Who knew a commercial for a shaving cream and razor blade company could stir up so much controversy? Gillette’s marketing team knew what they were doing when they produced and aired their recent ad: “The best men can be.” Love it or hate it, they started a discussion about what it looks like to be a man in the modern world.
To a certain degree I get it. I’ve never been the quintessential man’s man. Growing up I was taught that men are rough, tough, buff and into sports stuff. Meanwhile I’m sensitive, gentle, weak and into stuff like classic literature and cooking.
The church didn’t provide much clarity growing up either. Sunday school always seemed to cherry-pick examples from the Bible of type A leaders like Moses, brawny warriors like Joshua and unreserved evangelists like Peter. But what about the artists like Bezalel, the poets like David and the gentle leaders like Joseph? They were just as masculine, but I didn’t learn to appreciate that type of biblical masculinity until later.
Artistic like Bezalel
I’ll never forget the day I turned in my poetry project in English class. I was a sophomore in high school, and I liked poetry. I enjoyed using symbolism and abstract ideas to express how I felt about myself and the world around me.
So when I turned in my project, my English teacher read aloud a few poems for the class to hear. What seemed like flattery at first escalated to public humiliation. He read my poems in an effeminate voice, insinuating that either he didn’t feel masculine reading them or I shouldn’t feel masculine for writing them.
I hate to admit I stopped writing poetry after that, but I did. Not because they teased me, but because I thought there may be truth to it all. Maybe it’s not masculine to be poetic and artistic.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I discovered Bezalel in Exodus 31. Full of the Holy Spirit, he was called by God to be an artist. He designed and crafted every last piece of the tabernacle just as God described it to Moses. In 1 Chronicles 25, I discovered Asaph and his sons whom God called to be temple musicians.
And then the obvious hit me. Poetry and poetic prophecies written by men make up much of the Bible.
Being artistic is manly. God created us to be miniature creators, calling women and men to use creative expressions to bring Him glory and honor.
Humble like David
Today men are expected to be natural born leaders, which is often misunderstood as this kick-butt, take-names mentality that softies like me don’t have.
When I think of leadership, I think about young David. One minute he’s writing songs while tending sheep, the next he’s anointed king. One minute he’s delivering cheese to commanders, the next he’s slaying a giant with a sling. David wasn’t a great leader because he outperformed the competition; he was a great leader because he pointed an entire nation to something greater than himself — God.
To be masculine, I don’t have to be overly competitive or overly confident in my abilities. I’m confident in the abilities I have, and I’m confident I’m not the best at what I do. I also need to admit my mistakes, be aware of my weaknesses and seek to improve upon them — not by being better than everyone around me but by growing in my understanding of the man God wants me to be.
Gentle like Jesus
Jesus taught so many things that counter how the world and the church define masculinity today: Love your enemy, forgive your brother as many times as it takes, don’t belittle or degrade children and women, ultimate victory sometimes comes through brutal defeat.
The most masculine man I know didn’t fight back when He had every right to. Instead, He chose His battles, losing the battle of His life to win the war for mine.
At first when I saw Gillette’s ad and their new slogan — the best men can be — I was right there with the rest, triggered and upset. Stay in your lane, Gillette. Just focus on selling razors. I don’t need the misguided lecture from an advertisement.
When I look at that phrase, though, I get both sides. Social justice advocates, college professors, society as a whole, and certainly shaving companies do not get to define what it means to be a man and how I should act as a man. On the other hand, men can be better. That’s what Jesus taught, and that’s why He became a man. The Son of God demonstrated what it means to be a man, and He’s the perfect example of the best men can be. It never hurts to be reminded of that.
Masculinity has never been as narrow as the world suggests. I’m confident in who God made me as a man even with the qualities that aren’t viewed as traditionally masculine. Not because a commercial told me so or because my actions are reinforced by what’s socially acceptable, but because I can see God using those same qualities in other men throughout scripture for His glory. I don’t have to be a man’s man to be a man of God.
Copyright 2019 Matt Stickel. All rights reserved.