“Show yourself a man.”
The words of King David, final instructions to his son Solomon just before the old dying king left this world.
One might imagine him lofting a bony finger, beseeching his son to put on his big boy britches as he said, “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies.” -1 Kings 2:1-3
While the long arc of these 3000-year-old words should extend to modern man, the trend in our society is to shuck the old, stale ideals of manhood for the new and improved “Man of 2015.” With some wiggle room, the world is billboarding modern manhood to mean the svelte packages chocking the pages of GQ: rich, skinny-tie-wearing, five-o-clock-shadow-sporting, Victoria’s-Secret-model-toting, Maserati-driving, house-in-the-Hamptons-living, athlete, rock star, actor, doctor, lawyer, sports agent, financier, or other uber-trendy moguls.
Anything less, and you’re a failure.
The Most Interesting Man in the World does not sit at home and read books and giggle with his wife and check the blueberry pie in the oven. The Most Interesting Man in the World sips Dos Equis with two angel-faced fireballs and plays Jai Alai. This is the image of “man” that TV is burning into our minds.
Yet when we mine our cable channels for strong, moral men, sadly we discover that Andy Griffith and Ward Cleaver have gone on a long vacay. Men are largely portrayed in American entertainment as feeble, conflicted, weak, troubled, angry, ruthless, immoral, bumbling, stumbling, and incorrigible.
The gentleman has become a bore.
Atticus Finch? Yawn.
Lo, America needs a rebirth of men. A Renaissance of men.
A “Menaissance” if you will.
“But Al, what does that even mean?”
“How do I join that elite faction of species known as Men?”
Back in the olden days, we learned about manhood from our fathers, sponging from them the important concepts of life. They taught us how to bait a hook, throw a punch, field a ground ball, handle a gun, be on time, and knot a tie. With the recent trend of family disintegration, men have all too often tumbled into the ravine of absent father, aloof father, or indolent father. Many have oafishly fumbled the passing of the baton of manhood from one generation to the next. The exodus of the father from the family circle must be addressed, lest we ignore the repercussions of said absence.
It’s time for a Menaissance.
Alas, there’s the problem. If no one shows us how to be a man, how can we become a man? The aforementioned Bible verse operates on the presumption that King David already taught Solomon how to be a man; it was merely Solomon’s job to go out and execute it. David understood that the world will not churn boys out, factory-like, into gentlemen. This behavior must be modeled. Shown. Demonstrated. Taught.
Today, there is little consensus on what being a man means, because we have so confused true manhood, true gentlemanhood, with this sort of liquidy avatar of a man that pursues carnal desires and lusts of the flesh. Men are being pigeonholed into vodka-drinking playboys in blue-hued bars. We are revered more for our abs than our acumen. We have plenty of “gentleman’s clubs” but no gentleman’s schools.
In stark contrast, men who exhibit high moral standards and abstinence are often ridiculed and mocked as un-men.
But this avatar of worldly manhood is not the only thing that threatens the fruition of gentlemen. Other common misconceptions may endanger manhood as well. For just a moment, let’s take a look at a few:
1. Looking like a man does not make you a man
Walking around, you see manlike creatures all over the place. Muscled-up mortals with unshorn faces, beards flapping south of the collarbone. Can we say that many men concentrate more on looking like a man, in giving off the appearance of manhood, than they work toward actually being a man?
Sprouting a sick beard, wearing a flannel shirt, and axing lumber does not make you a man. And sorry, steroided muscles fighting with your Youth Medium Affliction t-shirt does not mean that you’ve achieved manhood. “ME BUY BIG TRUCK.” Sorry fella, that gentleman in the Ford Pinto may have bigger stones than you. Manhood is not realized by the application of cosmetics or physical bulk.
Manhood is defined more by what’s on the inside than what shows on the outside.
2. Manhood does not just “happen”
Manhood does not occur as a matter of course. Just because someone turns eighteen doesn’t mean they’ve breached the threshold of manhood. A boy does not become a man with the appearance of chest hair.
Manhood is defined by maturity and responsibility, not age.
3. Sorry Old Spice
Nor does manhood occur because one engages in “manly” activities. A man does not become a man because he kills a deer, eats a Manwich, showers with Old Spice, or dips Wolf Long Cut. Sure, there are activities in this world that help us channel our inner man. Fishing. Fixing an engine. Grilling a steak. These may be deemed male activities, but these activities don’t make us a man.
Manhood occurs by gentlemanly action, rather than manly activity.
4. Manhood is not measured by performance
Men often fall into the lie that manhood is defined by performance. Pressing 400 pounds, running a six-minute mile, batting .300, garnering Salesman of the Month status—our manhood should not be measured against these things, because performance is shaky.
You may strike out five times tomorrow. You may have a bad month.
Does that make you any less of a man?
Manhood is defined by the person that you are and strive to be, not your performance.
NEXT, WHAT IS OUR GOAL AS MEN?
Our goal is not to be average men. We have enough of those in the world. Our goal is to be exceptional men. Great men.
And what are the hallmarks of great men? There are many, but for these purposes, let’s outline four:
1. Great men do not run to comfort and convenience; great men face the storm.
As the American flag blows, the beautiful stripes of red are prominent. The red stands for “hardiness” and “valor.” President Reagan interpreted this to mean “courage and readiness to sacrifice.” Others believe that the red stands for the blood spilled by our soldiers in defense of freedom.
Regardless of the exact meaning, the spirit is the same: This country was not built by men who ran to comfort and convenience. This country was built by men who exhibited indomitable courage in the face of difficulty.
America has been protected and preserved by men, not who championed individualism and self-preservation, but rather by those who were more concerned about cause-perpetuation than self-perpetuation. Great men are not callow men who run for the sofa. Great men grab difficulty by the throat and head-butt the hell out of it.
2. Great men are not hiders. They expose darkness to the light.
Men are worn out from having to constantly project strength. Because the world is telling us to remain emotionless, not to cry, we internalize our difficulties and struggles. And we’re walking through life alone.
We refuse to seek counseling because counseling is for the weak. We refuse to go to the doctor, because we don’t want to admit we’re sick. We refuse to talk to anyone about our issues, that’s the sort of Kumbaya stuff for women and patsies.
We cannot be more wrong.
Real men “out” the inner sickness. Real men expose their darkness to the light. Real men are admitters of the fact that they are weak and need help. Real strength is found in humility, rather than a chest-forward, bottled up approach to life.
3. Great men protect relationships.
Biblically speaking, a man’s role as head of the household does not start and end with protection from physical harm. Men, by nature, are protectors, and our families should be our prized possessions. Like a precious ring, we protect our families by creating safe environments within our home, free from mental and physical abuse. The home is where a wife and child should feel safe. Therefore, we do not exasperate our children. We love our wives.
We must remain alert to the myriad magnets of distraction that threaten to pull us away from our loved ones. We must be careful that our egos remain in check, especially when we look to validate ourselves outside of the confines of our house.
4. Great men live by a set of Godly principles.
Great men have a set of moral principles by which they live, and they are careful that these principles have a proper basis. Hitler had principles, albeit evil and destructive.
A recent trend toward out-of-thin-air construction of moral code, while sounding good, may instead be flowing with narcissism and self-idolatry if lacking in sacred root.
By giving deference to the opinions of fallible man, by universalizing our experiences to the level of absolute truth, we have stolen truth out of the hands of Almighty God. Often, we hang our moral codes on the lean of society. Our belief system sways with trends. We experience, and we make the mental jump that our experience applies to all people. (I went to California two years ago and loved it. I’m certain someone went to California one time and hated it. The point is that my experience isn’t always absolute truth.)
Great men follow God, because great men recognize His omniscience and faultless wisdom. Great men understand that there is a power of authority that reigns over us. Great men seek wisdom from the heavens and allow God to rule over their affairs. Great men understand that there is a moral bloodstream pumping through the hearts of mankind that has as its DNA the Creator of the Universe.
Yes. It’s high time we had ourselves a Menaissance. We don’t need anymore measly, gutless, sedentary men. We don’t need bumbling buffoons and couch potatoes. We don’t need dullards, cretins, scoundrels, pansies, or rubes.
We need great men. We need men of strong moral fiber. Character.
We need gentlemen. 78