There are defining moments in every young man’s life when he is smacked in the head with the life-sized basketball that is societies definition of a “real man.” I first caught that pass with my face at the University of Minnesota’s Basketball Camp in the summer of 1998. The camp guaranteed through relentless conditioning and never-ending drills that all ten-year-olds could be division I bound before nap time.
On the last day of camp every player received an evaluation by a professional basketball coach. My ratings were all awesome except one: aggressiveness. When we got into his dusty blue jeep, my biological father replied “you need to be more of a man out there,” and thus began a very long journey of discovering what it truly means to be a man.
One year for Christmas I got a two-year subscription to Men’s Health magazine. Ever opened one? It is filled with messages of “masculinity” such as:
Real men never back down from a fight because violence can solve any problem.
Real men can bench press an adult hippo.
Real men are savage sexual beasts who must pursue sexual intercourse from sun up to sun down.
Psychologists actually have a word for this Men’s Health view-point of manhood: hypermasculinity – the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as an emphasis on physical strength, aggression, body hair, body odor, and virility.
But if being a man isn’t about who can eat the most food, who can fart the loudest and who can win sports, what is it about?
To answer this question, I asked myself who are some of the greatest men in history? Jesus, Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr… Then I asked myself, “What do these men have in common?” Nothing on the Men’s Health list came up. None of them had bulging biceps or any Gaston-like qualities. Hmm, then what is it that makes them great men?
Integrity is the single most important quality of any man. When a guy is always honest and constantly working to do the right thing, he tells the world that he can be trusted in every situation and will always come through to the best of his ability.
Real men are honest, reliable, and do the right thing whether someone is watching or not.
God put us on this earth to love him with our whole heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:31 – NIV) That means putting others needs above your own. When you see a man down on his luck, standing on a corner begging for help, what is your response? Do you avoid eye contact and pretend he doesn’t exist or do you pray him, wave and hand him your unopened Gatorade out the window?
Real men feel a tug in their heart for anyone in need and constantly work to make the world a better place.
Hardly a day goes by without a news report about some high-profile man who has been destroyed by sex, money, addictions, or drugs. True men rid themselves of the “junk” that gets in the way of living a pure and productive life. We all know this isn’t easy because temptations lurk around every corner. When a Godly man is struggling, He always asks for help from those around him.
Real men make decisions that make God and their families proud to know them.
Perseverance is courageous resistance against difficult circumstances and is developed through seasons of struggle. When challenges come, the Godly man digs deep, puts his heels in the sand and pushes through. He never gives up.
Real men endure the inevitable trials of this life and emerge stronger.
Today’s young men love to let everyone know how much swagger they have. They thump their chests and proclaim to the world, “I’m a Big Deal. Look at me!” ”
As my man C.S. Lewis said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” It is knowing that your worth comes from God and you don’t have to prove that you’re the greatest thing since Michael Jordan’s return to basketball.
Real men don’t need to show off, their worth comes from God.
The Godly man, above all else, believes in the goodness of our incredible Creator. Even when the road is dark and he can’t understand the pain, he trusts and relies on his Savior.
Real men don’t abandon their faith in times of struggle, they draw closer to Jesus and those around them.
No, I am not saying physical strength isn’t important and I am certainly not saying we should cancel organized sports and put our boys in ballet. I am saying we are creating a generation who looks to Hollywood for real men and not the only perfect man who ever lived: Jesus.
In the spirit of honesty, I didn’t make this list up on my own. I used this beautiful little guide called the bible.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. -Galatians 5:22-23 (MSG)
Turns out I didn’t end up playing Division I basketball, but that doesn’t make me any less of a man. God created me to be a kind and gentle, which just so happens to be what makes me wicked great at teaching Kindergartners.
So the next time you judge someone’s masculinity, ask yourself what in fact are you basing your judgement on? What is your image of a real man?
Do you picture:
Martin Luther King Jr. or Mr. T?
Ghandi or Ryan Gosling?
The Hulk or Jesus?
Instead ask yourself this question: Is he like Jesus? That is the definition of a real man.
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Leave a comment below with what you would add to my list of qualities of a real man!
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