Wild at Heart: A Post-Marriage, Post-Fatherhood Review


Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul by John EldredgeThe first time I read John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, I was looking for answers.

I was edging into my 20s, getting accustomed to college life, and struggling to get used to what would become a four-year, long-distance relationship with the woman who would later become my wife.

Our relationship had plenty of promise, but it also had plenty of bumps. To put things plainly, I was insecure. I was doing everything I thought a good guy was supposed to do. I whispered sweet nothings, paid for meals, and even opened doors for her here and there. But something was causing conflict. No matter how much I did or how much she expressed her devotion, I didn’t feel like I was good enough.

The worst part is that I let her know it.

We were stuck in a rut, and it was all because of me. But rather than realign my perspective and change the way I viewed myself (and our relationship), I thought the answer was to simply let things slide with the hope that things would fix themselves.

To be honest, I was afraid to recognize who I really was.

After all, if I did, I knew I would have to change.

With that as my attitude, Wild at Heart was exactly the book I needed to read.

The book is part diagnosis, part treatment. Eldredge begins by outlining God’s proper design for men, and moves quickly to condemning both modern culture and the modern church for promoting widespread emasculation. This trend, Eldredge argues, has led most men to exhibit a significant amount insecurity (or what he also calls a “false sense of self”). Eldredge wraps things up with a detailed recovery plan — moving step by step through different methods by which men can adjust their behavior and align their outlook to a Biblical perspective.

As I read the book, I slowly began to identify problems in my own life. The more Eldredge began to describe what a Godly man looks like — strong, secure, dependable, selfless, wild — the more I started to see where I was going wrong.

When it came to my relationship with the person I loved most, my behavior was chaotic at best.

About midway through the book, Eldredge hit me hard with this:

As we walk away from the false self [the prideful but insecure man], we feel vulnerable and exposed. We will be sorely tempted to turn to our comforters for some relief, those places that we’ve found solace and rest. Because so many of us turned to the woman for our sense of masculinity, we must walk away from her as well. I do not mean you leave your wife. I mean you stop looking to her to validate you, stop trying to make her come through for you, stop trying to get your answer from her.

This was the precise mistake I was making.

I was insecure, immature, and selfish. I didn’t realize it, but I was relying on my partner for completion — for validation. Rather than being a supportive and reliable friend, I was being a self-absorbed leech.

This realization led to a series of changes in my perspective and priorities. In the end, it came down to giving up a false sense of pride and entitlement, and replacing it with a humble submission to God’s love and a modeling after His fierce character (as represented through the Father).

But let’s fast-forward five years. I am now almost two years into marriage, and three months into fatherhood, and due to personal changes and other developments, my relationship with my wife has transformed into absolute bliss. Given that I have a new perspective and new parental responsibilities, I thought it might be beneficial to give Wild at Heart another pass.

The second time around, however, was a bit less inspiring.

Don’t get me wrong. Eldredge’s central messages are still valuable and relevant (especially to husbands and fathers), and the book is filled with Biblical insight and wisdom. But if you are looking for a deep, theological, philosophical, or psychological analysis on God’s proper design for men, you will probably be significantly underwhelmed.

The first time I approached Wild at Heart, I just wanted some basic answers. This time, I had the luxury of being a bit more analytical.

Perhaps the biggest problem throughout the book is the way Eldredge oversimplifies things. For example, he often makes the point that women are different than men (which is true), but in trying to illustrate their differences, Eldredge often yields to the lie that all men are the same. I don’t disagree that God has a common design for men (at a high level), but Eldredge acts as though every man is born to be a fisherman, an explorer, a hunter, or a warrior.

Also, when discussing man’s ideal environment, Eldredge criticizes certain arenas in which men can (and should) excel. For example, Eldredge depicts the white-collar workplace as a claustrophobic nightmare that all men should try to escape for the glorious wilderness. This may be true for Eldredge, but demonizing one man’s battlefield (the office) in support of another’s (the wilderness) is just presumptuous and counterproductive. If we’re talking about what drives the heart of a man, let’s talk about what drives the heart of a man.

Eldredge also fails to back up many of his arguments with credible (or even persuasive) research. When he discusses the Bible, his perspective is extremely valuable, but outside of that, he has a distracting habit of quoting lines from “man movies” (Gladiator, Indiana Jones, etc.), lyrics from pop songs (by the likes of Don Henley, Willie Nelson, and the Dixie Chicks), and poetry (from Ezra Pound, of all people). Such references appear far too many times and are rarely helpful.

I wasn’t necessarily blind to these negative characteristics on my first read-through. Indeed, I remember thinking parts of the book were incredibly fluffy and unconvincing. But sometimes books aren’t all about coherency and argumentation. When I was a young(er) man, I needed Wild at Heart’s overall message so much that I didn’t really care. I was desperate, and Eldredge pointed to many of the answers I was looking for.

Since then, I’ve seen wonderful fruit in my relationship with my wife, and I feel more equipped to provide proper guidance to my son. For whatever reason, Eldredge’s imperfect approach worked for me in the beginning, and for that, I’m grateful.

What I mean to say is that despite its structural missteps and occasional fluff, you might actually enjoy Wild at Heart and be impacted by it. It probably just depends on where you are in your personal life.

If you feel insecure and are unsure of your role as a man, this may be a good place to start. Just know that you may have to endure some lame speeches from Braveheart along the way.

Buy it: Click here to buy Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/19266781282 Remnant Culture

    New book review posted: "Wild at Heart: A Post-Marriage, Post-Fatherhood Review." Thanks @booksneeze! http://bit.ly/dxuxqi

  • http://twitter.com/mookietwinsvike/status/19272656704 Marcus K. Anderson

    Wild at Heart: A Post-Marriage, Post-Fatherhood Review «Remnant …: I am now almost two years into marriage, and … http://bit.ly/b8bqi3

  • http://twitter.com/josephsunde/status/19285442065 Joseph Sunde

    New book review posted: "Wild at Heart: A Post-Marriage, Post-Fatherhood Review." http://bit.ly/dxuxqi

  • Juliagetsch

    Hey, Joe, I read this book very fast roughly 6 years ago and found it to be a bit sexist. It was long enough ago that I'm not able to defend this with examples. However, based on that recollection, I wanted to comment on your comment, “…he often makes the point that women are different than men (which is true)…”, and would like to argue that in much the same way that you state that not all men are the same, not all women are the same, nor are they all different from all men. We humans are all varied and unique, and many of us, male and female, have a heart for adventure and romance. Just like you state that not all men are “born to be a fisherman, an explorer, a hunter, or a warrior,” not every woman is just sitting around waiting to be rescued. Just sayin.

  • Julia

    Joe, can you edit my name to just Julia and delete this comment? Thanks.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    I would agree that all women aren't the same either, and that some may be similar to men, but if we're speaking Biblically (or biologically), I think there's no question that there are distinct characteristics that separate the two. I would say that when it comes to these primary/fundamental differences between men and women, Eldredge gets much of it right (as far as God's DESIGN, as opposed to a the en vogue human/cultural perspective), but definitely not all of it.

    For instance I think the “waiting to be rescued” concept has some positive/true points within it, but like his hunting, fishing, etc. comparisons, his phrasing is generalized and dumbed down to the point where it doesn't apply well for all women. This is where I think the fluffiness/shallowness hurts him. He's not pulling the “waiting to be rescued” terminology from the Bible; he's pulling it from Braveheart or Snow White or whatever. It's not only unpersuasive, but it's counterproductive and often conveys a sense of distaste among those who feel “dumbed down” along with the concept (including me, at times!).

    Thanks for the thoughts!

  • Julia

    Hey, Joe, I read this book very fast roughly 6 years ago and found it to be a bit sexist. It was long enough ago that I'm not able to defend this with examples. However, based on that recollection, I wanted to comment on your comment, “…he often makes the point that women are different than men (which is true)…”, and would like to argue that in much the same way that you state that not all men are the same, not all women are the same, nor are they all different from all men. We humans are all varied and unique, and many of us, male and female, have a heart for adventure and romance. Just like you state that not all men are “born to be a fisherman, an explorer, a hunter, or a warrior,” not every woman is just sitting around waiting to be rescued. Just sayin.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    I would agree that all women aren't the same either, and that some may be similar to men, but if we're speaking Biblically (or biologically), I think there's no question that there are distinct characteristics that separate the two. I would say that when it comes to these primary/fundamental differences between men and women, Eldredge gets much of it right (as far as God's DESIGN, as opposed to a the en vogue human/cultural perspective), but definitely not all of it.

    For instance I think the “waiting to be rescued” concept has some positive/true points within it, but like his hunting, fishing, etc. comparisons, his phrasing is generalized and dumbed down to the point where it doesn't apply well for all women. This is where I think the fluffiness/shallowness hurts him. He's not pulling the “waiting to be rescued” terminology from the Bible; he's pulling it from Braveheart or Snow White or whatever. It's not only unpersuasive, but it's counterproductive and often conveys a sense of distaste among those who feel “dumbed down” along with the concept (including me, at times!).

    Thanks for the thoughts!

  • http://twitter.com/silent0/status/19338202259 Ken Hood Jr.

    RT @josephsunde New book review posted: "Wild at Heart: A Post-Marriage, Post-Fatherhood Review." http://bit.ly/dxuxqi

  • Julia

    Hey, Joe, I read this book very fast roughly 6 years ago and found it to be a bit sexist. It was long enough ago that I'm not able to defend this with examples. However, based on that recollection, I wanted to comment on your comment, “…he often makes the point that women are different than men (which is true)…”, and would like to argue that in much the same way that you state that not all men are the same, not all women are the same, nor are they all different from all men. We humans are all varied and unique, and many of us, male and female, have a heart for adventure and romance. Just like you state that not all men are “born to be a fisherman, an explorer, a hunter, or a warrior,” not every woman is just sitting around waiting to be rescued. Just sayin.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    I would agree that all women aren't the same either, and that some may be similar to men, but if we're speaking Biblically (or biologically), I think there's no question that there are distinct characteristics that separate the two. I would say that when it comes to these primary/fundamental differences between men and women, Eldredge gets much of it right (as far as God's DESIGN, as opposed to a the en vogue human/cultural perspective), but definitely not all of it.

    For instance I think the “waiting to be rescued” concept has some positive/true points within it, but like his hunting, fishing, etc. comparisons, his phrasing is generalized and dumbed down to the point where it doesn't apply well for all women. This is where I think the fluffiness/shallowness hurts him. He's not pulling the “waiting to be rescued” terminology from the Bible; he's pulling it from Braveheart or Snow White or whatever. It's not only unpersuasive, but it's counterproductive and often conveys a sense of distaste among those who feel “dumbed down” along with the concept (including me, at times!).

    Thanks for the thoughts!

  • http://twitter.com/remnantculture/status/19363170706 Remnant Culture

    The 1st time I read Wild at Heart, I was immature & selfish. Now I'm a husband & father. My new review: http://bit.ly/dxuxqi @booksneeze