What does it mean to be a real man in today’s world? What does it take? Are men defined differently than they were 2000 years ago?
Are cowboys real men because they’re cowboys? Or is there something about being a cowboy that teaches a man what it takes to be a man? It’s that Nature vs. Nurture thang….
I was amused this past Sunday morning at my church. They announced a Men’s Conference coming up and pointed out they would be serving steak and would be giving away a shotgun as a door prize! Granted, I live in Texas. But the message was clear and unmistakable. Real men eat beef and hunt with shotguns! And if it ain’t huntin’ season, well then just practice on whatever’s handy.
I like beef. I even like rare beef. I just don’t want to watch the cow bleed out after I shoot it in the head!
And, oh by the way, my wife likes beef too so…..
In keeping with the “men are hunters” theory, I heard a minister teaching from a popular Christian book for men recently alluding to being a “lion-killer”! He cited the story of Samson who killed a lion with his bare hands, and David who bagged one with a sling-shot. So, heck, maybe you’re a wuss if you have to use a shotgun to bring down game! You might be something less than a man if you don’t engage a predator fang-to-fang!
I’ve always thought I’d enjoy fishing. The problem is my dad wasn’t much of a fisherman so he never took me fishing or taught me much about how to fish. I’ve known some pretty brawny good ol’ boys who love to fish, but does that make them more of a man than me?
I never was a boy scout either, so I won’t be able to build a fire or gather berries to keep my family alive if we’re ever caught in a blizzard off I 35, so add that to the list of male dysfunction…
The small group I’m in at church had a party recently, and we played this silly game based on the Newlyweds TV game show. The women were asked if their husband was like Tim the Toolman, Al something-or-other, the perfectionist or just Clueless! Guess which one I am? Yep…and my wife got it right! And guess what else? Of all the men in the room, I was the only one who was Clueless! Maybe because I never watched the TV show? Does that mean I’m less a man than they are? Do all men have to know intuitively what to do to fix a leak?
Is it not sufficient to be able to take a leak in the woods? While you’re taking a break from winter food gathering. Or fly fishing in the frigid icy waters. Don’t care who you are, those rubber britches ain’t gonna keep you warm! But they do present a problem if you want to whiz in the water! Which is distinctively a male notion, right?
So I don’t really think manhood is about fixing leaks or even hanging pictures for that matter, but I got to confess that I felt a little inferior because I didn’t have the same skill set as the other guys in the room. I went home feeling a little ashamed, insecure, and inadequate.

But I didn’t cry, cause God knows, real men don’t cry. No worries there because real men don’t even feel emotion! Well, not warm emotion anyway. Things like anger, jealousy, envy, covetousness, we’re good.

If I were honest, I’d say I was a mess emotionally. But why wouldn’t I be? I’ve been in denial my whole life! OMG! Am I GAY????

Truthfully, the only thing that keeps me out of total depression and perhaps even abject madness is the knowledge that with the gift of another day of living there’s still hope that I can somehow get this right! Even when every shred of historical and empirical evidence would suggest otherwise!

So when the messages all around me are that I don’t measure up to what society says is a real man, what do I do? I compensate. I work harder. Maybe I try to score with the ladies. Or maybe I just medicate to deal with the pain of worthlessness. Anything to keep from crying.

Read a book nearly a half-century ago that suggested the characteristics that defined a man in that day and age were to be a Performer, a Provider, a Producer, and a Protector. Is that still true today? Pretty much.

If so, that’s a lot to live up to! Even though, isn’t “Performer, Provider, and Producer” all the same thing? I know I don’t know the difference. But then, I obviously don’t know much about being a man.

How about “big and strong”? If you’re not at least 6 foot 2 and have biceps the size of grapefruit—or larger, because size really DOES matter–do you lose your man card? No. But you probably won’t do well romantically either, and I KNOW that’s a qualification for manhood!

But there is something to it….I think a real man IS big and strong!
Ever hear this: No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help another. It takes a big man to show caring and compassion for his fellow man.

Similarly, I think a real man is a strong man, but genuine strength is not measured by how many push-ups you can do or how much weight you can bench press.
No, I believe a man is strongest when he knows the source of his strength and falls on his knees to seek God so he can be strengthened in the power of His might!

So what is the measure of a man? Is it by inches or by longevity? Is it about a legacy? Is it material or spiritual? All I know is I’m 70 years old, and I’m still trying to figure out who I am.

But I have learned this much: my true identity is in Christ. I am who He says I am. Nothing more or less. And that’s plenty good nuf.

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A resident of San Antonio since 1999, Gene has a ministry to the San Antonio Christian Community called Engage SA! that publishes the Engage! Christian Calendar each week. The publication is distributed to over 700 subscribers free of charge and is posted on the Engage SA! Facebook page where it may reach 1000 or more. Podcasts featuring Christian leaders in the community are also accessible through the Facebook page.