involved. Despite no actual crime having been committed, the student has been transferred to another educational establishment to complete his course, and the police have forbidden him ever again to make a map of any actual public place.

Okay, we all know what prompted this harsh reaction from the authorities: the recent real-life school shootings. But nobody’s asking the important question: what prompted the student to create the college map? You see, I work in a school. As a gaming fan, I’ve oftened walked the corridors imagining how cool it would be to have a game map of the building. I’ve looked at the various nooks and crannies and thought how wonderful it would be to be able to leap around in inventive ways, finding interesting spots to gain a tactical advantage over my opponents. Does this make me a potential psycho killer? Of course not. This kind of thing appeals to me simply because I’m male. And that’s why the student made the map – because he’s male, and males do male things.

Wild at Heart makes the daring suggestion that we should not be preventing our boy children from playing with toy guns – that the desire to play in this way is not an expression of human sinfulness, but of male identity. The book suggests that men have a wild streak – that they are more at home in the wilds of nature than in a nice tidy house. We crave to be seen, not as well-mannered polite people, but as courageous and dangerous. When a young boy gets a cowboy costume for his birthday, and he straps the guns into their holsters and puts on his wide-brimmed hat, he’ll probably want to wear it all day, whether he’s playing with friends or sitting at the dinner table. He is unlikely to have the same enthusiasm for, say, a doctor’s costume. The cowboy costume is more than just an outfit; it’s an identity. He wants to be seen as dangerous, even if it’s just makebelieve. I reiterate: this has nothing to do with sin. It’s just the way we’re wired, as men. Girls have different interests. Look at how many girls’ toys that have themes of home and children, whereas boys’ toys are concerned with conflict and battle.

This book suggests that the churches of today are creating a breed of men who have been completely stripped of their proper identity. The virtues of niceness and politeness are hailed as the things to which we should aspire. But what we really crave is “permission to be dangerous.”

Speaking from personal experience, I’m a man who lives alone, and I have a slight distate for the domestic life that I’m entrenched it, whereas women have natural instincts for home-building. Do I sound sexist? Maybe I do. Maybe I should. Because the modern way of thinking – that men and women must be the same to be equal – is just wrong. Men and women are not only physically different, but psychologically wired completely differently. And these days, men are getting a real raw deal.

Wild at Heart is an important book that can be read and appreciated by the Christian and non-Christian alike. It’s a real eye-opener.