Wild at Heart author John Eldredge believes men and women across the United States are experiencing a mental health crisis like never before.
“The last year absolutely clobbered us. We all just passed through extreme, global trauma thanks to the pandemic and lockdown,” Eldredge, president of Wild at Heart, a ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God and recover their own hearts in God’s love, told The Christian Post.
“As people come out of this, I think the world will realize that everyone has been through trauma. We are going to see the effects of that now. To have your normal routines disrupted, to be kept in a state of constant uncertainty — that is traumatizing. And then, of course, the deaths and the losses are very real. As a result, everyone has been turning back to self-comforting, often damaging, behavior.”
An experienced therapist, Eldredge said he’s seen domestic violence, porn addiction, depression, substance abuse, and suicide rates increase significantly amid the pandemic — particularly among men.
“Men’s core fear is failure, and they want to feel like they can tackle any challenge. But during the pandemic, they didn't know what to fix. They were told they were not essential, that they had to stay home and do nothing. It’s a message that says you have no significant contribution to make,” he said.
This, Eldredge said, has been “crippling for men,” adding: “We’re seeing so much anger in men right now, and it’s misdirected because they just don't know what to fight.”
Though women are “better at expressing how they're feeling, talking about it and making social connections” than men, that doesn’t mean the pandemic hasn’t affected them as well, Eldredge stressed.
“A woman's core fear is insecurity and primarily relational betrayal,” he explained. “Women thrive when their world is thriving, when their relationships are thriving. And when you take that away from a woman, the primary result is anxiety. Suddenly, their world is not secure. We’re seeing anxiety in women like never before.”
Sensing an urgent need to offer hope, encouragement, and support to men and women coming out of the pandemic, the New York Times bestselling author launched The Wild at Heart Experience and the Captivating Experience, two free, six-week programs available on the Wild at Heart website.
The Wild at Heart Experience is based on the message of Eldredge’s book written for men, while the Captivating Experience is based on the book of the same name written by Eldredge and his wife, Stasi, especially for women.
“What Wild at Heart and Captivating offer are a deeper experience of the healing presence of our Father, because it's the unhealed soul that seeks out various addictions,” he said. “The unhealed soul is more vulnerable in an hour like this than the healed soul. What we need is wholeheartedness, because when we’re wholehearted, we are in a better place to resist these kinds of damaging behaviors.”
Men and women can participate in the program by joining groups, hosting groups, or participating online as part of the Wild at Heart and Captivating communities.
“We’re inviting people to come on a journey through soul care, and heart-strengthening, and recovery coming out of the crazy year that we've all just been through,” Eldredge shared.
In addition to the film series for men and women, the father and grandfather launched theWild at Heart Expanded Edition, which features an updated introduction and answers to the author’s most frequently asked questions about the bestselling title that has sold more than 5 million copies and launched a movement of freedom for men around the world.
The book, Eldredge said, seeks to encourage men to “recover their masculine heart, see themselves in the image of a passionate, dangerous God, and delight in the strength and wilderness they were created to offer.”
He pointed out that when it comes to the family unit, COVID has exacerbated already-existing issues: “What we are experiencing now is the result of a perfect storm stemming from the divorce culture that brought in a whole generation of fatherlessness,” the Colorado native told CP. “We've lost a lot of the context within which boys used to learn dignity and the passage of masculinity."
“Every little boy has two core questions: Do you love me, and do I have what it takes? And he’s looking at his father to answer these questions," he continued. "If the dad is not there, or if the dad is taken out through his own addictions, the boy doesn't get that bedrock and will try to get that sense of belonging and that sense of validation elsewhere. Every boy must understand that he is valued and loved, and then bring that to the world as a confident man. But if you look at the cultural story, it's pretty bad. It's a mess.”
Yet, Eldredge said he’s “encouraged” by the “movement of masculine fellowship and intentionality” that he’s seen going on in Christian communities all over the world.
“If you look at the cultural scene, it's pretty heartbreaking. There's just a lot of confusion. But God is at work, and there is a great deal of intentionality on the part of Christian men to recover what was lost and to offer it either to their son or to the young men in their worlds. It’s becoming a global movement,” he said.
Through his work, Eldredge said he hopes to help men and women discover who God designed them to be and offer hope at a time when it is desperately needed.
“It’s really remarkable that God let us get this done because we filmed this new series and wrote the expanded version of the book amid the pandemic,” he said. “It was extraordinary that we were able to get that done, but the timing couldn't be better, because now we can offer these resources to help people toward wholeheartedness at a time that people are pretty beat up.”