Manliness is more than being male. Textbooks would like to reduce it to biology and make it simply a matter of having the right parts. Some would even say that becoming a man is as simple as a surgery and hormone therapy.
But let’s get real. The ability to use a urinal doesn’t make you a man.
It isn’t found in age either. Someone once said to me that they had to get their son a car because he was a man now that he was 16. She then went on to talk about how unruly and irresponsible the kid was. My blank stare simply said “And you want to give him keys?”
Don’t get me wrong: Puberty is a developmental milestone. But the passing of years and stubble on the chin maketh not a man.
How about sexual bravado? This seems to be the creed of every high school locker room. Prime time television certainly reinforces the notion. Do you not “come of age” once you have lost your virginity? And do you not become manlier with each erotic conquest you notch up?
Well, if that is the case, your neighbor’s dog might be more manly than you.
Truth be told, our culture has long lost the concept of true manhood.
The cultural pundits are not shy about admitting it too. The New York Times touts that we’ve entered, not an economic “recession,” but an economic “Man-cession” because women are poised to surpass men in the workforce.
One cannot help but hear echoes of the savage, Indian tribesmen who sat around smoking peyote while the women provided for house and home.
As Saturday Night Live spoofed Arnold Swartzenager in the 1980’s they also jabbed our culture of manboys. When they talked about “girly men” we inherently understood that this pertained to more than a guy’s muscular physic. It had to do with the real core of masculinity, or one’s lack of it.
Other colloquialisms like this abound in our culture. From time to time we will hear someone say that it is time to “man up,” or “put on your big boy pants.” These all express that age, physical design, and sexual prowess are myths of masculinity.
It may be unconsciously, but our culture recognizes that real manhood consists in one’s character. We inherently know that manliness has a moral component to it. It lies in his ability to demonstrate discernment, honor, and integrity.
Perhaps in the dark recesses of the Smithsonian we would come across some archaic concepts like responsibility, headship, and duty. If we did, Millennials would grunt their apathetic perplexity and return to their video games. For older folks faded pictures of grandpa (or comic book superhero) might fleetingly skip past the mind.
Why is it that real masculinity—with all its decency and selfless nobility—a thing that can only be found in dusty Jane Austin novels? Why is it that little girls do not daydream about a prince charming anymore?
It is because the foundations of true manhood have been erased from society. We no longer talk of the first man, Adam, and how God designed him. Instead we tell tall tales of how our great, great grandpa was a meaningless germ that had absolutely no dignity or moral constitution.
Neither do we talk of the True Man, Jesus Christ, who embodied the principles of sacrifice and truth, and restores in men the ideals of stateliness and unconditional love.
Above all, we do not look to the once for all, absolute standard for manhood as it is inscribed in the Bible. When we chucked the revelation of God to man, we chucked everything men should be.
To be sure, every once in a while we will catch a quick glimpse of manly virtue—just before it is eclipsed by the infernal drone of the today’s mayhem of male-dom. But overall, the idea of manhood has devolved into what we once equated with savagery and uncivilized societies.
Matt Timmons is a pastor at Providence Church in Mifflin, OH. His claims to fame include being called “a ruler of demons,” “a Pharisee,” and “an uptight preacher.”
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.