For a long time, our culture promoted a narrative that being a man meant hiding your emotions, concealing your flaws, and projecting an image of success to the world around you.
This translated into a whole bunch of fathers who thought it somehow wrong to be outwardly loving towards their kids, listen to them, and admit their own flaws. Not to mention fathers who put success at work above success at home.
Then many of those children grew up and overreacted in the other direction, eschewing the traditional importance of men as leaders within their families, communities, and churches. Some of these men felt, and feel, that the very idea of “manhood” is flawed.
I am going to suggest that both of these positions are extremes.
There is little good to come from what is now often called “toxic masculinity,” yet there is also no reason to conclude that men should just stop trying to be leaders altogether.
What I am saying is that real men of character who are fearless in their leadership and equally fearless in their character are sorely needed in today’s world.
Another word for such men? Christians.
There’s a special place for such men in a functioning society, in a church, in a family, even if some want to deny it because it doesn’t fit their preconceived notion of “gender fluidity.”
So what does it look like to be a “real man” for the Christian? And more importantly, what does it look like to be a Christian father?
Here’s a fantastic passage on this very topic from an article by Glenn Stanton for Focus on the Family called “The Best Way A Son Learns to Be a Man.” He does an incredible job of talking about the traits of a Christian man in all aspects of life, not only as a father:
Most boys enter healthy manhood with the help of a “point man” — someone who leads the way and offers support through the trials of life. And the most effective point man our sons can have goes by the name “Dad.”
As we work to raise the next generation of men, we must remember that no boy has ever been effectively scolded or shamed into healthy manhood. Rather, he must be welcomed into it through the caring guidance and affirmation of his father.
A Christian father indeed provides “caring guidance,” “affirmation,” and is there through the difficulties of life. Does that mean giving up all the qualities of manhood? Not at all. It just means not adhering to some culturally-driven narrative of the macho guy. That’s the next thing Glenn addresses, actually:
We must be careful not to confuse manliness with macho-toughness. Men can be masculine without wrestling alligators or smashing through the defensive line to score a touchdown.
It’s important not to conflate strength with some arbitrary notion of toughness. That’s a common mistake and the two are not the same.
Strength, in fact, is one of the most important qualities of a Christian man. What kind of strength? Here are a few thoughts based on the examples of some incredible men in my own life, and I’m sure you’ve got more examples:
- Strength is a man who says he’ll pray for you and really does
- Strength is a man who keeps his eyes, ears, and heart pure
- Strength is a man who listens more than he talks
- Strength is a man who teaches his children to love Christ above all else
- Strength is a man who loves his wife completely
- Strength is a man who doesn’t lust after people other than his spouse
- Strength is a man who speaks well of his wife and never talks badly about her in the company of other men
- Strength is a man who doesn’t look at porn
- Strength is a man who doesn’t engage in gossip or idle talk about others
- Strength is a man who keeps a close eye on his finances
- Strength is a man who gives money to his church and the poor without getting anything in return
- Strength is a man who doesn’t look for happiness in material things
- Strength is a man who quickly admits when he’s wrong
- Strength is a man who gives other people credit
- Strength is a man who leads by example instead of barking orders
- Strength is a man who weeps when he sees the suffering of others
- Strength is a man who does what is right, even when there’s a high cost
- Strength is a man who defends the weak when they can’t
- Strength is a man who knows when to come home from work and when not to
- Strength is a man who doesn’t judge others as being less than himself, but judges himself to be the greatest sinner of all
- Strength is a man who doesn’t treat people differently due to race, religion, background, or socioeconomic status
- Strength is a man who knows he doesn’t have all the answers
- Strength is a man who is always trying to learn and grow
- Strength is a man who is unafraid to show his silly side
- Strength is a man who is willing to dance in public with his children
- Strength is a man who will leave an “important meeting” because his family needs him
- Strength is a man who stops to help people on the side of the road
- Strength is a man who loves, above all else, God, and secondly, others as himself, as our Savior commanded
That list got pretty long as I started thinking through some of the great mentors and men in my own life, and how they act and have acted. However, you get the idea. I’m imperfectly trying to follow the example of these great men I’ve had the chance to learn from. Thank God for them all.
A Christian man is strong, yes, but he’s also sensitive and understanding. He loves, without the expectation of always being loved in return.
He is, in other words, a man of character trying to imitate Christ.