This series about creating a roadmap for better manhood brings us to the next aspect: mature men know how to use their masculinity properly.
My initial post for this series, Time for a Change, explained that I want to expand the discussion about a man’s need for better friendships, which I believe is critical to good and proper manhood. The second post, The Secrets to Becoming a Real (Godly) Man stated I want to change the optics of proper manhood since the world needs more good and godly men.
I then began laying down the foundation for this roadmap for better manhood. In Start Being a R-E-A-L Man Here, I provided an acrostic that a real man Rejects passivity, Engages with God (and others), Accepts his responsibility, and Leads courageously. Subsequent posts on A Man’s Identity, Discovering Your Purpose, and A Man and His Worldview completed the bedrock layer for good and proper manhood. Those posts describe how someone born male becomes a man who finds purpose through his worldview which shapes how he operates in this world. In this next post, we find out how men either use their masculinity for the good or begin to misuse it when the culture has too much influence on them.
First, let’s understand what masculinity means, why some view it as bad, and how mature men learn how to apply their good and proper masculinity in ways our world needs.
Masculinity refers to the set of behaviors, attributes, and roles traditionally associated with men and their actions in society. The concept of masculinity varies widely across cultures, historical periods, generations, and ethnicity but its traits include physical and emotional strength, assertiveness, courage, and independence, among others. Some cultural norms associated with masculinity include the expectation for men to be the primary providers and protectors of their families. Other norms are men should be competitive and dominant in social and professional settings. Others expect men to suppress all emotions and not show any vulnerability.
In 2015, Dr. Michael Kimmel, created the Center for Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University, the first-ever Master’s program that explored the meaning of being male in our modern society. Kimmel and his teams realized that the mixed messages boys receive from society about manhood and being a man which affect their personal lives, and how they relate to women, work, and society. Overall, their research has helped to shed light on the complexities and confusion about masculinity but highlights the need for a better approach to the topic.
What Do You Believe about Masculinity?
Given Dr. Kimmel’s findings, it’s important to understand there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a man today, no matter what anyone says. Certainly, there are masculine traits of great value and beneficial to individuals and society when expressed in healthy and positive ways. But when male attributes are misused, they are very harmful to men, women, children, and society.
Also, we should acknowledge that masculinity is also not a monolithic concept. Biology influences masculinity but being of the male gender does not necessarily mean you will act masculine since there are some females and gay men who exhibit very masculine traits. Dr. Kimmel calls these traits “masculinities” (plural) to acknowledge that there is “more than one way to be a man.”
More recently, journalist and Brookings Institution scholar, Richard V. Reeves wrote Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It to highlight the many areas in which men have fallen behind in the last 20 years, which goes against the optics that all men are advantaged. Reeves’ conclusion is a more positive vision for masculinity creates more equity for all.
What does this better vision of masculinity look like? Let’s start by comparing the three most common views of masculinity.
As I previously wrote, a man’s worldview impacts his views of masculinity since it shapes how he lives and treats others. A well-thought-out worldview based on a strong moralistic viewpoint can help men learn to use their masculine traits in ways that are respectful and beneficial to others. Healthy masculinity encourages men to express a wide range of emotions, including vulnerability. It also helps me break free from the traditional stereotypes of male roles by rejecting the “guy code” and “man up” mentality, which often pressures men to conform to a narrow set of expectations.
Healthy masculinity involves recognizing that there are many different ways to be a man and encouraging nurturing and caring behavior towards oneself and others. Healthy expressions of masculinity (and healthy femininity) create a more respectful culture for all genders. It creates a more equitable and supportive society based on positive relationships and social connections with all people.
Sadly, masculinity has been misused throughout history. The term “toxic masculinity” became pervasive around 2015 to emphasize the worst aspects of stereotypically masculine attributes. It manifests in violence, dominance, emotional illiteracy, sexual entitlement, and hostility to femininity. It encourages aggression and rape culture in which some men view women as sexual conquests.
This type of masculinity is deemed “toxic” for two reasons. First, it is bad for women. It shapes sexist and patriarchal behaviors, including abusive or violent treatment. It contributes to gender inequalities that disadvantage women and privilege men. Second, it is bad for men. It leads to social exclusion if a male does not fit the box of what society views as a “real” man. It also boxes men of all ages into a narrow set of stereotypical labels that constrain their physical and emotional health. This limits their relations with women, other men, and children.
Recently, the American Psychological Association (APA) declared aspects of “traditional masculinity” as “harmful.” The APA report triggered a fierce backlash from critics who say men are under attack. The better critique is about the pressure boys and young men feel to conform to certain aspects of traditional masculinity. It builds pressure that leads to poor health outcomes, including higher rates of suicide, substance abuse, violence, and early death, many of the reasons Reeves highlights in Of Boys and Men.
The Bible does not shy away from the language of masculinity and completely dismantles the toxic behaviors of the world today. Rather than being tough, stern, and rash, it teaches that the biblical man walks in love (Ephesians 5:22-33). It also teaches he should be a prime example of gentleness, patience, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Moreover, Scripture gives men the perfect example of biblical masculinity in Jesus Christ. He was resilient in the pursuit of God, gentle in spirit, and humble in service to others. He was about sacrificial love and incredible meekness. But Jesus also used His masculine traits in the fight for righteousness, mercy, and justice.
How Did We Lose Proper Masculinity?
The aforementioned problems with masculinity are driven by sin that began with Adam’s passivity in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). This sin carries forward from generation to generation that affects both men and women and how we act in this world.
To move forward, we must acknowledge the negative aspects of masculinity. We must also work towards creating a more healthy expression of male identity and its characteristics. We must recognize the value and dignity of all individuals, regardless of gender or gender expression. Improved masculinity is achieved through the education, communication, and promotion of positive male role models.
In my opinion, our society needs to revitalize masculinity with men who embody the positive expressions of God-given masculine traits. We need a masculinity rooted in the dedicated imitation of Jesus Christ, the One and Only Perfect Man.
It’s OK to Be A (Mature) Man
Currently in Western culture, there is more said and written negatively about being a man than positive. Watch most TV shows, movies, or the news media these days, and you have a hard time finding any stories of strong, honorable male role models and heroes. Today, men must understand there is a difference between just being a male and becoming a mature man. We need to accentuate the positive aspects of being a man to offset the negative and unbalanced views caused by the few guys who misuse their masculinity. We need more mature men who use their masculinity properly.
Becoming a Godly Man
Biblical manhood is a worthy calling that comes with requirements difficult to meet; it means becoming more like Jesus. This principle means using your masculinity in ways that place the welfare of others ahead of your own. It means owning your responsibility in the areas of family, work, and spiritual growth.
As a husband and father, the Bible calls a man is called to lead his family (Ephesians 5:25-33; 1 Peter 3:7; Ephesians 6). He is responsible for spiritual and physical leadership by demonstrating the kind of humble, sacrificial leadership Jesus modeled.
The same is true of a man’s obligations to work. Every godly man is called to provide and produce (Genesis 1:28; 1 Timothy 5:8) so eschewing these responsibilities is to rebel against God’s design. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a husband will always earn a larger paycheck than his spouse. It means his duty is to commit to using his time and resources to care for himself and his family.
Lastly, a mature and godly man is responsible for his family’s religious practice and spiritual growth. The call of Christ to every person is “Follow Me.” It is not a call to private spirituality or simple individual obedience. This is a call to his responsibility for the discipleship and spiritual oversight of himself, and his wife and children. It is a call to every man to be a faithful member of Christ’s body. Too often men neglect their responsibility to God’s church, leaving women to shoulder these burdens alone. It is a call to a to man use his masculine traits to serve his church.
Mature and godly men have a healthy view of masculinity that is well-grounded and rooted in their beliefs. His worldview gives him the confidence to focus on personal development and maturity. It helps him learn to use his masculinity properly for the betterment of his family, other men, and his world. It also helps him avoid being swayed into the sins of toxic behaviors by the culture.
Make sure your sons and daughters know it’s okay to be male and that trying to suppress their masculinity is bad for everyone, men, women, and children. Teach them that being a man is not inherently harmful or toxic. Celebrate their good and proper masculine traits of hard work, honor, fidelity, perseverance, and strength. Teach them how to have emotional awareness, presence, balance, compassion, and love for others. That’s how mature men use their masculinity properly.
- What is your understanding of what it means to be a man today?
- Give some examples of where you have seen (or done yourself) toxic male behaviors. How are those harmful to others and yourself?
- Who can help you better understand biblical masculinity?
Place your comments below and forward this post to someone else. Then, get together with a close friend and discuss the topic. Watch for my next post in two weeks.
[Feature image from ResistNow]