“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” - 1 Corinthians 13:11
What does it mean to be a man?
Many ask themselves this question. Many are asked this question. No two answers are ever the same. To really get an adequate answer, it might be more appropriate to answer with what a man is not. At times we can be inundated with counterfeit manhood that affirms masculinity by appearances and stereo-types which aren’t altogether defining of what it truly means to be a man. And so, herewith are 5 things (in no particular order) which are attributed to masculinity but which do not constitute manhood.
Style It is to the discredit of many that a common perception of masculinity is based on dress or appearance. While personal presentation is important to both sexes and can be the basis of first impressions, it is not indicative of character, which is a far greater measure of masculinity than the way in which one dresses himself.
Hobbies Another unsubstantiated predication of manhood is the hobbies or activities that one is interested in. There are few things as irksome as boys believing that there are particular activities that are emasculating, whilst not being all together feminine, if done or not done by men. Society is ingrained with perceptions of hobbies and interests that are stereo-typically masculine; hunting, fishing, fast cars and beer drinking, just to name a few. These things (with the exception of the last) typically attract the attention of men because they tend to fulfil the desires intrinsic to men that drive us to take risks, compete and provide. These things are healthy and should be done. However, if a man hides behind typically masculine activities whilst he neglects his responsibilities, whether they be to family, work, faith or community, the activities themselves do not affirm his manhood.
Strength Strength is undoubtedly a desirable feature of manhood. However, as we see now more than ever, strength uncoupled with character can be a dangerous thing. A man should be strong, but he needs virtue and principles of the absolute kind to guide the use of his strength to its full effect. As Billy Sunday said, “you can’t measure manhood with a tape around his biceps.” It is the fundamental philosophy of Hearts and Hands is that a man ought to have hard hands, but a soft heart to guide them. It is easy for boys to hide behind strength, but without virtue and principle, that strength is easily misused and abused.
Vocation Some may believe that the way in which a man makes his living can either affirm or detract from his masculinity. To a certain extent there is some truth to this line of thinking. For instance, if a man conducts business in an unethical or illegal way, there is a fundamental character flaw which detracts from ones masculinity. Likewise, if someone profits from the mistreatment or abuse of others there is again detraction from the virtuous kind of manhood. However if a man decides to become a nurse, for example, there are some who would believe that he has somehow been emasculated for pursuing a typically feminine career. To the contrary, nursing, like many other typically female dominated careers, is a noble pursuit at which many men excel. It is far more manly to be a male nurse in the selfless service of others than to be a crooked businessman in the service of self.
Diet It’s no secret. Men like to eat meat and drink alcohol. Often in the most uncivilised manner. It is commonly perceived as ‘manly’ to simply eat meat and drink beer and feminine to not enjoy a fat steak or cold Heineken. It must be stated as emphatically as can be done that this is not true. Ones preferences for food have no bearing on masculinity whatsoever. End of story.
There exists in the pages of books and in the depths of the world wide web, a multitude of pretences which attempt to dictate how a man ought to do certain things; how he ought to behave, what he ought to wear, what he ought to eat or do in his leisure time in order to be a man. These are all, while mostly well meaning, distractions from the underlying character and principles which, in real men, guide these typically masculine behaviours. For instance, men typically like to eat meat because they traditionally went out hunting to provide for their family, mostly subsisting on what they killed or trapped on the trail. That is what is manly about eating meat. Likewise, a man is typically expected to dress well as an expression of his commitment to the event at which he is in attendance, whether it be work, church or a social event. That is what is manly about dressing well. Modern writing and conversation regarding what it means to be a man tend to skip the reasons, or the character, of the real man in favour of the facade of being a man.
There is danger in living by rules of behaviour or whatever else is said to predicate manhood, rather than developing underlying character and principles which naturally guide the outward appearance of what it means to be a man.