Tender Warrior

This is the sixth review in a series of posts about books for married men.

Stu Weber has some pretty intense manliness credentials. At left is the Bronze Star, the fourth-highest combat award of the U.S. Armed Forces. Stu Weber has three of them. That he won as a Green Beret. He also holds a Master’s of Divinity, and a doctorate. Anyone with higher qualifications of manliness may skip this post. Now that I have everyone’s attention, on to the book.

Tender Warrior covers pretty much the gamut of angles on manliness. Dr. Weber touches on what he (correctly) believes is the heart of manliness, on four pillar roles of a man, and on the most important four relationships of a man - to his wife, his children, his friends, and his Lord. The heart of manliness, as told by Stu Weber, is the Creator of men. God uniquely created men according to His purpose and His plans. He made men provisionary leaders, gave them the perseverance to endure hardship in a way that women and children shouldn’t need to, and built into them the capacity for tender affection.

Dr. Weber says that there are four pillars of a man, his roles in every situation: King, Warrior, Mentor, Friend. A King, he writes, “looks ahead, watches over, and provides order, mercy, and justice.” A Warrior “shields, defends, stands between, and guards.” A Mentor “models, trains, and explains.” Finally, a Friend is a “commitment maker” and a “promise keeper.” Melding all of that into one person seems like a pretty tall order, but it all makes pretty good sense to me when I think of the men I’ve looked up to in my life, like my dad.

After pretty briefly outlining the four pillars, though, Dr. Weber drops the bomb: what makes a man is perseverance. He calls it “staying power,” or, from a literal translation of James 1:2-4, “staying under.” In a sidebar he pulls a quote from The Chantaine’s Guardian that covers it pretty well. Part of the quote is below in an image from Google Books. Faithfulness, I think, is the key word here, but it’s not our faithfulness as men that I’m talking about - every one of us, unfortunately, will fail. Dr. Weber heads up his chapter on staying power with Hebrews 13:5; there is no greater statement of faithfulness for us to draw on.

Dr. Weber then gets into the relationships a man values. First and last he writes about a man’s relationship to God; I’ll come back to that at the end.

Second, he moves into dangerous territory by writing that men and women are different (who knew?!). They’re different for a reason; they’re equal, but not the same. Dr. Weber zeroes in on 1 Peter 3:7, noting that “weaker” doesn’t mean of lesser value; by contrast, a china plate and a metal camping one are both valuable for their different uses, although one is certainly more delicate than the other!

Third, Dr. Weber covers the relationship of a man and his children. As half of a married couple without kids, I’m not qualified to comment on children or parenting, but the basic point Weber makes is that children are the only legacy of a man. Not their genes, not their hair color or height, but their knowledge of and relationship with the Almighty.

Covered fourth is a man’s relationship to his friends. The message here is “locking arms” and “standing together.” Both are pretty easy to believe when a man with three bronze stars tells you that in combat the best thing to have is a good friend next to you. An accountability partner and a man who challenges you - Proverbs 27:17 - is indispensable in motivating yourself to have the “staying power” that Dr. Weber writes about. Seeing the example of other men is always both an inspiration and a challenge. A real man thrives on those two things.

Finally (and indeed throughout the book), Weber writes about the relationship of a man and our Creator. To quote words which cannot be paraphrased, “Jesus Christ is the ultimate Man. Maximum manhood. The perfect Model. The complete Hero.” He is the only perfect man. He is what we are striving to emulate. All other models fall far short and can only lead you astray if you make them your ideal. How right Dr. Weber is.

My father-in-law gave me Tender Warrior as an engagement present when I became engaged to his daughter, now my wife. He wrote a note in the flyleaf as follows

I will not pretend to be worthy of any authority to preach to you about what you “should,” “shall,” or “ought” to do. I will tell you that this book did help me many times and lead my thinking. I am hopeful that its wise counsel will be of service to you as you and my [daughter] create your life together.

I know that my father-in-law is not a Christian, so the note surprised me, but I suppose it shouldn’t have. Jesus Christ is the perfect role model of Manliness, however you slice it. That fact is undeniable.