From the blog

The Christian Phrase that Ruined College

Wild at Heart ruined college for me. Actually, it was one phrase from the book. I’ve been turning it over in my head for a decade, and I still can’t make sense of it:

“He’s dangerous, but in a good way.”

John Eldridge claimed this is what every woman wants to say about her man. But what does it mean? Some of my theories:

  • Guys who go on reckless but awesome adventures–snowboarding, base jumping, kayaking, raptor taming. Life on the Edge and all that.
  • Guys who risk financial ruin on radical businesses–overseas orphanages, inner-city coffee houses, or TOMS shoes.
  • Guys who don’t act “nice” all the time. They wear sunglasses and ride motorcycles and carry themselves like silverback gorillas. They also have tattoos.
  • Guys who grow beards, build things out of wood, and live in the woods.
  • Batman.

If anybody else has a guess, I’m open to suggestions. But in the meantime, here’s the mostly-true story of how Wild at Heart ruined college1:

Mostly-true story

“A battle to fight, an adventure to live…what was the third one?” Esther scampered up the path ahead of me.

I was hiking with her through the Ozarks. This hike had taken me weeks to plan, and I should have been happy. I’d had a crush on her for a while, and thought this would be a good chance to finally talk to her. But, amidst the granite and the breeze and the budding April leaves, I couldn’t get the knot out of my stomach.

For one thing, I still couldn’t muster the courage to talk to her–every time I caught my tongue, worried I’d missed some hidden lameness. Also, she insisted on bringing our friends Mark and Tim along.

And Mark knew all the answers.

I’d been too busy thinking of something clever to say, and hadn’t followed the conversation.

“The third one is a beauty to rescue.” Mark tightened the handkerchief around his head.

Finally, my opening. “A beauty to rescue?” I laughed, “What’s next–slaying the dragon? Riding the unicorn? Finding the troll and answering his riddles three?”

Esther pretended not to hear me. “I loved that part in the first chapter about being dangerous in a good way.”.

I laughed out loud. Dangerous in a good way? Was this book written by a middle school girl with a crush on Han Solo? I started composing the perfect joke.

Esther turned with a look like she’d caught me picking my nose.

If I actually had been dangerous in a good way, I would have pressed my luck and tried teasing her about it. Instead, I nervous-laughed and wiped the sweat from my forehead.

Lesson learned: I was not brave enough to cross dangerous in a good way.

Tim cut in: “Think I could climb that boulder?” He bounded to a rock rising twenty feet out of the clay.

Esther eyed the rock, and then Tim. “Yes.”

“We’ll both do it.” Mark said, “but we’ll have to hurry before the park rangers catch us.” He gestured to a sign which outlawed climbing. “You coming, Matt?”

An idiot grin, and I stepped back. “No, thanks. I don’t want to…scare the rangers.”

This was mostly a lie. I was afraid of getting in trouble. But I was more afraid of grabbing wildly at the grainy rock, my legs splayed in tendon-ripping angles as my arms trembled and I froze like a crash dummy in front of Esther.

“I’ll come,” Esther sashayed toward Mark’s hi-five.

Hands in my pockets, I pretended to be interested in a hawk circling overhead, ignoring the fact that Mark and Esther’s elbows were touching.

Dangerous in a good way. Dangerous in a good way. DANGEROUS, in a GOOD way…

I’m still no closer to solving the puzzle. Maybe if you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know. But even if it’s futile, it’s going to be a theme for a while. That’s right: this is the official start of a series on evangelicals and manliness.

Cue Braveheart music.

What do you all think “dangerous in a good way” means? Is there something obvious I’m missing?


1  Considering that Eldridge’s kids went to the same high school as me, I should probably say that I don’t actually blame Eldridge for ruining college.


  1. Maybe “dangerous in a good way” is similar to the “spiritual crazy man” my father-in-law talks about: throwing out all doubt and fear in pursuit of something greater.

  2. I would suggest Eldridge probably didn’t know the answer either. There a better sources for life guidance.

Leave a Reply