What is masculinity? Is it tattoos, Harley’s, head-bands, or neck chains tangled in your chest hair? What is a man? What should he believe? How should he behave? What should he try to achieve? Boys and young men are adrift today, wearing pants that hang around their knees, hats that are crooked, and merely respond with “Whatever?” to the deeper questions of life.
Men themselves don’t know how to answer this question. Masculinity is not always looking for a fight, walking with a swagger, and giving people those “make-my-day” stares. Being a man is not the same as living like an animal ready to pounce and conquer half of Vietnam.
There’s a book I am anxious to read entitled, Missing From Action: Vanishing Manhood in America, by Weldon Hardenbrook. From what I’m understanding from others, the author talks about four different types of false images of males.
First there is the Macho Maniac — Dirty Harry, Rambo, Charles Bronson. These guys deny all their feelings; they ignore the law. They never worry, they never complain, they never apologize. They just sweat. They accomplish the impossible every eight minutes and take whatever they want and they bully people.
The second is the Great Pretender — the Archie Bunkers of the world who try to build up their self esteem by belittling everybody else, particularly his wife and family. He imagines that he rules his family but really behind his back every is just ridiculing him. He is frightened by the world so he keeps it at an arm’s distance by talking tough and being critical.
The third type is the World Class Whimp. These are the Dagwood Bumstead’s of life. They are so inept that they are constantly outwitted by their children, wives, their dogs. Nobody takes them serious. Their motto is “Blessed are the passive for they will avoid conflict at all costs.” Kind of like Hal on Malcolm in the Middle.
The fourth image is the Gender Blenders. They are the Michael Jackson’s and Boy Georges that don’t even pretend to be masculine. They have a complete reversal of roles and identity. I often have to ask, “Is this person male or female?”
Our culture is in trouble because we have lost our vision of true manhood. We don’t know what it means to be a real man anymore. Manhood is not a calling today; it’s more about a problem to overcome. Men are depicted as clumsy buffoons on sitcom after sitcom.
What is a man? If you have a certain anatomical part, does that make you a man? And when do you become a man? When you start shaving? When you get your first buck? When you drink your first beer? Does manhood come with a driver’s license or a diploma or joining the Army? Does it take intercourse with a woman to become a man? We say, “Be a man” but we don’t know what that is.
I wrestled with how to define a man. Here’s where I’ve landed for now: “A man is a creation of God, born to fill a task-oriented role with a mental and physical, and chemical disposition that uniquely enables him to lead, work, explore, conquer, provide, protect, love, create, play, discover, compete, and bear the responsibility of ensuring the welfare of family, government, and church.” What this definition assumes is that in order to be a man, you have to reject passivity, to rise up and lead in love and self-sacrifice.
A man should be the corner post of society, leading families, rejecting passivity regarding spiritual things, and living a God-honoring worldview. And when something pushes against the fence, the corner post holds true. A man is the marker of boundaries, the moral compass, the ethical benchmark. But this has been lost. We have lost the truly honorable male distinctives. We no longer “act like men.”
Paul says it best: 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Be a corner post, true north, the shaper of boundaries. Play the man. God made you male, and he’s called you to be a “corner post.” True masculinity calls for discipline, character, and courage. Authentic men show affection, release their feelings, hug their children, admit when they’re wrong, ask for help when they need it, and treat women with utmost respect. A true man can lead their family spiritually, praying for them and offering observation on spiritual truths. A man will engage others in conversation on the deeper questions of life. A true man will fight for justice, appreciate beauty, and stand for truth.
So boys and men: Pull up your pants, turn your hat around, and stop saying “Whatever” all the time. Be a man. Lead your generation.