What It Means To Be a Man

Many ideas exist about the definition of masculinity. Some ideas conflict, while other ideas reflect the viewing of masculinity from different perspectives.



Let's break down the ideologies for a few moments and view masculinity in its simplest, purest form.

To begin, consider one very important point.

Dressing up like a character does not make you that character.

What?

If I put on a Yankees uniform, do I become a professional baseball player? It's rhetorical. No answer necessary.

If I wear a police uniform, do I immediately obtain the authority and status of a uniformed officer of the law?

My point is this: merely dressing like a man and performing some of the activities that our culture has deemed "manly" does not make you a man.

Some might think that "real men" must chop wood to cook their hand-killed cattle over an open fire in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. I think all of those things are impressive, but it doesn't make a male a man.

Some might say a "real man" must lift weights, or swim laps, or retaliate, or instigate, or have a particular BMI (body mass index), or use a certain vocabulary, or have certain habits. But really, all those things are just uniforms.

These things are outward expressions of something that should be and must be true inwardly if they are to be of any value at all.

It's fine if men wish to train their bodies physically to have huge muscles and facial hair. In fact, I think beards are great! Muscles come in handy sometimes! All good things.

But what if those things are covering up something that is actually quite spineless? 

What if the costumes worn by men are just a masquerade to distract people from the lack of integrity and shameful thoughts that plague many men?

Manliness, in my opinion, must begin in the heart of a man and manifest itself outwardly. 

If everybody in New York wore Yankees jerseys every day, nobody would know who the "real Yankees" are. 

Similarly, I believe our society is full of "imitation men" that seek to impress the world with their outside, perhaps so people won't interrogate their inside.

I'm sure I can be criticized as a man, because the "ideal man" doesn't exist. But that doesn't mean men ought not strive for it! The world needs men, just like it needs women. Together we are the human race. 

If our genders fail to achieve their purpose, I believe humanity suffers as a whole.

Today, it seems that any reference to gender differences is immediately met with skepticism and criticism. It's as if people interpret this approach as archaic and inherently chauvinistic; but I argue quite the opposite.

Everything about gender specificity is natural to the core. Males and females have different genetic information! Males have 45 chromosomes in common with women, but that 46th chromosome is different. It may not seem like much numerically, but the differences orchestrated by that chromosome impact our nature down to its deepest compartments.

Our minds process differently. Our physiology behaves uniquely. Our bodies are connected and engineered for different strengths and weaknesses. We have overlapping roles and abilities, but ultimately there is a specificity to our genders that makes each of us uniquely valuable and cherished. We are not better or worse than the opposite gender--we are complementary.

So men, don't value yourself solely on your physical prowess or intellectual fortitude. Don't cite your habits or possessions as evidences of your manliness. And most importantly, don't expect other people to respect you simply because you have followed a cultural blueprint for being a man.

You cannot follow a checklist to be a man, just like you can't dress yourself up to become a rocket scientist. It takes years and years of focus and sacrifice.

Becoming a man doesn't happen overnight either.

Things men commonly and mistakenly think will make them manly:

Muscles

Vehicles (trucks, sports cars, etc.)

Avoidance of expressing pain or vulnerability

Guns and other weapons

Violence

Vulgarity

Disregard for authority

Taking unnecessary risks in the name of "courage" or "guts"

Consuming certain foods or drinks (steak, beer, liquor, etc.)

Wearing certain jewelry (watches, rings, etc.)

Wearing certain styles/colors of clothing

Disrespect for (objectification of) women

Disregard for morality ("I'll do whatever I want" attitude)

Sexual promiscuity

Doing what older men do in their culture (blind discipleship)

A bad temper

Things that actually make men valuable:

Strength (physical, psychological, mental, and spiritual)

Integrity

Honesty

Dependability / Faithfulness

Self-sacrifice / Selflessness

Courage

Self-control / Meekness

Patience

Willingness to fight, but only when necessary

Respect for authority

Respect for women

Wisdom / Knowledge / Understanding

Leadership skills

Decision-making skills

Love of peace, not violence

Grace (treating people better than they deserve)

Kindness (in action and speech)

Consideration for needs of others

Problem-solving skills

Conclusion:

The thoughtful mind will realize that many characteristics I listed can and should also be said of women. We ought all to strive to have good character. I hope my point was clear though. Manliness is more about a man's mind and heart than it is about his body and possessions. 

Many great men have been poor and/or physically handicapped. We ought to give them the respect they deserve as well!

Image credits:
Working man image from http://gentlemint.com/tack/161916/
Hunter man image from http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2008/7/14/mountain-men-and-settlers.html

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