Being A Man

Stephen Arterburn

It begins the minute we’re born, well before we’re aware of it. ‘Little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy-dog tails.’ As young boys, we love guns, tanks, racecars, and airplanes. And by the time we reach adulthood we’re thoroughly indoctrinated and well practiced in our culture’s expectations of what a man’s supposed to be’achievement oriented, assertive, autonomous, dominant, confident, practical, unemotional, and strong.

But here’s the problem, this is a lose-lose situation. If we fall short of the ideal, we’re wimps and failures; if we attain the ideal we’ve become a so-called ‘man’ at the expense of being a human being. Dr. Frank Pittman says this:

‘As a guy develops and practices his masculinity, he is accompanied and critiqued by an invisible male chorus of all the other guys who hiss or cheer as he attempts to approximate the masculine ideal, who push him to sacrifice more and more of his humanity for the sake of his masculinity, and who ridicule him when he holds back. The chorus is made up of all the guy’s comrades and rivals, all his buddies and bosses, his male ancestors and his male cultural heroes, his models of masculinity’and above all, his father, who may have been a real person in the boy’s life, or may have existed for him only as the myth of the man who got away.’

Guys, perhaps its time we rethink what it means to truly be a man!

Coping Without Father

Stephen Arterburn

Beneath the surface of many strong, seemingly together, male exteriors are frightened little boys who are still desperately searching for affirmation and validation as a man. If we’re going to be honest, we should admit that’s where a lot of men live today. Many of us are unsure of how to carry off the masculine role, so we hide our fears behind masks of strength because that’s what our fathers did. But when the fa’ade is threatened on the job or at home, the cornered little boy lashes out in anger.

Whether it’s due to divorce, addiction, overwork, or the widespread crisis of fathers who’ve abdicated their roles to others, many of us have, in a very real way, lost our fathers. That’s the source of a great deal of confusion, fear, and anger many of us feel.

If we’re to move forward and experience the redemptive possibilities of God in the future, we must face up to our past. As with any loss in life, a man who experiences a sense of loss in his relationship with his father must grieve. Without proper, healthy grieving the inner hurt is like an open sore’vulnerable to repeated pain and infection, and detrimental to future health.

And the greatest asset a hurting, angry man can have in this situation is a faithful, loving friend. That is, another man who’ll understand him and stand with him as he, with God’s help, rediscovers his masculinity.

True Identity

Kent Ernsting

Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? What have I been designed to do? What is my identity?

Perhaps the runaway success of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life indicates that incredible numbers of people are searching for the answers to those same questions. Every man battles with these same issues every day.

Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says ‘Identity is Destiny.’

Who we think we are determines who we become, our dreams for the future and how we go about making those dreams become a reality.

As young boys we are told to, ‘Be a man’ or ‘Act like men.’ But how does our culture define masculinity? Movies, media and athletes practically shout their answers to the question. Is the ultimate man John Wayne, solitary and heroic, who is never intimately connected to anyone? Or perhaps it is a James Bond kind of guy smart, suave and debonair. He has a bunch of one-night stands. The message is that sex, without connectivity, validates maturation and masculinity. Or perhaps it is a sports hero with glorified images of power and strength and athletic ability? Or perhaps manhood is all about money and power. Success is measured by net worth and your value as a man is based on the size of your bank account, your house, the car you drive, or the prestige of your job title.

These are all examples of false masculinity. There is no relational piece to it at all. Where does that whole setup leave us? Isolated and alone. Hiding who and what you really are. If you’re hiding your true identity then you can’t connect with anyone else.

These images of masculinity promise satisfaction but always disappoint. There’s a huge bait and switch going on here.

John 10:10 identifies who is behind the spirit of the age and points to the One who has the solution to this dilemma. ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

If men are to discover and live out their calling as men then we must uncover and embrace our God given identity. At the core of the crisis that men face is that we lose touch with our true identity. We lose the fascination with the story God wants to tell through our lives. The enemy of our soul is so enraged with the image of God that is reflected in you that he will hurl his mightiest weapons right at your soul. The thief is attempting to steal, kill, and destroy your identity, who God says you really are as a man. If he succeeds then he will render you spiritually impotent. He will kill your heart by watering down your true identity and slowly seducing you into living for a small god with shallow dreams.

With our identity stolen, we numb ourselves to escape this false identity by watching TV, surfing the Internet, or working too much. We struggle with pornography or creating fantasies or becoming workaholics. Men are bored.

What is our true identity? Genesis 1:26-27 tells us, ‘Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the bird of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

What did God have in mind when he created man? In the ancient near East the kings had a special advisor. The role of this advisor was to remind the king of his plans and to keep him on course. It is from the name of this adviser that we get our word ‘man.’ The Hebrew meaning of the word ‘man’ is ‘the remembering one who takes action.’ Men express God’s movement and action. Men ask, ‘Am I dangerous?’

God created men to uniquely move into chaos and mystery and have a vision for what it could be and create it. As men we can move into the uncertainty of circumstances that we don’t understand and cannot predict. We can move into the uncertainty of how people will respond to us. And having a vision for what our wives and children can become as image bearers we move into changing our generation. We move into leaving a legacy by embracing who we are and whose we are. We are faced with a choice today. Embrace your true identity or run from it.