What makes a man?
Is it his love for sports or his depth of knowledge about music? Or is it his six-pack of chiseled abs? Is it found in his pursuit of respect or in the salary of his job?
I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time, but each time I’ve tried to unload my thoughts, hundreds of little fears spill out and scream, “Who are you to say anything about this?”
But for the past five months I’ve worked in an environment that’s highly populated by males. And as I’ve witnessed some of their passive and inappropriate behaviors, I’ve decided being 6’2″ with a resounding bass voice and a beard down to your chest has nothing to do with it.
I’ve been told the weight of a woman’s words can sink or swim a man, so I say this lovingly and not a bit too lightly: Guys, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for the ridiculous expectations our society puts on you to wear a tough exterior and to bring home more money than your female counterparts and to care at least an ounce about sports and hunting and cars.
I’m sorry for the ways women use their words to tear you down—to tell you you’re scum or that you’re useless. I am so, so sorry.
But I’m even more sorry for the inordinate number of ways you’ve been let off the hook.
I’m sorry that we, as a society, and as women who have been made in the same Image as you, have not expected more from you who call yourselves men.
Because the other day when my friend November asked me what I want in a man, I could more easily pinpoint from past relationships what I don’t want.
The examples who came to mind were passive boys who were too afraid to speak their minds.
They were guys who took and never gave, who cared more about the fancy truck they drove than the state of my mental and physical purity.
They were boys who wanted to be men, but who walked away because it was the easy thing to do. They avoided confrontation and never stopped to listen.
Some of them spent more time in front of the TV than in time with their heavenly Father and others spent more time playing with my heart instead of pursuing it.
They weren’t men. They were just boys who could shave.
And I don’t resent any of my times with them, because I’ve learned so much from how they treated me and not all of it was bad. And because I was just a girl who didn’t know what she was doing either.
But I still couldn’t answer November’s question.
Until the other day when I found the answer here. I’m still not a woman with all the answers, and I don’t understand completely what it’s like to stand in the shoes of a boy or a man in today’s world.
But I do understand how our culture crumbles when there are more boys running around than there are men, and I’ve seen how detrimental this pandemic can be to a church or a community or a home.
So I say this lovingly and not a bit too lightly: Boys, we need you to be men. We need you to pursue and provide and protect. And as souls made in the likeness of the Crafter of Heaven, we need you to “love the way Christ loves the church.”
You don’t owe it to anyone, but whether it’s as the CEO of a Fortune 500 or as an artist who struggles to make ends meet, it’s been built into your DNA to cultivate order and to leave things better than you found them.
Like Adam, who was carefully placed in Eden “to work it and keep it,” you’ve been carefully and intentionally placed in your world to pursue life and order and to fight against the urge to be inactive and silent.
We need you to be men. And that means doing the right thing instead of turning a blind eye and doing it without the expectation of praise.
We need you to be men. And that means enriching the lives around you in the ways you choose your conversations wisely and use your words to encourage and equip.
When I think of men in my life, I think of my friends like Zack and Bobby and Colton, who aren’t afraid to pick up the phone or a pen and paper just to ask me how I am.
And I think of Jimmy and Will and Chandler who are careful with their words and who fill their speech with grace and season it with salt.
When I think of men in my life, I think of my dad, who has sacrificed and provided for my family when detaching at times would have been easier instead, I’m sure.
And I think of the ways the men in my life have deliberately cared for the souls around them even when it meant taking both feet out of their comfort zones first.
My friend Jon once said, “Pursuit is the opposite of passive,” and I think he’s onto something.
Because I don’t think Eve would have stepped toward that tree to begin with if Adam had been pursuing and loving her the way Jesus loves and pursues us.
We need you to take initiative, to do the right thing instead of just avoiding the wrong. We need you to spend more time with the Lord than with your favorite Netflix series or at the gym.
We need you to provide, and I don’t just mean monetarily.
Society’s the only one telling you to make more money than your wife or other female colleagues, and you’re certainly not less of a man if you don’t.
We need you provide in the ways you foster depth and growth in the lives around you. Whether you’re a wallflower or the center of attention, “you’re always cultivating something.”
So what are you cultivating? Are you the man who gives or a boy who takes? Because Jesus didn’t die for you to leave things worse than you found them.
I think being a man means doing the hard things for others—not because they can’t, but because Jesus did it first and you’re to be like Him.
I think being a man means taking good care of yourself so when it comes to taking care of others, you’ll be well prepared. And it means equipping the boys in your life to do the same.
Boys can change tires and pay bills, while men will change dirty diapers at 4 a.m. and hold their daughter’s hair back from her face when she gets sick in the middle of the night.
Men will wrestle gracefully through hard conversations, mindful of the other souls involved. Men are the ones who face the uncomfortable for the sake of those around them, because they’re made in the image of the One who faced hell so they wouldn’t have to.
Life as a man involves going last and taking a hit or two or 20 for the girl, and it means sacrificing personal comfort because Jesus sacrificed for the church.
Life as a man doesn’t mean being the perfect hero, though.
Because just as Adam failed to protect and pursue and provide in the garden, you’ll find failure even in your best attempts, and I’m here to tell you that it’s okay.
Because you have a Father who completes you in your weakness, whose sufficiency is more than enough when you’re not, and who says, “I’ll make a man out of you as I bring the good work I’ve started in you to completion.”
It’s not a woman or five kids or a diesel truck that makes you a man; it’s Christ himself.
And whether your facial hair constitutes as peach fuzz or a five o’clock shadow, you’re called to be a man and to reflect the perfect masculinity of Jesus in the ways you treat and speak to others.
Because right now there are too many boys running around calling themselves men simply because there’s a razor in their shower.
(Oh, and women, men need our help. They need our words of encouragement and our responses of patience and humility. They have too many sources telling them they’re not enough or that they’re barely getting by.
So instead of kicking them while they’re down, let’s use our words wisely to praise them when they exhibit godly masculinity and encourage them to be men when it would seem easier to act as boys.)