What it Means to be a Man

When I was in high school, the book Wild at Heart came out and everyone started reading it and recommending it to me.  I’d never really been interested in those types of books and this one sounded especially uninteresting to me so I didn’t bother.  Eventually, someone gave me a copy as a gift so I decided to give it a shot.  If you’ve never read it, the author asserts that God created men with a deep longing for adventure, risk, passion and that most Christian men aren’t living in a way that allows them to fulfill these desires.  I immediately began to dislike the book and the claims the author was making largely because I’ve always been so frustrated by people making sweeping generalizations about a group of people and making assumptions about a person based on one aspect of who they are.  It also didn’t help that none of the things Eldridge said about what a man is and should be were things I identified with.  I found it extremely offensive that this man I had never met was basically telling me I wasn’t a real man because I don’t like camping and I’m not looking for some damsel in distress to rescue.

Let me back up a step and say that while I do believe that most stereotypes and general categorizations of people groups have some degree of accuracy, it’s a completely different story to say it’s true of every person in this group or that you can’t belong to this category if you don’t happen to exhibit a particular trait.  The book made me more and more angry as I read and a couple pages into the second chapter, I threw it down and didn’t look at it again for several months.  I eventually decided that maybe I hadn’t given the book at fair chance and I should at least read further to see what else Eldridge had to say about Christian masculinity.  This time, I think I finished the second chapter, threw it down again, and I haven’t picked it up since (in fact, I don’t think I have it any more so chances are I never will).

If I were asked what I think it means to be a man of Christ, I think I would say to have integrity, loyalty, to protect ones friends and family whenever possible, and to generally do your best to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  I think most people would agree with me on this, but the one problem some might have is that there isn’t really anything in my description that differentiates these as masculine qualities.  This could easily be a description of what it means to be a Christian with no reference to gender.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with that, but, because of one phrase in Genesis 1:27 (“male and female he created them”) many Christians believe that there must be a distinction between men and women.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing for transgender surgeries and gender bending, but I do think it’s OK for men to stay at home and cook and clean and take care of the kids.  I think it’s fine for men to be into fashion and design and musical theater.  I don’t have a problem with women making more money than their husbands and being into cars and sports and guns (even though I can’t understand why they would be, ugh).

So, I guess to sum this all up I would say, before you make general statements about all men, all women, all Christians, all atheists, all white people, all Hispanic people, all teachers, all liberals, or all of any group of people, think about what you’re saying and at least consider rephrasing it.  Also, maybe it’s OK for the man in a relationship to be the compassionate nurturer and for the woman to be the strong protector.  It might not be the norm and it might not be how it’s described in the Bible, but honestly, what’s the harm?

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