Stephen Arterburn

Cultural expectations concerning what a man should be and how a man should act often leaves him feeling unsure about his societal role in general. But, how might this affect the way men relate to women in particular?

Many men who succeed in conforming to the masculine stereotype for too long stand in danger of developing what psychologists call ‘mascupathology.’ Don’t be frightened by this high-sounding term. It’s not difficult to understand. What it describes is the extreme trouble some ‘macho’ types have getting comfortable with women. These men are tense and on guard, and can’t let down their masculine edge. They’re so intent on displaying their gender before the opposite sex that they can’t seem to be friends with women, even their sisters, daughters, and wives.

This isn’t all that rare. I’m sure many of you listening today struggle at some level with ‘mascupathology.’ If you’ve found that my description sounds a bit like you, I encourage you to make a change both, for your sake and the sake of the female loved ones in your life. Begin by understanding the cultural myths of masculinity that may be blocking you from addressing some of your basic emotional needs. If you fail to grasp the conflict between myth and reality with regard to your masculinity, you’ll never be able to get to the cause of your anger and discomfort. I’ll be talking at length about these myths in the days ahead.

More Than A Mother’s Love

Stephen Arterburn

Mothers undoubtedly make tremendous contributions to their sons’ mental, emotional, and social development. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find an adult son who doesn’t love and appreciate his mother immensely for it. But a boy’s successful development requires the substantial, positive, masculine influence of a father or male mentor. For only a man can teach a boy how to be a man. Dr. Frank Pittman, a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of men, says this:

‘A mother may give her son booming self-esteem, may imbue him with a wonderful sense of his specialness, but she can’t have expertise on what he as a man is to do with the masculine specialness. Mothers, no matter how wise and wonderful, can only point boys in certain directions, but boys need fathers to show them how far they should go’It’s hard to imagine how we can raise a better generation of sons until we have a better generation of fathers.’

Many people think a father’s weak or missing influence in the life of a growing son can be compensated for by feminine influence. Ultimately, this isn’t the case. Growing up as a male with a female as primary mentor can lead to at least some degree of role confusion. When a young boy’s self-concept isn’t shaped by the man in his life, he’s bound to have trouble understanding his own masculinity in a healthy way, and be anxious and frustrated as a result.

You Are What You Do

Stephen Arterburn

Have you ever listened to men introduce themselves to each other?
‘Hi, I’m Jack.’
‘Good to meet you, Jack. I’m Ken.’
‘What do you do, Ken?’
‘I’m Senior Manager at Wilson’s Hardware in town. And you, Jack?’
‘I’m Chief Engineer with Allied Electronics.’

One of the primary myths of masculinity is that a man’s identity is based upon what he does and accomplishes, principally in his job or career. That’s why men meeting each other share names and professional titles in the same breath! That’s also why men are despondent, sometimes even suicidal, when their businesses fail, or when they don’t get the promotion they desired.

Our culture has trained men to view their accomplishments, especially in the realm of employment, as a credential for manhood. Many of us think that if we fail at what we do, we’ve failed at being a man.

The epitome of the ‘you-are-what-you-do’ syndrome among today’s men is the workaholic. Workaholics embody this masculine myth. But in neglecting loved ones and denying their own personhood, they become less than real men.

In reality, a man’s identity is based on who he is apart from what he does. That is, who he is as defined by his relationship to Jesus Christ’a relationship that can only begin and flourish when received by faith, not achieved by works. In Christ, men, we’re significant and valued, even when our doings don’t turn out as hoped and planned.