There’s been a lot of debate in American culture the past several years regarding how to be a real man. Magazine covers, movie stars, internet memes, the “lumbersexual” fashion trend of beards and flannel shirts paired oddly with skinny-jeans. Everywhere you look, American culture is grappling with what it means for a man to embrace his masculinity.
Yet when Bruce Jenner – an unfortunate, attention-hungry, cross-dressing man – won the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the ESPYS and was lauded as “woman of the year” by Glamour magazine, it became safe to say American society is very confused about gender. Gone are the days when it was self-evident whether either masculinity or femininity matter at all, much-less what difference they make if they do.
Confused At A Young Age
Things have gotten so crazy in fact that The American College of Pediatricians put out a statement on their website explicitly warning American parents of the psychological and physical dangers of encouraging their children to undergo gender impersonation and reassignment and puberty hormone suppression.
The reason The American College of Pediatricians has had to issue this warning is that some very bad parents have been making headlines in recent years taking their little boy’s fleeting interest in flowers or the color pink or their little girl’s temporary affinity for Tonka trucks and action figures as signs that they were born with the wrong gender and should be guided and encouraged in the opposite direction.
Yet even when we can get past the Bruce Jenners and idiot parents of the world to agree that the biological gender we’re born with matters, where are young boys and girls supposed to learn what it means to be a man or a woman?
Much of our present gender confusion problem stems from how many young people grow up without a role model of their gender in the home.
According to National Review, 40.7% of American births in 2012 were out of wedlock. The Annie C. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center reports that 35% of children in the U.S. live in a single-parent home. And neither of these figures tell us the number of boys with distant or disengaged fathers who, though physically present, are more interested in indulging themselves than training their sons.
Once again, who is teaching our young girls what it means to be an authentic woman? Who is teaching our young boys how to be a real man?
How To Be A Real Man In Three Easy Steps
As father to five young sons myself, I care deeply about children growing up with an active dad in the home. And it’s clear we need to come up with a solution for today’s children. Role-models are needed in the home to teach boys and girls what it means to be real men and women.
Yet sadly, for the young adults in our culture it’s too late to learn these lessons in their formative years when they can become most deeply ingrained and intuitive. No matter how childish they may act, actual childhood is forever gone for today’s pajama boys and perpetually adolescent men.
So what will we tell these young men searching for their masculine identity in this gender confused day and age we find ourselves in? How can they become real men if they didn’t have a father growing up, or if all the examples in broader society only add to the confusion?
Well, I’ve actually got a plan. To tell today’s young men what embracing your masculinity is all about, I’ve come up with a little something I call ‘How to be a real man in three easy steps.’
Let me share it with you.
Step 1: Know that real men don’t have a “feminine side.”
If someone encourages you to be more in touch with “your feminine side”, please do everyone a favor. Laugh loud and long in their presumptuous, self-important face.
If you’re a real man, you don’t have a feminine side!
Men are supposed to be men – period. Men aren’t supposed to be women; that’s what women are for. Women are women. Men are men. That’s the way God in His infinite wisdom designed us.
Consider how God created Adam and Eve and put them in Eden. After telling us of Adam’s ringing endorsement of God’s plan to give him Eve as a wife, we read:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”
There it is, in all its glorious simplicity. If you want to get in touch with your “feminine side,” find the woman God has destined to be your wife and marry her. Then you’ll be one flesh, and she becomes your feminine side! And once you’re married, it is very much encouraged for you to get in touch with her.
Having emotions, knowing and caring how you or other people feel – that’s not your feminine side. That’s called being human.
And just as you have a duty to be affectionate and provide for and protect your wife physically once you’re married, you also have a responsibility to her heart. That means caring how she feels.
Step 2: Don’t let women tell you how to be manly.
Even though it’s good to care how others feel, don’t put too much stock in what people – especially women – think of your manliness or lack thereof.
If the woman in your life tells you she wants you to become the hyper-masculine dude of her dreams, just grin and shake your head. Walk away from the conversation as if she were telling you a joke.
For a quick proof of how ridiculous it is for women to teach you what it means to be manly, try teaching a woman what it means to be womanly. Just see how that works out. Try telling her how to dress, cook, curtsy, and bat her eyelashes at you. It’ll go over very poorly, I assure you.
The truth is that while women may know what they’ve admired about some idealized fictional men they’ve seen on TV, or in movies and books, they can’t teach you how to be a man. The closest they’ll get might be breathlessly describing Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. But you don’t need that.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it really isn’t. Yes, you want to attract that special woman’s attention and impress her with your manners, good looks, wit, and strength. Believe me, I get it.
But if almost ten years of marriage to my wife Lauren has reinforced the truth of anything it is that women are attracted to strength of character and confidence in a man. Not arrogance, mind you. Confidence. And there’s a difference.
And it doesn’t exactly scream ‘confidence’ to trip over yourself imitating some exaggerated version of manhood because you’re insecure.
Step 3: Put away the Men’s Health and Muscle & Fitness magazines. Pick up God’s Word.
Consider God’s words to Joshua after Moses died:
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for Yahweh your God is with you wherever you go.”
Real manliness isn’t suiting everyone else’s aesthetic and comfort. Beards, flannel, and muscles are great. Have all those. Knock yourself out. Just remember that beards, flannel, muscles, sports cars, suits, and paychecks don’t make you a man.
You wanna know how to be a real man? Stop being afraid to challenge the status quo.
Care most what God says He created us as men to be. What does He say in His Word about our identity in Him? Only that provides a firm foundation on which to build manhood.
And guess what! Become a real man who honors the Lord with your life, and the right woman will think you’re great. Only it’ll happen naturally. And she’ll actually have a good reason to.
Yes, be a man. Be a manly man. But look to God’s Word to tell you how.