by Markous Kelp, Resonate Pullman

Whether aggressive and toxic or passive and dismissive, masculinity is an idea that has been thoroughly misrepresented since the fall of man. What started as a holy, self-sacrificing, God-designed leadership command meant for blessing and flourishing has turned into a broken, self-serving, man-designed system of manipulation and pain.

We see it everywhere in today’s world. From the man who keeps going when his partner says no, to the man who stands idly by as someone is assaulted (verbally or physically); from the man who routinely interrupts his female coworker, to the man who isn’t willing to take responsibility for his own actions, there is clearly a problem. However, to overcome this problem, we must first understand what masculinity was meant to be.

Men as people

As men, we have been lied to for a long time. We have been told we have to be tough, both emotionally and physically. In many cases, this has led men to be emotionless, empty people that are incapable of caring about or for those around them. This idea has also led many men (myself included) to find their identity or self-worth in how physically strong they are. Both of these ideas - which stem from an inaccurate understanding of what true toughness/resilience is - are rooted in a deep sense of insecurity. We feel the need to overcompensate for the shortcomings and hurt that we have. It is up to us to examine our motivations and be willing to confront the hurt that we’ve experienced and not mask it by portraying a persona of “toughness.” Further, we must live into true resilience: showing emotional vulnerability and growth, admitting our weaknesses and seeking to grow in them, and having steadfastness in the face of adversity.

Men as Christians

There is an even higher calling on those of us who call Jesus, Lord. The Bible says to “submit yourselves to one another, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21). It’s easy for us as men to apply this verse just to other men, but it also has to do with how we treat women. Submit means
“to be open to the influence of.” Therefore, we should be open to the influence of both Christian men and Christian women in our lives.

As Christians, we should be leading those around us to the knowledge of who Christ is. As men, it may be tempting to view this as an opportunity to impose our own ideas and values upon those whom we are leading, whether male or female. But we must submit to our ultimate leader, Jesus, who exemplified sacrifice and humility rather than arrogance and fighting for his own way (Philippians 2:1-11).

When we see submitting to one another as an opportunity to glorify God in our workplaces and our friendships, it can radically change the way the world perceives us as followers of Christ.

Men as husbands

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). This is one of the most beautifully tangible examples of the sacrifice that Christ paid on our behalf. Just as Christ gave of himself, to the point of death, so should husbands surrender their lives for their wives. Your life is no longer your own, and that is a beautiful thing because it was never intended to be. You have been instructed to lay down your life for your wife, but this doesn’t look every day like giving up your physical life.

It looks like being present when you come home when you’d rather check out after a long day. It looks like you cleaning up after yourself and not expecting your wife to do it because it’s a “domestic” chore. It looks like valuing the words and ideas and dreams of the woman you married, not being dismissive as if what she wants means less than what you want. When you sacrifice your desires and treat your wife selflessly, you make it easier for her to respond to you out of love and respect.

Men as fathers

If you intend to bring your children up in the Lord, you must first seek to understand them. They are a unique person with unique gifts and skills and desires. They are not a cookie that you get to cut yourself; instead, they are a sculpture being formed constantly by the Father, and you’re just a tool He can use to help the process. Don’t hurt the process. Join God in the formation of your children, and discover all that God has in store for them. Don’t declare “for I know the plans I have for them.” Let God make that declaration over them (since He already has).

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The latter part of this verse has been used to excuse tyrannical overlords as “good fathers” because they proclaim to be teaching their children about holiness. The reality is, they are teaching their children what it looks like to keep their mouths shut and not think for themselves. I have heard far too many times “a child is to be seen not heard” or “you have to listen to me because I’m the parent.” Instead, you should take the effort to actually teach your child and help them understand what is good. But in the instances when you must make decisions for your child that they don’t understand, your motive must be their best interests not your own. And when you enforce these things, you must do so in a gentle rather than authoritarian manner.

The opposite isn’t helpful either. The more prevalent storyline seems to be the dad who creates a child and then decide he doesn’t want the responsibility or the time sink. Being a father is more than just being a sperm donor. Your children, no matter the circumstance, are people that will one day grow up to be men and women of their own. Be present. Research shows that the absence of a father or father-figure in the life of a child increases their risk of a negative developmental trajectory. You may not think you’re qualified or capable of being a dad. Heck, I had a kid on purpose and still felt that way when I held my son for the first time. But your presence, not just physically but also emotionally, will give your child the absolute best chance at being successful in life.

None of this sounds easy, does it? That’s because being a man was never intended to be easy. Adam took the easy way when he blamed Eve for the fall instead of taking responsibility. But when the two existed in relationship with God and each other absent of sin, it was perfect. It was submission and sacrifice perfectly illustrated every day. Through the sacrifice of Christ, we can taste little parts of it when men and women both honor God in the ways they were created and step fully into the design He intended. Will it be perfect, no. Will you fail, absolutely. Will you try and take the easy way out, probably. But to choose to walk the way a man of God should walk will be the greatest legacy you could leave this Earth with. Fight the good fight, finish the race.