Being physically strong, making money, having power, and not taking guff from anyone have all been etched into the measuring stick of manhood. History has provided very specific male stereotypes, a favorite being John Wayne.
For several generations, this measure of a man remained both popular and unchallenged. Today, defining a man inside of our culture has become increasingly difficult as the definition is challenged and examined. Our cultural definition now includes that a man can be metrosexual or effeminate and still be a man. It could be said that today, manhood is simply a result of one’s maleness. However, this is not true because our culture now says a woman can be a man and vice versa.
The list for what constitutes a man continues to be more confusing. When I was growing up, I was told that what makes a man is to not hit or disrespect a woman. Of course that’s a really important aspect of manhood; but I wasn’t told how a man was supposed to treat a woman. Except I was. By Hollywood.
One of Hollywood’s greatest measures of a man was that the man always got the girl. This usually included that the man had sex with her. There are so many movies where the dad gave his son an “atta-boy” shoulder slug, or an approving nod and wink, at the news of the son’s first kiss or sexual encounter. The dad was always proud of the son. This has not changed.
The band Maroon 5 recently released a song called Sugar. The music is upbeat and fun. A song that you might dance to at, say a wedding. Until you actually listen to the lyrics and realize it isn’t a song that you should have your 7-year-old son listen to. Truthfully, I’d prefer my 16 and 18 year old sons didn’t listen to it either. Before I continue, let me clarify that I’m not that “all secular music is from the devil” guy. I love music. All kinds; except Kanya, he’s his biggest fan and doesn’t need me. For a song to make my, “Do Not Play” list it really needs to send the wrong message. Sugar does just this.
Sugar really wasn’t a song I was listening to; it was my wife who pointed out the lyrics to me. Specifically the words:
“Yeah, I want that red velvet. I want that sugar sweet. Don’t let nobody touch it, unless that somebody is me. I gotta be a man, there ain’t no other way.”
If you weren’t able to put that together, “sugar” is sex. Mr. Levine is singing that in order to be a man he needs to have sex with her because there’s “no other way.”
Maybe you’re thinking I’m over reacting and that it’s just a song. Maybe I am. However, that is the message of the song. Sugar’s message is no different from what so many others in entertainment portray as the measure of a man. Sex seems to be the one thing that many guys agree is the measure of a man.
Your ability to have sex with a woman doesn’t make you a man. I’ve known so many boys that have had sex and never acted like a man. I was one of them and to be clear, getting married at 19 didn’t change that. In fact, having sex will often reveal areas you are lacking in before it will reveal how much of a man you are – or are not. The ability to have sex does not signal your manhood; it simply means that your body functions as it was created to.
If we take sex out of the picture, then how should we define a man?
For Christians, the place to look for the definition of a man is the Bible and to the person of Jesus. In Jesus we see the perfect joining of some of the traits that we separate or remove when defining masculinity including; strength, justice, gentleness, grace, wrath, love, confidence, humility, etc. One of the main writers of the New Testament, Paul, knew this. In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 he says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” Then in his letter to Timothy, a leader in the church, he writes, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”
In both instances we see Paul framing manhood and masculinity with words that have nothing to do with pursuing profession, possessions, persons, power – or sex. Instead he tell us to pursue the things of God, that ultimately glorify Him and benefit others. True manhood has little to do with what we desire or achieve.
One of the best ways to display masculinity is to move our focus off ourselves and our desires and onto serving and standing for others, especially those that aren’t able to do it for themselves.
If we desire to be real men and to raise real men; our focus must be the pursuit of Jesus and the traits that reveal Him to others.