Myths about masculinity flourish in our culture due to their well-developed root system. If we want to stop these distortions that cause men such confusion and anger, they must be identified and addressed at their roots.
Today’s boys learn to be men primarily from dad’s example and mom’s instruction. Therefore the home is an important source of a boy’s understanding of masculinity. Due to divorce and misplaced priorities, many boys don’t spend much or any time with dad. The message they often “catch” is that achieving a successful career, financial security, and comfortable lifestyle are more important than God, marriage, children, and friends. Moms can indirectly affirm these messages by endorsing such misplaced priorities, or grooming their sons to be tough and hardened—to be the man of the house since dad’s not around.Another source of a boy’s understanding of masculinity is the media. When men aren’t portrayed as stoic machos or sleazy playboys, they’re often bumbling, spineless numbskulls—embarrassments to their wives, kids, and bosses. Can you think of a balanced, intelligent male, TV character who has integrity, conviction, and the respect of his family and community? Never underestimate how powerful these influences are, or how much they’ve influenced your view of masculinity, and never give family, society, or the media the final word about true masculinity. That belongs to Scripture.
Masculine mythologies affect our emotions. From their earliest years boys are warned against being sissies or crybabies. They’re encouraged to be tough. Displays of emotion, and often affection, are for girls. “Your sister can hug and kiss Grandpa,” many tough, World War II fathers said, “but you’re a man, so you just shake his hand.”
A friend of mine grappled with this myth when his best friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “When I found out about Eric’s condition,” he reflected, “I was calm and collected on the outside. I kept my emotions well hidden. But on the inside I was falling apart…I knew Eric was in for a struggle. I wanted to give him a hug and tell him I loved him. But I had all my years as a tough, strong man working against me. If Eric had been a girl, I wouldn’t have had a problem sharing my feelings…But since Eric was a man, everything inside me told me that is was inappropriate for me to express my affection to him.”
Fortunately Eric recovered and my friend was able to tell him face-to-face that he loved him. But he had to do some growing up before he was ready to do so.
Men, your emotions aren’t signs of weakness. They’re natural, normal human expressions. When you deny or suppress them you’re not being manly—actually just the opposite is true. Believe me, real men can and do cry!
The masculine stereotype demands that men are healthy, strong, and self-sufficient. Admissions of weakness are seen as contradictions of manliness. Yet listen to these findings by Dr. David Forrester: ·By age six, boys perceive themselves less vulnerable to illness and injury than girls.·Men experience more accidental injuries and coronary artery disease than women.·Men die more frequently than women from an array of respiratory illnesses.·A higher proportion of men suffer from physical limitations due to chronic conditions.·Men engage in more physical activities characterized by risk, aggression, and violence than do women.·The average women will outlive the average man by seven to eight years.·And yet, men see physicians less often, take fewer days off from work, and spend less time convalescing in bed than women!Men are expected to be rough-and-tumble, which exposes them to heightened potential for illness and injury. The expectation to be competitive and self-reliant discourages any admission of weakness or incapacitation. Therefore, countless men everyday deny their ailments, ignore medical care, and disregard time they need to recover from sickness and injury. Men, part of coming to terms with what it means to be a man requires coming to terms with your physical limitations and weaknesses. The myth that men are physically invulnerable is dangerous. Have you bought into this masculine stereotype?