If you know me, you know that I'm not a super masculine guy. Let me give you some examples:
- I would rather watch basketball than play it.
- I don't lift weights (or even work out, really).
- I am not the "boss" of my wife.
- I don't have "my" football team that I cheer for.
- I usually wear Chucks (and sometimes skinny jeans).
- I hate guns.
- I know absolutely nothing about how to fix cars.
- I love art. And museums. And art museums.
- I don't like to eat slabs of meat (steak? meh...)
- I love to read (books - not magazines or comic books).
This list could go on for quite some time. The typical "manly" types of things aren't fun for me.
I find that I'm surrounded by a culture that takes "manliness" to an extreme. Men hunt. Men fish. Men watch football. Men golf. Men fight. Men drive trucks. Men break things. Men fix things.
Men do this. Men do that.
The Masculinity Problem
It's not just secular society that's sending this message. The Christian world is as married to this perspective as any other (in fact, maybe even more than most others!).
I remember several years ago the must-read book for Christian guys was John Eldredge's Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul. The book presents men as unilaterally having an inner thirst for "masculinity" that needed to be quenched by "roughing it" in the woods, exerting our physical strength, and defending our women from their weaker natures. The entire time that I read it, I had to fight back questions about myself. I didn't feel drawn to any of these things that Eldredge said should be hardwired into my DNA - was I broken? was I missing something?
This culture glorifies these types of activities to such an extent that if a guy doesn't fit this mold, he seemingly doesn't have a place within its social context.
Society's Power Over Me
Even though I don't personally subscribe to this interpretation of manliness, I've repeatedly caught myself unconsciously re-shaping myself to conform to it.
It's not that I've suddenly taken up hunting, but when someone brings up the topic in conversation, I try to play it off like I know exactly what they're talking about ("Oh, you got a 12-point buck this weekend... sweeeeet...."). I do my best to impress people with the two stories of risky behavior I have from my high school days (even getting two stories to tell is a stretch). I pretend to laugh at tasteless jokes that I find offensive.
In re-shaping myself this way, I am giving the people around me power that they should never have. I am allowing this culture to redefine my very identity - an identity that should be defined only by the God who created me and gave me purpose.
God tells me that I am a servant. He tells me I am to love both my neighbors and my enemies. He tells me to turn the other cheek when I'm attacked. He tells me to focus on the eternal rather than the temporal.
I'm done giving society power over my sense of self. My identity is in Christ, and in him do I find peace.
Author's Note: I wrote a follow-up to this post that examines what Christian manliness actually looks like. The follow-up is called "Redefining Masculinity," so if this post resonated with you, I'd encourage you to keep reading!