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What Is Masculinity?

My apologies for being absent the last two weeks. I had to go back home for my dad’s 60th birthday and decided to take a full vacation with no work of any kind. While I was there, a friend of mine told me of an article written in the UK about the decline of masculinity and its affects on the DIY (Do It Yourself) mentality that British men allegedly once had. So I thought I’d give a bit of a commentary about the decline of masculinity in general over the last 50 years and see what comes up.

“Where have all the good men gone?”

This is a question that often gets asked in churches, governments and especially by women. It seems like today’s men are either doomed to be shallow, weak and uninteresting or egocentric megalomaniacs with bones to pick and things to prove — which, by the way, is where I think the problem lies. Not in the men, but society’s perception of them.

Yes, the drive, ambition and all-around desire to get things done (by themselves anyway) is less visible in today’s men than it was in previous generations. That’s partially because there’s much less need in the developed world, and it’s also harder to get noticed for being “manly” these days. However, that doesn’t mean that all men are either weak cowards or selfish jerks. Having that attitude only leads to wrong and often devastating interpretations of innocent actions, not good.

See, at one level the vast majority of men inherently desire (with various negative influences stemming from an imperfect childhood) to be masculine. The main problem comes from definition. What does masculinity look like? Society, culture and the church are hopelessly confused. Should we be meek and mild (like Jesus), always watching out for bruised reeds and crying women at our feet? Should we slaughter our enemies (like Jesus will) and drive them from our homes with whips? Should we build our homes with our own bare hands while also changing diapers and cooking for the family?

I’ve thought about this topic for many years, and I’ve chosen to treat it much like I treat doctrine within the church. There are many different men out there. Some will love working in the backyard on their bike; others would prefer to pay someone to do it. Some love to spend hours with their friends on the golf course; others prefer something more virtual. Each is fine.

A key to being a man is taking responsibility.

Responsibility is doing what you need to do, not expecting or hoping that other people will do it for you. Men have specific jobs to get done. You’re the primary provider, protector and teacher of your family, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that these things happen. However, that doesn’t mean that everything must flow solely through you. You might outsource part of the teaching role to your child’s school, ensuring that they get a well-rounded education with other adults that gives them experience with peer interaction as well. Your wife might also want to work, or maybe your eldest child likes to chip into the family budget with his part-time job. If there are possums rampaging about in the attic, you might pay someone to get rid of them or trap them yourself like my dad was telling me about last week. But when it comes down to it, if no one else can help, a man steps up to take responsibility and says, “I will ensure that this happens, whatever personal sacrifice it might take.”

In conclusion, your hobbies and style, how you get the job done, or even your stature isn’t the definition of what it means to be a man. Whether you choose to pay for things to be done or do it yourself doesn’t affect your masculinity. So for all you guys out there wrestling with this question, let me encourage you. Whether you’re skinny, buff, tall, short, quiet, loud, ambitious or content, those things have no bearing on your manhood. If you love the outdoors and doing things around the house, that’s great, and if you love to code inside and play board games, just as awesome. The key is figuring out what God has called for you to do and making sure those things get done.

So what about you? What do you think is the most important thing about being a man?

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