Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul

Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul

by John Eldredge

Paperback(Revised and Expanded)

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John Eldredge revises and updates his best-selling, renowned Christian classic, Wild at Heart, and in it invites men to:

  • Recover their masculine heart.
  • See themselves in the image of a passionate god.
  • Delight in the strength and wildness men were created to offer.

In this provocative book, Eldredge provides a look inside the true heart of a man and gives men permission to be what God designed them to be—dangerous, passionate, alive, and free.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400200399
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 04/19/2011
Edition description: Revised and Expanded
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 13,757
Product dimensions: 8.04(w) x 5.36(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

John Eldredge is a bestselling author, a counselor, and a teacher. He is also president of Ransomed Heart, a ministry devoted to helping people discover the heart of God, recover their own hearts in God’s love, and learn to live in God’s kingdom. John and his wife, Stasi, live near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Read an Excerpt



The heart of a man is like deep water . . .
–Proverbs 20:5 NKJV

The spiritual life cannot be made suburban. It is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even rejoice that it remains untamed.
–Howard Macey

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in.
–Cole Porter
"Don't Fence Me In"

At last, I am surrounded by wilderness. The wind in the top of the pines behind me sounds like the ocean. Waves are rushing in from the great blue above, cresting upon the ridge of the mountain I have climbed, somewhere in the Sawatch Range of central Colorado. Spreading out below me the landscape is a sea of sagebrush for mile after lonesome mile. Zane Grey immortalized it as the purple sage, but most of the year it's more of a silver gray. This is the kind of country you could ride across for days on horseback without seeing another living soul. Today, I am on foot. Though the sun is shining this afternoon, it will not warm above thirty here near the Continental Divide, and the sweat I worked up scaling this face is now making me shiver. It is late October and winter is coming on. In the distance, nearly a hundred miles south by southwest, the San Juan Mountains are already covered in snow.

The aroma of the pungent sage still clings to my jeans, and it clears my head as I gasp for air–in notably short supply at10,000 feet. I am forced to rest again, even though I know that each pause broadens the distance between me and my quarry. Still, the advantage has always been his. Though the tracks I found this morning were fresh–only a few hours old–that holds little promise. A bull elk can easily cover miles of rugged country in that amount of time, especially if he is wounded or on the run.

The wapiti, as the Indians called him, is one of the most elusive creatures we have left in the lower forty-eight. They are the ghost kings of the high country, more cautious and wary than deer, and more difficult to track. They live at higher elevations, and travel farther in a day, than nearly any other game. The bulls especially seem to carry a sixth sense to human presence. A few times I've gotten close; the next moment they are gone, vanishing silently into aspen groves so thick you wouldn't have believed a rabbit could get through.

It wasn't always this way. For centuries elk lived out on the prairies, grazing together on the rich grasses in vast numbers. In the spring of 1805 Meriwether Lewis described passing herds lolling about in the thousands as he made his way in search of a Northwest Passage. At times the curious wandered so close he could throw sticks at them, like bucolic dairy cows blocking the road. But by the end of the century westward expansion had pushed the elk high up into the Rocky Mountains. Now they are elusive, hiding out at timberline like outlaws until heavy snows force them down for the winter. If you would seek them now, it is on their terms, in forbidding haunts well beyond the reach of civilization.

And that is why I come.

And why I linger here still, letting the old bull get away. My hunt, you see, actually has little to do with elk. I knew that before I came. There is something else I am after, out here in the wild. I am searching for an even more elusive prey . . . something that can only be found through the help of wilderness.

I am looking for my heart.


Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden's garden. But Adam, if you'll remember, was created outside the Garden, in the wilderness. In the record of our beginnings, the second chapter of Genesis makes it clear: Man was born in the outback, from the untamed part of creation. Only afterward is he brought to Eden. And ever since then boys have never been at home indoors, and men have had an insatiable longing to explore. We long to return; it's when most men come alive. As John Muir said, when a man comes to the mountains, he comes home. The core of a man's heart is undomesticated and that is good. "I am not alive in an office," as one Northface ad has it. "I am not alive in a taxi cab. I am not alive on a sidewalk." Amen to that. Their conclusion? "Never stop exploring."

My gender seems to need little encouragement. It comes naturally, like our innate love of maps. In 1260 Marco Polo headed off to find China, and in 1967, when I was seven, I tried to dig a hole straight through from our backyard with my friend Danny Wilson. We gave up at about eight feet, but it made a great fort. Hannibal crosses his famous Alps, and there comes a day in a boy's life when he first crosses the street and enters the company of the great explorers. Scott and Amundsen race for the South Pole, Peary and Cook vie for the North, and when last summer I gave my boys some loose change and permission to ride their bikes down to the store to buy a soda, you'd have thought I'd given them a charter to go find the equator. Magellan sails due west, around the tip of South America–despite warnings that he and his crew will drop off the end of the earth–and Huck Finn heads off down the Mississippi ignoring similar threats. Powell follows the Colorado into the Grand Canyon, even though–no, because–no one has done it before and everyone is saying it can't be done.

And so my boys and I stood on the bank of the Snake River in the spring of '98, feeling that ancient urge to shove off. Snow melt was high that year, unusually high, and the river had overflowed its banks and was surging through the trees on both sides. Out in the middle of the river, which is crystal clear in late summer but that day looked like chocolate milk, logs were floating down, large tangles of branches bigger than a car, and who knows what else. High and muddy and fast, the Snake was forbidding. No other rafters could be seen. Did I mention it was raining? But we had a brand-new canoe and the paddles were in hand and, sure, I have never floated the Snake in a canoe, nor any other river for that matter, but what the heck. We jumped in and headed off into the unknown, like Livingstone plunging into the interior of dark Africa.

Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man. The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul. Where, finally, the geography around us corresponds to the geography of our heart. Look at the heroes of the biblical text: Moses does not encounter the living God at the mall. He finds him (or is found by him) somewhere out in the deserts of Sinai, a long way from the comforts of Egypt. The same is true of Jacob, who has his wrestling match with God not on the living room sofa but in a wadi somewhere east of the Jabbok, in Mesopotamia. Where did the great prophet Elijah go to recover his strength? To the wild. As did John the Baptist, and his cousin, Jesus, who is led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Whatever else those explorers were after, they were also searching for themselves. Deep in a man's heart are some fundamental questions that simply cannot be answered at the kitchen table. Who am I? What am I made of? What am I destined for? It is fear that keeps a man at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control. But the answers to his deepest questions are not to be found on television or in the refrigerator. Out there on the burning desert sands, lost in a trackless waste, Moses received his life's mission and purpose. He is called out, called up into something much bigger than he ever imagined, much more serious than CEO or "prince of Egypt." Under foreign stars, in the dead of night, Jacob received a new name, his real name. No longer is he a shrewd business negotiator, but now he is one who wrestles with God. The wilderness trial of Christ is, at its core, a test of his identity. "If you are who you think you are . . ." If a man is ever to find out who he is and what he's here for, he has got to take that journey for himself.

he has got to get his heart back.


The way a man's life unfolds nowadays tends to drive his heart into remote regions of the soul. Endless hours at a computer screen; selling shoes at the mall; meetings, memos, phone calls. The business world–where the majority of American men live and die–requires a man to be efficient and punctual. Corporate policies and procedures are designed with one aim: to harness a man to the plow and make him produce. But the soul refuses to be harnessed; it knows nothing of day timers and deadlines and P&L statements. The soul longs for passion, for freedom, for life. As D. H. Lawrence said, "I am not a mechanism." A man needs to feel the rhythms of the earth; he needs to have in hand something real–the tiller of a boat, a set of reins, the roughness of rope, or simply a shovel. Can a man live all his days to keep his fingernails clean and trim? Is that what a boy dreams of?

Society at large can't make up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men. Boys will be boys, they sigh. As though if a man were to truly grow up he would forsake wilderness and wanderlust and settle down, be at home forever in Aunt Polly's parlor. "Where are all the real men?" is regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say. The result is a gender confusion never experienced at such a wide level in the history of the world. How can a man know he is one when his highest aim is minding his manners?

And then, alas, there is the church. Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy. The problem with men, we are told, is that they don't know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming . . . a nice guy. That's what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice Guys. We don't smoke, drink, or swear; that's what makes us men. Now let me ask my male readers: In all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you ever dream of becoming a Nice Guy? (Ladies, was the Prince of your dreams dashing . . . or merely nice?)

Really now–do I overstate my case? Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian man? Don't listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You'd have to admit a Christian man is . . . bored. At a recent church retreat I was talking with a guy in his fifties, listening really, about his own journey as a man. "I've pretty much tried for the last twenty years to be a good man as the church defines it." Intrigued, I asked him to say what he thought that was. He paused for a long moment. "Dutiful," he said. "And separated from his heart." A perfect description, I thought. Sadly right on the mark.

As Robert Bly laments in Iron John, "Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man–they are called priests; the university wants a domesticated man–they are called tenure-track people; the corporation wants a . . . sanitized, hairless, shallow man." It all comes together as a sort of westward expansion against the masculine soul. And thus the heart of a man is driven into the high country, into remote places, like a wounded animal looking for cover. Women know this, and lament that they have no access to their man's heart. Men know it, too, but are often unable to explain why their heart is missing. They know their heart is on the run, but they often do not know where to pick up the trail. The church wags its head and wonders why it can't get more men to sign up for its programs. The answer is simply this: We have not invited a man to know and live from his deep heart.


But God made the masculine heart, set it within every man, and thereby offers him an invitation: Come, and live out what I meant you to be. Permit me to bypass the entire nature vs. nurture "is gender really built-in?" debate with one simple observation: Men and women are made in the image of God as men or as women. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). Now, we know God doesn't have a body, so the uniqueness can't be physical. Gender simply must be at the level of the soul, in the deep and everlasting places within us. God doesn't make generic people; he makes something very distinct–a man or a woman. In other words, there is a masculine heart and a feminine heart, which in their own ways reflect or portray to the world God's heart.

God meant something when he meant man, and if we are to ever find ourselves we must find that. What has he set in the masculine heart? Instead of asking what you think you ought to do to become a better man (or woman, for my female readers), I want to ask, What makes you come alive? What stirs your heart? The journey we face now is into a land foreign to most of us. We must head into country that has no clear trail. This charter for exploration takes us into our own hearts, into our deepest desires. As the playwright Christopher Fry says,

Life is a hypocrite if I can't live
The way it moves me!

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul. They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be. I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself. They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. I want you to think of the films men love, the things they do with their free time, and especially the aspirations of little boys and see if I am not right on this.


There's a photo on my wall of a little boy about five years old, with a crew cut, big cheeks, and an impish grin. It's an old photograph, and the color is fading, but the image is timeless. It's Christmas morning, 1964, and I've just opened what may have been the best present any boy received on any Christmas ever–a set of two pearl-handed six-shooters, complete with black leather holsters, a red cowboy shirt with two wild mustangs embroidered on either breast, shiny black boots, red bandanna, and straw hat. I've donned the outfit and won't take it off for weeks because, you see, this is not a "costume" at all; it's an identity. Sure, one pant leg is tucked into my boot and the other is hanging out, but that only adds to my "fresh off the trail" persona. My thumbs are tucked inside my gun belt and my chest is out because I am armed and dangerous. Bad guys beware: This town's not big enough for the both of us.

Capes and swords, camouflage, bandannas and six-shooters–these are the uniforms of boyhood. Little boys yearn to know they are powerful, they are dangerous, they are someone to be reckoned with. How many parents have tried in vain to prevent little Timmy from playing with guns? Give it up. If you do not supply a boy with weapons, he will make them from whatever materials are at hand. My boys chew their graham crackers into the shape of hand guns at the breakfast table. Every stick or fallen branch is a spear, or better, a bazooka. Despite what many modern educators would say, this is not a psychological disturbance brought on by violent television or chemical imbalance. Aggression is part of the masculine design; we are hardwired for it. If we believe that man is made in the image of God, then we would do well to remember that "the Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name" (Ex. 15:3).

Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die, where bloodshed is a prerequisite for having fun. Hockey, for example, was not a feminine creation. Nor was boxing. A boy wants to attack something–and so does a man, even if it's only a little white ball on a tee. He wants to whack it into kingdom come. On the other hand, my boys do not sit down to tea parties. They do not call their friends on the phone to talk about relationships. They grow bored of games that have no element of danger or competition or bloodshed. Cooperative games based on "relational interdependence" are complete nonsense. "No one is killed?" they ask, incredulous. "No one wins? What's the point?" The universal nature of this ought to have convinced us by now: The boy is a warrior; the boy is his name. And those are not boyish antics he is doing. When boys play at war they are rehearsing their part in a much bigger drama. One day, you just might need that boy to defend you.

Those Union soldiers who charged the stone walls at Bloody Angle; the Allied troops that hit the beaches at Normandy or the sands of Iwo Jima–what would they have done without this deep part of their heart? Life needs a man to be fierce–and fiercely devoted. The wounds he will take throughout his life will cause him to lose heart if all he has been trained to be is soft. This is especially true in the murky waters of relationships, where a man feels least prepared to advance. As Bly says, "In every relationship something fierce is needed once in a while."

Now, this longing may have submerged from years of neglect, and a man may not feel that he is up to the battles he knows await him. Or it may have taken a very dark turn, as it has with inner-city gangs. But the desire is there. Every man wants to play the hero. Every man needs to know that he is powerful. Women didn't make Braveheart one of the best-selling films of the decade. Flying Tigers, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Magnificent Seven, Shane, High Noon, Saving Private Ryan, Top Gun, the Die Hard films, Gladiator–the movies a man loves reveal what his heart longs for, what is set inside him from the day of his birth.

Like it or not, there is something fierce in the heart of every man.


"My mother loves to go to Europe on her vacations." We were talking about our love of the West, a friend and I, and why he moved out here from the East Coast. "And that's okay for her, I guess. There's a lot of culture there. But I need wildness." Our conversation was stirred by the film Legends of the Fall, the story of three young men coming of age in the early 1900s on their father's ranch in Montana. Alfred, the eldest, is practical, pragmatic, cautious. He heads off to the Big City to become a businessman and eventually, a politician. Yet something inside him dies. He becomes a hollow man. Samuel, the youngest, is still a boy in many ways, a tender child–literate, sensitive, timid. He is killed early in the film and we know he was not ready for battle.

Then there is Tristan, the middle son. He is wild at heart. It is Tristan who embodies the West–he catches and breaks the wild stallion, fights the grizzly with a knife, and wins the beautiful woman. I have yet to meet a man who wants to be Alfred or Samuel. I've yet to meet a woman who wants to marry one. There's a reason the American cowboy has taken on mythic proportions. He embodies a yearning every man knows from very young–to "go West," to find a place where he can be all he knows he was meant to be. To borrow Walter Brueggeman's description of God: "wild, dangerous, unfettered and free."

Now, let me stop for a moment and make something clear. I am no great white hunter. I have no dead animals adorning the walls of my house. I didn't play college football. In fact, in college I weighed 135 pounds and wasn't much of an athlete. Despite my childhood dreams, I have never been a race car driver or a fighter pilot. I have no interest in televised sports, I don't like cheap beer, and though I do drive an old jeep its tires are not ridiculously large. I say this because I anticipate that many readers–good men and women–will be tempted to dismiss this as some sort of macho-man pep rally. Not at all. I am simply searching, as many men (and hopeful women) are, for an authentic masculinity.

When winter fails to provide an adequate snow base, my boys bring their sleds in the house and ride them down the stairs. Just the other day, my wife found them with a rope out their second-story bedroom window, preparing to rappel down the side of the house. The recipe for fun is pretty simple raising boys: Add to any activity an element of danger, stir in a little exploration, add a dash of destruction, and you've got yourself a winner. The way they ski is a perfect example. Get to the top of the highest run, point your skis straight downhill and go, the faster the better. And this doesn't end with age; the stakes simply get higher.

A judge in his sixties, a real southern gentleman with a pinstriped suit and an elegant manner of speech, pulled me aside during a conference. Quietly, almost apologetically, he spoke of his love for sailing, for the open sea, and how he and a buddy eventually built their own boat. Then came a twinkle in his eye. "We were sailing off the coast of Bermuda a few years ago, when we were hit by a northeaster (a raging storm). Really, it came up out of nowhere. Twenty-foot swells in a thirty-foot homemade boat. I thought we were all going to die." A pause for dramatic effect, and then he confessed, "It was the best time of my life."

Compare your experience watching the latest James Bond or Indiana Jones thriller with, say, going to Bible study. The guaranteed success of each new release makes it clear–adventure is written into the heart of a man. And it's not just about having "fun." Adventure requires something of us, puts us to the test. Though we may fear the test, at the same time we yearn to be tested, to discover that we have what it takes. That's why we set off down the Snake River against all sound judgment, why a buddy and I pressed on through grizzly country to find good fishing, why I went off to Washington, D.C., as a young man to see if I could make it in those shark-infested waters. If a man has lost this desire, says he doesn't want it, that's only because he doesn't know he has what it takes, believes that he will fail the test. And so he decides it's better not to try. For reasons I hope to make clear later, most men hate the unknown and, like Cain, want to settle down and build their own city, get on top of their life.

But you can't escape it–there is something wild in the heart of every man.


Romeo has his Juliet, King Arthur fights for Guinevere, Robin rescues Maid Marian, and I will never forget the first time I kissed my grade school sweetheart. It was in the fall of my seventh-grade year. I met Debbie in drama class, and fell absolutely head over heels. It was classic puppy love: I'd wait for her after rehearsals were over, carry her books back to her locker. We passed notes in class, talked on the phone at night. I had never paid girls much attention, really, until now. This desire awakens a bit later in a boy's journey to manhood, but when it does his universe turns on its head. Anyway, I longed to kiss her but just couldn't work up the courage–until the last night of the school play. The next day was summer vacation, she was going away, and I knew it was now or never. Backstage, in the dark, I slipped her a quick kiss and she returned a longer one. Do you remember the scene from the movie E.T., where the boy flies across the moon on his bike? Though I rode my little Schwinn home that night, I'm certain I never touched the ground.

There is nothing so inspiring to a man as a beautiful woman. She'll make you want to charge the castle, slay the giant, leap across the parapets. Or maybe, hit a home run. One day during a Little League game, my son Samuel was so inspired. He likes baseball, but most boys starting out aren't sure they really have it in them to be a great player. Sam's our firstborn, and like so many firstborns he is cautious. He always lets a few pitches go by before he takes a swing, and when he does, it's never a full swing; every one of his hits up till this point were in the infield. Anyway, just as Sam steps up to bat this one afternoon, his friend from down the street, a cute little blonde girl, shows up along the first-base line. Standing up on tiptoe she yells out his name and waves to Sam. Pretending he doesn't notice her, he broadens his stance, grips the bat a little tighter, looks at the pitcher with something fierce in his eye. First one over the plate he knocks into center field.

A man wants to be the hero to the beauty. Young men going off to war carry a photo of their sweetheart in their wallet. Men who fly combat missions will paint a beauty on the side of their aircraft; the crews of the WWII B-17 bomber gave those flying fortresses names like Me and My Gal or the Memphis Belle. What would Robin Hood or King Arthur be without the woman they love? Lonely men fighting lonely battles. Indiana Jones and James Bond just wouldn't be the same without a beauty at their side, and inevitably they must fight for her. You see, it's not just that a man needs a battle to fight; he needs someone to fight for. Remember Nehemiah's words to the few brave souls defending a wall-less Jerusalem? "Don't be afraid . . . fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." The battle itself is never enough; a man yearns for romance. It's not enough to be a hero; it's that he is a hero to someone in particular, to the woman he loves. Adam was given the wind and the sea, the horse and the hawk, but as God himself said, things were just not right until there was Eve.

Yes, there is something passionate in the heart of every man.


There are also three desires that I have found essential to a woman's heart, which are not entirely different from a man's and yet they remain distinctly feminine. Not every woman wants a battle to fight, but every woman yearns to be fought for. Listen to the longing of a woman's heart: She wants to be more than noticed–she wants to be wanted. She wants to be pursued. "I just want to be a priority to someone," a friend in her thirties told me. And her childhood dreams of a knight in shining armor coming to rescue her are not girlish fantasies; they are the core of the feminine heart and the life she knows she was made for. So Zach comes back for Paula in An Officer and a Gentleman, Frederick comes back for Jo in Little Women, and Edward returns to pledge his undying love for Eleanor in Sense and Sensibility.

Every woman also wants an adventure to share. One of my wife's favorite films is The Man from Snowy River. She loves the scene where Jessica, the beautiful young heroine, is rescued by Jim, her hero, and together they ride on horseback through the wilds of the Australian wilderness. "I want to be Isabo in Ladyhawk," confessed another female friend. "To be cherished, pursued, fought for–yes. But also, I want to be strong and a part of the adventure." So many men make the mistake of thinking that the woman is the adventure. But that is where the relationship immediately goes downhill. A woman doesn't want to be the adventure; she wants to be caught up into something greater than herself. Our friend went on to say, "I know myself and I know I'm not the adventure. So when a man makes me the point, I grow bored immediately. I know that story. Take me into one I don't know."

And finally, every woman wants to have a beauty to unveil. Not to conjure, but to unveil. Most women feel the pressure to be beautiful from very young, but that is not what I speak of. There is also a deep desire to simply and truly be the beauty, and be delighted in. Most little girls will remember playing dress up, or wedding day, or "twirling skirts," those flowing dresses that were perfect for spinning around in. She'll put her pretty dress on, come into the living room and twirl. What she longs for is to capture her daddy's delight. My wife remembers standing on top of the coffee table as a girl of five or six, and singing her heart out. Do you see me? asks the heart of every girl. And are you captivated by what you see?

The world kills a woman's heart when it tells her to be tough, efficient, and independent. Sadly, Christianity has missed her heart as well. Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian woman? Again, don't listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You'd have to admit a Christian woman is . . . tired. All we've offered the feminine soul is pressure to "be a good servant." No one is fighting for her heart; there is no grand adventure to be swept up in; and every woman doubts very much that she has any beauty to unveil.


Which would you rather be said of you: "Harry? Sure I know him. He's a real sweet guy." Or, "Yes, I know about Harry. He's a dangerous man . . . in a really good way." Ladies, how about you? Which man would you rather have as your mate? (Some women, hurt by masculinity gone bad, might argue for the "safe" man . . . and then wonder why, years later, there is no passion in their marriage, why he is distant and cold.) And as for your own femininity, which would you rather have said of you–that you are a "tireless worker," or that you are a "captivating woman"? I rest my case.

What if? What if those deep desires in our hearts are telling us the truth, revealing to us the life we were meant to live? God gave us eyes so that we might see; he gave us ears that we might hear; he gave us wills that we might choose, and he gave us hearts that we might live. The way we handle the heart is everything. A man must know he is powerful; he must know he has what it takes. A woman must know she is beautiful; she must know she is worth fighting for. "But you don't understand," said one woman to me. "I'm living with a hollow man" No, it's in there. His heart is there. It may have evaded you, like a wounded animal, always out of reach, one step beyond your catching. But it's there. "I don't know when I died," said another man. "But I feel like I'm just using up oxygen." I understand. Your heart may feel dead and gone, but it's there. Something wild and strong and valiant, just waiting to be released.

And so this is not a book about the seven things a man ought to do to be a nicer guy. It is a book about the recovery and release of a man's heart, his passions, his true nature, which he has been given by God. It's an invitation to rush the fields at Banockburn, to go West, to leap from the falls and save the beauty. For if you are going to know who you truly are as a man, if you are going to find a life worth living, if you are going to love a woman deeply and not pass on your confusion to your children, you simply must get your heart back. You must head up into the high country of the soul, into wild and uncharted regions and track down that elusive prey.


Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

Chapter 1 Wild at Heart 1

Chapter 2 The Wild One Whose Image We Bear 21

Chapter 3 The Question That Haunts Every Man 41

Chapter 4 The Wound 61

Chapter 5 The Battle for a Man's Heart 79

Chapter 6 The Father's Voice 99

Chapter 7 Healing the Wound 121

Chapter 8 A Battle to Fight: The Enemy 141

Chapter 9 A Battle to Fight: The Strategy 159

Chapter 10 A Beauty to Rescue 181

Chapter 11 An Adventure to Live 199

Chapter 12 Writing the Next Chapter 221

Epilogue 223

Appendix: The Daily Prayer 225

A Prayer for Sexual Healing 230

Excerpt from Fathered by God 235

About the Author 256

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Wild at Heart is one of the most inspiring books I've read this year! I buy it by the case to give to everyone! John has touched a place in manhood that desperately needed to be awakened"
-Dave Ramsey, Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Best Selling Author

"Wild at Heart opened my eyes to a 'me' I had lost. I had traded my soul for security and was not the person my wife fell in love with. This book changed my life, overnight."

-Jim Seybert, Private Consultant, former Vice President Business Development, The Parable Group, Inc.

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Wild at Heart 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 265 reviews.
nickerbocker4181 More than 1 year ago
I am very thankful for the recommendation to read this book. This book deepened my understanding of myself and my life in many profound ways. Out of the heart are the issues of life and this book proves to be most useful in understanding the masculine heart. The wisdom inherent in this read freed my soul and helped facilitate a deeper unity between my mind and my heart. This book gave me perspective to better understand other guys as well as many historical movements. Although I feel this book is very sound in its empirical wisdom and heart, I found the book did lack a certain intellectual refinement and accuracy. This, perhaps, is only because I'm an engineer who graduated at the top of my class and am accustomed to very accurate and educated intelligence. In this regard the room for improvement does not detract from my high recommendation for this read. Essentially, there are other aspects of manhood that this book neglects. For instance, consider also reading "The American Gentleman." In my opinion, much of the problems facing the modern world stem from a lack of good men. So many people focus their efforts on improving systems and structures forsaking effort on the people behind everything. I hope and pray that more men will rise up in future generations and lead with their wild hearts. I'm an intelligent, well-read, wise and strong man of 26. All in all, this book is easily one of the BEST books I've ever read.
LycanGal More than 1 year ago
I read this book during a troubled time in my marriage, and though I won't say this book saved my marriage it did go a long way to helping me understand my husband. I think every man who is struggling with connection or emotion should read this, and frankly every single woman on the planet should read it in order to understand men a bit better. There is more to a man than most of us give them credit for!
HappyJG More than 1 year ago
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is, as much as a Christian book can be, a cultural phenomenon. It seems everyone has read that book. I know people who loved it, crafted a way of living because of it. And I know people who hated it, disagreed with almost every word between the covers. So, when I saw it on the free books for bloggers list at Thomas Nelson, I snatched it up immediately. This new edition is "revised and expanded" although I suspect that's just publisher speak for "Look, something you thought was old is actually new and shiny." But since I haven't read the first edition, I can't prove my hunch. Wild at Heart is based on the idea that men are really, well, wild at heart, that they yearn to be unshackled from the tedium of nice-guy living, to roam the plains bucking like the broncos God made them to be. I don't intend even a smidgen of sarcasm there. I feel like that's exactly what Eldredge is saying, and, to a certain extent, I agree. This book was written for men and as I'm not a man there are certain judgments I'm not equipped to make. I can't verify the validity of his sweeping assumptions about men-I can, however, say the assumptions are sweeping and perhaps too categorical to fit every kind of man. Honestly, I was far less interested in Eldredge's comments on what makes a man than I was in his thoughts on women-thoughts I was shocked to find especially close to my own heart. I have NEVER considered myself to be a stereotypical woman. I've dismissed many traditional gender assignments and wriggled in agony during my fair share of women's conferences and events. So, when Eldredge starting talking about saving the princess I wanted to gag. Until I realized I was a princess needing saving. His three questions that every woman asks had me crying: "Will you pursue me? Do you delight in me? Will you fight for me?" I loved this paragraph, too: "If masculinity has come under assault, femininity has been brutalized. Eve is the crown of creation, remember? She embodies the exquisite beauty and the exotic mystery of God in a way that nothing else in all creation even comes close to. And so she is the special target of the evil one; he turns his most vicious malice against her. If he can destroy her or keep her captive, he can ruin the story." Thing is, I'm not positive this is totally true-I felt that way a lot while reading this book. But I like it. Whether or not Eve is the prime target, I think Eldredge would benefit from seeing himself in the princess role, too. He envisions men as warriors (which sometimes they're called to be-and sometimes I'm called to be, too) but I think he misses their role as a part of "the bride of Christ." Still, this chapter is packed with good stuff-his description of sex as a spilling of one's strength is awesome and his argument that women want "a lover and a warrior-not a really nice guy" is too easily proven to even be debated. This chapter also has super insightful info on spiritual warfare. The next chapter "An Adventure to Live," is even better. It's all about embracing risk, living freely and dangerously-which, as you start to see from the buckets of scriptures he incorporates, is totally Biblical. Right now, I'm flipping through the chapter looking for a quote to give you but I'm finding so many I can't pick one. You need to read this chapter, even if it's just this chapter. What Eldredge does so powerfully in this book is to inspire his reader to live a
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has really inspired me and help me to understand why we man think and act the way we do. This book, backed by Scripture, has a lot of truth and valuable information that every man must know. Great book this was well needed in my life
CAJ More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It speaks to a man's heart and encourages me to be a true man of God. Adventurous, Strong, Wise, and striving to be Right before God. All men should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Eldredge is the kind of man that other men who love the great outdoors can really relate to. He has great insights into what it is to be a real man. This book was recommended to me by a dear friend I have known for years who said I should read 'Captivating' by John and Staci Eldredge and also 'Wild at Heart' by John Eldredge. To say it was highly anticipated by me is putting it mildly. I ordered the book from the library and picked it up this past Sunday. I sat down in the library and read 'Wild at Heart' in four hours cover to cover. What a page turner! To say the least this book exceeded my expectations. Though it is directed towards men, this is a great book for singles both male or female. John Eldrege is a man's man. He likes to hunt and fish. He is married with three sons. This book says it is a book about healing a man's soul. But it is much more than that. In our search for truth we search for the truth about life, others and ourselves. This is a great book about all of the above. The search for the truth about the meaning of life. The adventure it is meant to be and the battle it has to be. It is a book about the search for the truth about the different motivations of our hearts depending on whether we are a man or a woman. It is about the search for the real self which is hidden behind a false self and the exciting adventure and battle for the transformation of ourselves from the false self to the real self. I was truly moved by this book at my deepest levels. My own struggle to be transformed to my real self was brought into focus more clearly. My desire to have the man I love experience the type of transformation John Eldredge speaks of from false self to real self was also awakened in my heart. I also gained valuble insights and understanding the differences in men and women and how we can relate to eachother better. This book also asks a man to consider 'what makes you feel fully alive' and suggests they pursue that as their career choice. Great advice. It also explores the idea that a man is out there to save the fair maiden and rescue her. But his explanation of fighting for the fair maiden is different than the fairy tales you have read. I don't want to spoil it for you, so I won't go into detail. You have got to read it for yourself. This book has an exciting and life changing message that both men and women will appreciate. I consider it a 'must read' for all men and women single or otherwise. On a scale of one to five stars I give this one five stars!
Shamaalthedog More than 1 year ago
An amazing look at the heart of man. If Christianity seems dull to you, check out this short read from John Eldredge. He delves deep to let us know what being a man truly is, and how to live that our through the eyes of faith.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was sucked into this book. It helped answer do many questions that i struggled with my relationship with my masculinity and with my dad. I couldn't put it down. It gave me a permission slip and validated my desire to hunt and do manly things. I thank God he wrote this book. I shared it with my wife when i was done and she absolutely loved it. I would call the book transformational in its message. I'm surprised there are people that find or boring or irrelevant. I took a half day off just to process what it meant for me, I'm not kidding. I don't second guess decisions i used to question and i feel at peace doing the many things that i want to do that to dubs may seem like childish, boyish pastimes. This book provided me with that permission slip.
Jiffy_Jordan More than 1 year ago
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is a creative and bias book about the masculinity of men. I read this book for a college writing class this year; although before I read it I had many friends that recommended it. It’s all about how troubled a man’s heart can be, especially when he has no father figure in his life to show him how to be a man. I believe Wild at Heart was an out of the ballpark book. It shows many ideas to why the man is so struck with brokenness. Moreover, the ideas are logical and strong. I was enlightened when I read the book because of how many thoughts and arguments that lined up to my life. It’s a highly relatable book for men above the age of 17. Furthermore, John Eldredge brings opinions to the table, and backs many of them up with scripture. One that stuck out was the interpretation of Adam and Eve in the garden when Eve at the fruit. Eldredge points out that in scripture, Adam was standing silent right next to Eve when she ate the fruit. Then Eldredge goes on to say that men are weak and troubled just like Adam was when he was in the garden. In addition the quote “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue” by Eldredge shows an opinion that I agree with. More importantly he shows his heart to the readers about masculinity and gives reasonable examples for each of his findings. This book has helped me unify my heart and my mind. I loved the book and I would recommend it to any man who has a heart problem, and in my opinion all men do.
MFH72 More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book to men, women, and parents of boys. I am a Christian woman who started out reading this book to gain a better perspective and understanding of the adult male psyche from a Christian viewpoint. I was in a great relationship with a wonderful man, yet something was missing from him that I couldn't fulfill. This book was recommended by a trusted Christian mentor. I began to read it and soon realized that it delved into more than just men. It dove into the hearts of boys and women and how the role of a woman affects the life of a man at various stages through out from boyhood to adulthood. It answers many of the "whys" we, as mothers, find ourselves scratching our heads and asking as our little boys begin the transition from boys to adolescents to teens to young adults. It explains so much of the DNA hardwiring that is engrained in them. "Wild at Heart" tells the story of God's creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden and how he chose Eve over God in that Garden. John Eldredge tells how that choice is engraved in every heart today of every man. He tells us how Eve's deception by the serpent has haunted every woman who has walked the earth since and will until the end. I believe that "Wild at Heart" is an excellent resource for any married man and/or woman. It is my opinion that if you are the parent of a boy, regardless of age, you should read and take to heart its contents. I feel that it should be re-read again later for a refresher if you have younger boys, just to be reminded. I know it could have saved me some "mom-guilt" had I read it sooner and helped me to understand some of the reasons why my son started to distance himself in some of the ways he did. As well, I could have known better how to respond rather than feeling lost and as though I was "losing" him. It is an absolute must read for fathers. I believe it should be handed out to all new fathers of sons in the hospital and they should read it every year as their child grows. That is how much I believe in this book. It is not someone's opinion. It is Bible-based and grounded in the Word. I cannot say enough about how much this book has helped open my eyes, heart and mind to see much clearer!
NicoleDeb More than 1 year ago
Wild at Heart was one of the rare occasions when reading for a class wasn’t just for homework, but because I was actually interested in the topic. In the book, Eldredge, gives his opinion on what makes men tick – what they’re thinking, why they act a certain way, and other subjects under that theme. It was especially interesting reading this book from a female perspective; specifically when Eldredge speaks about women’s rolls in a man’s life. He says that as much as women would like to, they cannot give men their masculinity. “A man needs a much bigger orbit than a woman. He needs a mission, a life purpose, and he needs to know his name,” (pg 97). This was a very cool thing to read, because I agree that men need to know who they are. Men, and women, need to decide what they want in life before they can be able to share their life with another person. One point Eldredge made that I was a bit skeptical about was that the Church wants men to be soft. I personally think Christianity calls men to be strong and confident, rather than just “nice guys.” He says, “Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy,” (pg71). Yes, God wants everyone to be of good character and set a good example to others. This doesn’t mean men have to be passive, push-overs. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to any curious reader: male, female, Christian, non-Christian. Whether you agree with what John Eldredge has to say about men, it is interesting to see another perspective. 
CarolynnS More than 1 year ago
I truly loved this book. For women who don't understand why men are the way they are - you will have a better understanding after reading this book. For men searching for a deeper "inside look" about themselves, this is a must read. Eldredge did a great job of supporting his point of views with Biblical text as well as "visual" references, such as the movie "Braveheart." It helps create a better understanding of what he is trying to say. This makes it, in my opinion, an easy and interesting read. One thing to point out -- you have to read past the first couple of chapters before you can truly understand what he is saying. The first couple of chapters are filled with some “stereotypes,” but after that, you’ll realize that he’s talking about something different. So why only 4/5 stars? Well, though it is a good read, and his points can make sense, he can be single-minded. He stereotypes all men when talking about them, instead of just stating his opinion and point out that it may be different others. All in all, I would definitely recommend this book, especially to those whom are Christian and are looking to possibly understand a male mind. I recommend this to a Christian because Eldredge references a lot of biblical text.
vander1020 More than 1 year ago
After reading this book, I took a look at the life I lived. This book helped to bring me to Christ. I know not everyone will read it the same. And in no way do I consider John Eldredge a modern day prophet. But for me, I can't even explain how this book changed my views on life, family, and God.
knottmywill More than 1 year ago
John Eldredge does an excellent job of relating God's design and purpose for the modern man! I recommend this to high school Seniors and young fathers especially, but it's relevant to men of all ages!
John White More than 1 year ago
I've been reading this book in my men's small group and I love it. It is a must for every man who wants to grow stronger and become more secure in his masculinity. It is also a must read to improve your relationship with your spouse or significant other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought the book for my husband but began reading it first. We have a four year old son. We also have three grown daughters the youngest of which is 21 and raising her own son. This book helped me to realize how emasculating I and my husband have been toward our youngest. We have now stopped telling him to be calm and settle down much the way we raised our girls. I encouraged my husband to take a look at this book and he thanked me for buying it. He is reading it every morning and reflecting on the issues he has suffered by loosing his own father when he was eleven years old. It has helped us both to see and understand why our son likes to be a warrior, a gun-slinger, and even Spider Man and all the other hereos he mimics. The saying "boys will be boys" falls short of the true reason they actually should be treated as such. This book not only helped our family realize what Jesus meant when He said, "my Father and I are one" but to show all, especially men, how to allow God to Father us and draws us nigh unto Him and his blessings. This may seem like drivel to those who do not seek the Lord, but to those of us who do and who also dedicated our children to the Lord, this book definitely helped us to see our son, grandsons, and daughters for the uniqueness of both feminine and masculine personalities. God is not a wimp. And men do not or should not be either. Bravery is not foolishness, but a gift of God. It has lead to the ability to forgive our own earthly fathers for their failures and hurts toward us, and to heal; as well as draw us closer to our Heavenly Father. Mothers and Fathers alike would benefit from the reading of this book if only for the sake of their own sons and daughters.
Books-In-Brief More than 1 year ago
Consider how young boys spend their leisure time. They pretend to be cowboys, police officers, fire fighters, or explorers - anything that involves a sense of danger, adventure, and fighting for what is right. They experiment, take risks, push boundaries, and wear their hearts on their sleeves. Contrast this with how adult males often behave: they are passionless, tame, mild-mannered, riskless, calculated, and bored. While many argue that life's experiences and responsibilities have caused these traits to surface, author John Eldredge argues that it is man's loss of his boyhood desires - "for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue" - that has caused him to live an unfulfilled, directionless life. In an effort to help men become the men God created them to be, Eldredge probes deep within man's soul to discover why men have rejected their calling, whether consciously or unconsciously. He argues that "this is every man's deepest fear: to be exposed, to be found out, to be discovered as an imposter, and not really a man." How a man handles this fear, for better or worse, determines how successful he is in living up to his God-given design. Indeed, Eldredge's primary goal in Wild at Heart is to challenge men to discover the kind of man God desires him to be through developing an intimate relationship with God. While many of today's Christian men have reduced "intimacy with God" to a series of formulas and doctrines, Eldredge advocates developing a deepening relationship with God by "an informal friendship," and by giving up our tendency to control - and this is indeed a tough trait to surrender - for "God's offer of companionship." For it is only through this relationship with God that men can live as God made them to live: as if life was an adventure. Eldredge laments that contemporary man resorts too often to living a calculated, comfortable life devoid of taking the leaps of faith that might ultimately lead him to finding greater fulfillment in life. He encourages men to leave the predictable and instead trek into the unknown with God serving as his guide and mentor. Throughout this book, I found myself challenged and encouraged by nearly every chapter. Eldredge skillfully describes the desires and fears that are hidden deep within the soul of every man. While reading this book, I found myself pausing countless times to reflect upon my own experience and discovered that sometimes I need to heed Eldredge's advice and "let people feel the weight of who you are and let them deal with it." Sometimes I need to take a step outside of my calculated comfort zone and chase the desires and dreams that God has placed within my heart, for God has not made man to be passive, meek, and mild but forceful, strong, and brave. I was most inspired by a quote by Gil Bailie, who shared a piece of advice from his mentor: "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." I know so many men, even Christian men, who appear so beat down by the things of life that they are like the walking dead. What our families, our schools, our communities, and our churches really need are not nice, content guys who are dead on the inside, but men - real men - who have a fire in their heart for living out their passions and embarking on a wild journey with God.
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deusvitae on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the many "pendulum swings" in our society involves gender-- differences between the two genders and the relative "value" in those differences. For years masculinity was, no doubt, over-estimated and over-valued; however, the modern feminist movement has surely led to the pendulum being swung too far the other way. Society at large is becoming more and more aware that masculinity has been under-estimated and under-valued; this message is also becoming apparent in religious matters, especially in Christianity.Over the past decade or so there has been a growing realization that the way that churches are set up and how churches counsel and develop men has become dangerously feminized. It is in such a climate of growing awareness that John Eldredge originally wrote Wild at Heart.Thomas Nelson has now released a revised and expanded version of Wild at Heart that includes a new preface and an excerpt from Eldredge's book Fathered by God. The majority of the rest, however, remains the same book as originally written.Eldredge's thesis is that the church has, in short, emasculated men, and he seeks to set forth a way of understanding how one can be both truly masculine and a believer in God. His analysis of churches attempting to develop men as "Really Nice Guys" is not too far off the mark. Blame is appropriately placed at the feet of feminism; the "feminization" of Christianity that has been going on for generations is also at fault (another helpful book in these regards is Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow). Eldredge draws from Scripture, mythology, movies, and other similar stories to set forth three essentials for true masculinity: a conflict in which to engage, an adventure in which to participate, and a beauty to win. He shows how this can be accomplished in worldly pursuits, how these are often perverted by the world to lead to false forms of masculinity, and most helpfully, shows how these three can be accomplished in the realm of Christianity.Eldredge also spends much time discussing the challenges men experience-- the "wound" to their masculinity or inclinations toward true masculinity and how a man must overcome the "wound" in order to return to wholesome masculinity. He also shows how men misdirect their focus and attempt to find their true masculinity in the wrong places-- work, drugs, women, etc. He speaks of the need to develop a close connection with God and to live by true faith, overcoming the "wound" and becoming a fulfilled man in Christ Jesus.There is much to be commended in the book; one can see oneself and many of the challenges that one's fellow men experience through what is written. Nevertheless, there has been much criticism of the book, and some of it is warranted. Eldredge's attempt to use worldly wisdom to circumvent Jesus' instruction about turning the other cheek is itself unwise and not done well-- Eldredge would do well to understand the distinction between refusing to allow a bully to break the will and being a coward in the face of a bully, and to recognize that Jesus never commends or practices violence in order to counteract violence. Such is not the way of Christ. Sometimes it seems that Eldredge's basis for things is experience and movies, and while those can be helpful images for understanding, they are no substitute for revealed truth. On the whole, however, it must be recognized that what Eldredge is presenting is a good counterweight to many of the messages heard in religious circles. Cowardice hiding under the pretense of humility is not the way of Christ, and Eldredge is right to expose it. Nevertheless, what Eldredge teaches should not be taken to the other extreme, and it must be remembered that there is a reason why there are more exhortations to humility in Scripture than there are to the assertion of self and self-identity. It is also interesting to note that while Eldredge is writing as a man to men he often uses very soft and feminine language-- intimacy, rel
wilsonknut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books for Christian men that I have read. It should be required reading.
thomashwalker2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A must read for all males. When the female comes to the point that she is at a loss as to why God created man the way He did - read immediately. It really isn't our fault entirely that we are the way we are. This book reveals some amazing insights into the male psyche. This book shows the marvelous purpose for the differences between the male and female. After God formed man from the dust and his mate from his rib, "Wild at Heart " helps fill the gap of misunderstanding about the function of each gender with common sense truth.
kingsportlibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is based on the premise that many men have been emotionally "wounded" and therefore lost their passion and zest for life. The message is Christian-based and is used in some churches in workshops for men seeking more out of life while remaining loyal church members and devoted husbands. The book assumes all men are naturally aggressive but have been feminized by society. There are some good points here but I did not agree with many of them. It is suggested women read this to understand men.
dominionfamily on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am not a fan of John Eldridge or this book. I do agree with some of his presuppositions about our culture but I believe this book takes an immature stance on solving those problems. I also think it creates unnecessary gravitas in young men searching for their place in our feminized society.As a Reformed Christian I find his theology iffy. I was especially distressed in a few of his examples from life in the book Sacred Romance. Great premise, bad solution.
DaddyPupcake on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book. Several times I had to stop and say "Wow". This book gives great insight to how we men think and why.