Knight Club: Moral Authority and the Fourth Dragon

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One of the ways I tackle “wicked problems” is by exploring different possible answers in order to help clarify the essential question. My posts on flying and mastering the dragons of manhood have been useful in helping me recognize that the two main questions Knight Club is trying to answer are:

  • What does it mean to be a man?
  • What can we do to help our sons become those kind of men?

I believe the most critical aspect of authentic manhood is “moral authority,” where people trust you will do the right thing.

Importantly, moral authority has three components:

  1. Head: You know the right thing
  2. Heart: You want the right thing
  3. Hand: You can do the right thing

When we meet someone whom we feel we can trust in those three areas, we feel simultaneously safe and adventurous.  Exactly the qualities men want in a mate — and their kids or followers, for that matter.

This doesn’t men have to be perfect at all three  — or even just one of them; otherwise we’d all be hosed.  But men need to be mature in these areas, in terms of typically:

  • Doing something close to the right thing
  • Recognizing when we are in over our head, and getting help

From this perspective, the dragons I’ve been discussing are about having the right kind of heart — learning to want the right thing.

Note that not wanting the wrong things is a side effect. I believe it is critically important for the evangelical church to shifts its focus away from “not wanting the wrong things” to “wanting the right things.”  Yes, there is a place for laws and boundaries, but that should only be at the edges — the lifeblood of our faith ought to be a consistent pursuit of what is most good.

From that perspective, I can summarize and reinterpret my previous discussions in a table:

Dragon Color Nurture Harness
Fear Green Awe vs. Contempt Bravery vs. Cowardice
Anger Red Caring vs. Apathy Discernment vs. Rage
Desire Blue Hope vs. Sloth Discipline vs. Greed
Pride White Honor vs. Victimhood Humility vs. Arrogance

Those of you who’ve been following along may notice that I’ve reshuffled the colors, renamed “Desire” to “Passion”, and added “Pride” as the fourth dragon. I’m still not entirely happy with all the labels, but I’m getting closer to the pictures my head.

My central claim is that emotional maturity for men consists of mastering these four motivations:

  1. Fear
  2. Anger
  3. Desire
  4. Pride

In particular, we need to both “nurture” (strengthen) and “harness” (direct ) the associated emotions by cultivating the virtues (and avoiding the vices) identified in the last two columns, respectively.

This vision of “mastering dragons” is a radical departure from our cultural mindset of “slaying dragons”, particularly when it comes to terms like “pride” and “anger” which (for good reason) are typically seen as negative.  However, there are things we should be angry and proud about, and so far I haven’t found a better word to describe the raw emotion; if you think of one, let me know in the comments.

Of these dragons, the most interesting is Pride, because as the white dragon in can be useful — and deadly! — in managing the other three.  In fact, history teaches us that religious people are the most susceptible to the sin of pride (e.g., The Pharisees, though I’m sure you can easily identify your favorite contemporary example).  Which is arguably why it has such a bad name.

Yet I believe pride is a basic and valuable human emotion.  We (and the Bible) invoke it with words such as a glory, exaltation, rejoicing, celebration, reward, and yes, proud.  I believe it is essential to cultivate a healthy sense of pride (self-esteem? honor?), or else the only leaders we have would be those with an unhealthy type of pride.

Which on my bad days I fear is already the case…

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