What is a Real Man?

   The idea of masculinity is complex and often paradoxical. It is not a one size fits all kind of thing. A blanket statement cannot be made to define what is masculine and what is not. Men are unique and different from one another. Throughout this article, I will present two extreme examples of masculinity and then attempt to nail down a Biblical definition of masculinity that takes the positives from both extremes but meets somewhere between the two.

The first extreme definition of masculinity would be the macho-man, the man who is scared by nothing, gets every girl he wants, and whose physique is comprised of more muscle mass than most men could ever dream of attaining: for instance, Indiana Jones.

The extreme definition of masculinity on the other end of the spectrum is the man who is passive, afraid, and more content to sit in his corner of the world, hiding from everyone and everything that could ever threaten him in order to maintain the status quo: for instance, Walter Mitty from the children’s story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Aragorn from The Lord of The Rings is an example of a man who is somewhere in between these two extremes. There are elements of both ends of the spectrum that are present in Aragorn while there are other elements of Aragorn’s character that are not revealed in either of the extreme examples.

While these three men are fictional, there is a lot to be learned about true masculinity from examining each of their motives and actions.

    Craig Wilkinson, who is an author, speaker, and founder of the nonprofit Father a Nation (FAN), says that there are three key components that drive men to make decisions and take action.

  1. Men need a battle to fight.

  2. Men long for an adventure to live.

  3. Men search for a beauty to pursue.

    For the Indiana Jones’s of the world, the battle is any battle they can find. These men seek out the battles, they look for any chance they can to get into a little scuff in order to assert their dominance and show everyone that they are in control. This man takes pride in his conquests, be they great or small, and finds much of his identity in the extent of his victories. The thrill of the hunt and the exhilaration of dominating over others drives this man to action.

    The adventure that this man longs to live is one that is dangerous, daring, and full of near death experiences. Fear is not something that this man even talks about, let alone feels. This man leaves little to no time for emotions because he sees no use for them in his daring exploits.

    The beauty that this man searches for is not just one, but any beauty that crosses his path. He does not place high value on commitment or relational intimacy. He boasts of sexual conquests because that is where he finds his manhood. His masculinity is not manifested in true intimacy. It is manifested in how many women he can take to bed and how often he can do it.

    Now, obviously this an extreme example. The fictional character of Indiana Jones possesses overly accentuated attributes for the sake of entertainment and to convey the themes of his movies. This man finds his identity in the fact that emotions are not valid, fear should not be felt, and if there is not an adventure to pursue, then life is meaningless and not worth living.

    While the second extreme example of masculinity, Walter Mitty, also wants to find meaning in life, his life is characterized by passivity. Walter Mitty sits around all day and loses himself in daydreams of things that he wishes he could do. However, he is not a man of action. He is not present in the moment and fails to see the value in what is going on around him. Further, he doesn’t take a stand for things that he believes in or attempt to make his dreams reality. The passive man shies away from danger. He refuses to fight battles he needs to fight when the time comes to do so. And he is too busy fantasizing to actually pursue true intimacy.

    Taking action is good and healthy in the right context. Also, dreaming is healthy and productive in the right context. But there seems to be something missing from both of these men. The Indiana Jones man does not empathize with others or know how to settle down and be content. The Walter Mitty man does display more empathy but doesn’t take action at the appropriate times.

    I brought up the example of Aragorn previously because he displays healthy attributes of both extremes but combines those attributes with others that aren’t present in either of the others. Unlike Walter Mitty, Aragorn is a man of action. He fights battles that are his to fight, but unlike Indiana Jones, he doesn’t live every day seeking the next battle. He only fights against evil. He fights to protect those he loves. At the same time, he displays empathy and the ability to sit down and have meaningful conversations. He shows care and concern for others.  

Aragorn is willing to go on an adventure when one presents itself, but does not spend his days consumed with the idea of the next wild experience. Aragorn pursues his beauty, Arwen, but develops true, deep relational intimacy with her.

    Now let us tie all of this together. We can definitely learn things about masculinity from observing Indiana Jones, Walter Mitty, and Aragorn. However, it may be somewhat difficult to apply these fictional examples to real life. Additionally, all of these men are human, and therefore flawed. The only perfect man to ever walk the Earth was Jesus. Jesus was fully man, yet fully God. He never made a mistake. What can we learn from Jesus regarding masculinity? I would say quite a bit.

    Jesus embarked on the greatest adventure anyone ever could. He traveled from the eternal perfection of heaven to the imperfect, temporal Earth. No other man has ever done that. The most important thing about this adventure, is that Jesus did not embark on it for Himself only, he did it for us; for his children; that he might rescue us and bring us back to himself. It is not wrong for men to pursue adventure. It isn’t healthy for men to sit idly by, however, as life passes by them. When men pursue an adventure, it should be not just for themselves, but also for the benefit of others.

    Jesus absolutely had a battle to fight and he fought it with intense dedication. His battle is not of this world, but while he was a man, it included physical elements. He came to defeat death, sin, and Satan. In order to do so, he chose to take our place and die for the the sin that is rightly ours to die for. He was ridiculed, tortured, humiliated, he bled, and he hung nailed to a cross, all for the sake of fighting a battle, that again, was not for him. He came to earth, died, descended to hell, and rose again, all for the sake of his people. That they might be washed clean of sin and be reunited with him for eternity.

Men should not fight battles for selfish gain. Men should not fight battles for the thrill of the fight. Men should be committed to defending and coming to the aid of the weak; the widows, orphans, elderly, and poor. Men should fight to live with integrity. Men should give of themselves to support their churches, families, and communities. We do have a battle to fight, but it is not a battle of selfish gain or earthly motivation. It is a battle to know Jesus, be like Jesus, and be Jesus to the world. That is probably the hardest battle any man will ever fight.

Finally, Jesus pursued his beauty with the most radical love imaginable. His beauty, his bride, is the church, the body of believers all around the globe. Jesus laid down his life to rescue his bride. He sacrificed everything that his beauty might be his forever and experience eternal splendor with him. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Men are wired to pursue their beauty, but this pursuit should be one of self-sacrificial love that champions the woman, fights for her, and cherishes her forever.

Men, you have been given the longing for adventure, the desire for battle, and the yearning for a beautiful woman for a reason. What will you do with them?

Alan Terry is a Sophomore at Bryan College studying Biblical Studies and Business. This is his first year as a member of the Worldview Initiative. Some of Alan’s hobbies include playing piano, writing poetry, eating, and getting lost in the mountains.