What does it mean to be a man?

Image from Ron Swanson Says… check out their stuff.

I was inspired to write this after reading a little piece by Ben Howard on manhood titled “Ron Swanson is a Man“. I love the Ron Swanson character from Parks and Recreation.  I have for a long time been asking this question so I thought I’d answer: what does it mean to be a man?

Since I’m one year away from graduation and dating the girl of my dreams, it seems a good time to learn what it means to grow up. But there’s a lot more to manhood than that. In this post, I want to share my thoughts about both what it means to grow into manhood, and what responsibilities come with my sex.

Is a real man like Ron Swanson? Arnold Schwarzenegger? …Justin Bieber? I say none of the above. Let me explain…

Contrasting manhood with boyhood

Lesson 1 in being a man is “Grow up”!

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11

Image courtesy of kwanie on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Piggybacking off of Raising a Modern Day Knight, the four things that change from childhood to manhood are that a man:

  • rejects passivity (proactivity)
  • accepts responsibility
  • leads courageously (leadership)
  • expects the greater reward (investment)

These four principles – proactivity, responsibility, leadership, and investment – aren’t all that is good in a man, nor are they unique to men, but they distinguish man from boy. A child complains until he’s fed; a man goes out and makes a living (1 Timothy 4:8). A child tries to blame; a man recognizes that he can always improve (Proverbs 19:20). A child waits to be told right from wrong; a man leads others on the path. A child wants to be satisfied now; a man can delay gratification (Isaiah 40:31).

A real man waits for the right time, and when his time has come, he rises to the occasion.

Contrasting manhood with womanhood

Lesson 2 in being a man is “with great power comes great responsibility!”

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life…” – 1 Peter 3:7

Image courtesy of April Killingsworth on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Let’s face it: men and women are different. As obvious as this should be just in biological terms, our “enlightened” society doesn’t really seem to reflect this anymore. Don’t get me wrong; a lot of our cultural reaction to the male-female stereotyping of previous generations is warranted. That’s why it’s important to reason very carefully about gender roles from what we know to be different.

Men and women are of the same spirit and have the same inheritance of life (Galatians 3:28, Mark 12:251 Peter 3:7), but have different physical strength (1 Peter 3:7), different mental patterns (Women are better multitaskers; men are more focused), and different emotional structure. And of course, there are different roles when it comes to making babies. Naturally, the Bible recognized different social roles for men and women (Titus 2, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5).

Men are stronger, more focused, and more emotionally detached than women. This is just due to biology, and it just makes sense morally that the way God created you should effect who you are. A man who accepts the physicality given to him by God will:

  • Gird himself in strength – training physically, emotionally, and intellectually
  • Focus and lead others as he follows the Lord
  • Respond with even temper and be the first to take responsibility

People who don’t think women should work need to read about the ideal Proverbs 31 woman again (Prov 31:16,24). Sorry; side-track. I just think men in western culture often times define themselves and their manhood by their careers, and it’s not supposed to be that simple. Manhood is so much deeper than just: “I man. I work.” It’s about strength, focus, and leadership.

But hold your horses…

It’s more important to be a child of God than it is to be a man in America.

Hear that? Who inherits the kingdom of heaven? NOT MEN it turns out! Remember? “…unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 18:3)

So don’t try to be a man like Ron Swanson; don’t even try to be a great man like William Wilberforce. Be the kind of man Jesus was.