When you hear the term “masculinity,” what thoughts come to mind for you? Are we still raising our boys to become men and what does that mean? These days, there seems to be a negative connotation to being masculine, possibly stemming from being poorly defined as dominance, oppression, superiority or even aggressiveness. In recent decades, the media and other groups have worked to make men almost irrelevant in society. Television portrays male characters as either buffoons or playboys, and less so as characters to take seriously.
How does a boy feel growing up in today’s world, and how does he learn what his role and value is as a man? With the increase of families without fathers or male role models, the absence of traditional rights of passage from boyhood to being a man, and the lessening of the need for men to provide, protect or even mate to have children, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of young men trapped in perpetual boyhood, playing video games and not growing up psychologically. Today’s sometimes toxic culture and agendas often point young men to look for the incorrect ways or cues to define what it is to be a man.
Maybe an important place to start is defining what being masculine or being a man is, and what it is not.
Putting other down others to make oneself feel relatively superior (domination, abuse, bullying, ridiculing, macho intimidation). NOT A MAN
Unselfishly leading and lifting others (teaching, championing, friendship, setting an example, listening). A MAN
Using or emptying others to satisfy personal short-term desires (sex outside of a committed marriage, me first attitude). NOT A MAN
Showing a woman the honor and dignity she deserves throughout her life in a relationship. A MAN
Walking out on a vow, a commitment, or a responsibility in order to fulfill personal desires or goals. NOT A MAN
Honoring vows, commitments, and responsibilities to a spouse, children, family and friends – even in tough times. A MAN
Putting things, accomplishments, pleasure, popularity, entertainment ahead of relationships and others. NOT A MAN
Putting honor, honestly, courage, perseverance, humility, etc. ahead of personal gain. A MAN
Willing to sacrifice themselves, to selflessly “give all” for others. A MAN
We can see how much God loved us when Christ took on flesh and become a man. In his example and teachings, we can get the best clue as to what being a man is all about. Jesus lifted others, provided leadership and guidance, showed patience, compassion and love for everyone he met. While many “men” today ask their female partners to empty themselves for him, Jesus showed us the ultimate act of love by emptying himself for each of us. The male physical being points to loving someone outside of himself, to initiate and to give fully of himself. Instead of focusing on himself, true masculinity first sees the responsibilities of being a son, a husband and father. He takes his spirituality seriously to help his spouse and children get to heaven. The focus, or essence, of a real man is one of sincere gift of self, serving others vs the other way around.
Raising our boys to be men used to be an intentional act. In today’s world, it would rare for a boy to hear what means to be a man or to have the role model to learn to be one. Both boys and girls often grow up with a loving mother around. Through that feminine role model, girls tend to have a mirror of who she is as a girl and what it means to be a woman. She physically has a clear sense of when she has become a “woman.” For boys, the transition and rites of passage need to be more intentional. Boys need more a break from their mother and to learn what it is to be a man, hopefully from a loving, present and authentic father. There needs to be a sense of what it is that makes them a man vs. the cultural stereotypes that are often unhealthy, confusing, immature and self-focused. Society can help to restore a positive sense of masculinity needed in a healthy community instead of treating it as an oppressive disease. Mothers can help to acknowledge their sons transition to mature and selfless manhood, and fathers can look seriously at their responsibility to teach their sons to be real men modeled after Christ’s example vs the culture’s.