Defining Manhood

Steve Arterburn

Tony’s father died when he was a young boy. The event devastated him, and he plummeted into a yearlong depression. He eventually pushed the depression aside, however, through his achievements. He poured himself into his schoolwork and athletics, and excelled in both. He went on to college and into business knowing nothing but success because of his commitment to hard work and achievement.

As a young man, Tony, somewhere deep inside him, asked himself, Am I a man? But he couldn’t come up with an answer. His father, the main man in his life, was dead. Young Tony didn’t know by example what a real man was. The question persisted: Am I a man? Without the example and instruction of his father, Tony saw the achievement-oriented men in his culture and deduced that a real man was someone who worked hard, earned lots of money, and climbed the ladder of success. Any threat to his achievement, therefore, was a threat to his manhood, and that kept him perpetually angry.

In his ignorance, Tony wrongly defined manhood as something he did, not something he was. Are you like Tony? Maybe you’re like many men who were abandoned physically or emotionally by their fathers. If your definition of masculinity is linked to doing something there’s a good chance you often don’t feel like a man. And if you’re a dad, I encourage you to reflect on what message your sending your kids on what it means to be a man.

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