One of the sources of the turmoil that our society faces today is that hardly anyone seems to have an idea of how men are supposed to act. Some would even deem the term “manhood” as sexist or misogynistic because it is exclusive to one gender, but then again, some do not believe that gender is an objective term anyway.
Even among heterosexual, married men, there are many who do not know exactly what they are supposed to do within their marriage and household as a man, but they know that they are supposed to play a significant role in the lives of their wives and children.
In some cases, this confusion has led to husbandless women raising fatherless children; in others, the result is wifeless men who live with their parents until they are 30 or older, living in an indefinite period of adolescence.
Many cases end where a male is following their instincts to lead and provide, but do so in the wrong way. End in lives filled with violence and corruption driven by pride, greed, and selfishness, though some that follow this path may look very successful to the world.
So, if so many are missing out, and I have only had a mere 24 years on earth, what do I know about true manhood? As humbly as I can communicate through text, I do believe that I have learned a thing or two about true manhood, because I have a powerful weapon in my arsenal: the wisdom that my Papa passed on to me through the tens of thousands of talks that we had through the almost 25 years that I had with him.
At times when I was young, I thought it a disadvantage to be raised by my grandparents, because I was not allowed to do some things that my friends did, or because I thought that my grandparents did not understand how my generation was so different from theirs (more on that last part in a moment).
However, as I got older, I knew that the wisdom that I was able to observe being lived out by the two people that cared for me with every ounce of their beings would be something that would be a blessing to me as I graduated and went out into the real world.
Though I may have gone out “on my own” in a physical sense, the lessons that I have learned from my grandparents, and specifically my Papa, have shown that I will never be without either of them, since they have imprinted my heart, soul, mind (and sometimes, my rear end, when needed) with all that they had learned.
So, let’s get back to what it means to be a man. Though most of what I am about to write applies to – and can be applied by – any male, the ultimate cornerstone of true manhood, and what defined my Papa at his core, is being a servant of Jesus Christ.
As I have heard it said by others, and by Papa, “If you do not follow Christ, you can never truly lead.” This is because Christ was the ultimate display of manhood. He was perfectly tough, perfectly gentle, perfectly loving, perfectly righteous, perfectly patient, perfectly courageous, perfectly caring, and perfectly hated sin.
He was the perfect Leader, the perfect Teacher, and the perfect Servant. A man who does not follow Christ can display all of the virtues that make a true man, but not with the same God-honoring mindset, and is without a perfect model to at least aspire to emulate.
Above all other qualities, a man must be loving. Even if a man does not love God, he does love and serve something, and that love drives all else that he does. If he does not love and serve God, he loves and serves self. Regardless of whether a man loves God, or himself, he can still love his family, friends, and fellow man in an honorable way.
If a male aspires to be a man, the first thing that he must do is learn how to love in a way that is self-sacrificial, and put what he learns into action. The love that he feels for around him always drives him to work and hope for the ultimate good for them in every circumstance.
Whether it be restraining oneself from retaliating when someone wrongs him, or keeping himself from consuming a substance in excess (e.g, food, alcohol), a man is able to step back from any situation, think rationally about it, decide what is the right thing to do, and does it.
If a man can not control himself, then he is certainly not fit to lead anyone else, which is one of the other foundational characteristics of a man.
Although I could say it for all of the qualities on this list, I believe that just about anyone that you ask would say that integrity is one of the most important qualities for a man to possess.
For a man to love, lead, and steward well the things given to him, he must have some set of principles by which he lives. Because he believes these principles to be nonnegotiable, he holds to them no matter what it may cost him.
He does not bend rules to serve his own self interest. He is honest in his speech, speaking what he knows to be true. He is honest in his actions, doing what he knows to be right in every circumstance. He is honest in his work, doing all that he can to provide for himself and his loved ones, providing quality products and services to his customers, and using every moment of his time to earn his wages instead of staring at the clock, praying for the day to end.
A man is someone whose handshake is as reliable and official as their signature, someone who can be taken at their word.
The hardest quality to attain – and maintain – for a man in most cases is humility. This is due to the fact that, if a man is fulfilling all of his duties, and possesses all of the other qualities that he should, it is easy for him to become proud of himself, which usually leads to a lack of humility, and a boastful attitude.
Another factor that makes it so hard to be truly humble is that, though a man should evaluate himself, as soon as a man sees himself as humble, he usually is not. He is more thank likely self-deprecating in order to have the appearance of humility in front of others.
A humble man possesses all of the other qualities in this list, but realizes that there is always room for improvement. He also knows how to say “thank you,” when complimented, but does not let compliments mislead him to believe that he has reached the pinnacle in any area of life.
A humble man serves others, because he knows that it is the right thing to do, not because he desires a pat on the back, or a favor from the person whom he has served, in return.
Whether a man believes that all that he has was given to him by God, or by some kind of naturalistic process, there is not one human who gave life to themself. Therefore, any man should be grateful for the life they have been given, and the things that they are given during their life, and should steward these gifts well as an outward expression of their gratefulness.
So, what is there in life for a man to steward? First, his own life would be that which he is first and foremost responsible for spending well. It is appropriate that I have waited until last to list this category, because, if a man is doing the aforementioned things, then he will be stewarding all of the things that he has been given.
I imagine that there is some subjectivity to what it means to steward one’s own life well, but I would say that it means having as close to perfect of a balance as possible between nurturing relationships, working hard, learning new things, taking care of yourself physically, spiritually, mentally, recreation, and rest.
A life well-spent will make a difference for good in the world that will effect later generations, even if the effect does not seem obvious, or is not explicitly credited to a particular person.
In addition to his own life, a man should also steward wisely the many other gifts given to him: family, friends, material possessions, and the earth itself. He should do all that he can to serve others, but should also contribute as much as possible to any growth with which he can assist, especially spiritually and intellectually.
He should also use any material possessions that are given to him, or “earned” by his work, wisely to bring about the greatest good possible for himself, and everyone around him.
Lastly, he should take care of the earth on which he lives. Stewardship and care for the earth does not mean that we need governments telling us what cars we can or cannot drive, or what energy sources we can or cannot utilize.
It means that, just like he does within his own home, a man will have a natural inclination to preserve the world in which he lives, and will clean up after himself.
I am sure that there are plenty of things missing from this list of qualities that a main should possess, but I believe that the ones listed are certainly some of the most important for a male to possess in order to be a true man.
I am thankful for all of the men in my life that have taught me these things so far, but I am especially thankful for my Papa, who lived out each one of them in front of me every day for the 23 years that I had with him.
Guys, let us aspire to live the life of a true man in every moment of every day. Our deepest urges to lead, fight, and love – among many others – are put within us for the purpose of being lived out, but they must be forged in the fire of discipline to be lived out the way which they are meant to be.