The concept of manliness his vast meanings, there are whole websites devoted to the topics which will show men how to use a plunger or shave with a straight razor. Society says men should be macho or strong and to some extent emotionless (unless it’s anger). Any hint of attributes to the opposite are considered weakness. Even the phase “metrosexual” which was popular a few years ago was trying to get over this notion that men have to be neanderthals to be a “real” man.
Think of a movie with a man in it. What qualities does he have? Depending on the genre that you thought of, your man has certain qualities. Action movie, you have your Liam, your Arnold, your Sylvester with their muscles and disregard for authority cocky attitude. You went romantic comedy? You had your rugged attractive bad boy with a sensitive streak that he don’t show. You went Disney? You have your gallant prince who uses his might to destroy the evil forces. All of these guys are distant and use brawn over brains and usually cause conflict because of this (it would be a movie if there wasn’t conflict). The sensitive guys are relished to the sidelines or side kick or quirky neighbor roles.
This blog post is not just a critique of hollywood actors, I want to look at society view of manliness very the Christian understanding of it.
Lets start with the manliest guy of all time, Jesus. Jesus did get angry, but Jesus also showed other emotions too. He wept openly (John 11:35). Just listened to people, he healed them and he taught them. Jesus didn’t abuse his masculinity to lord it over people, he used to to connect to them. The perfect example of is when dealing with the woman caught in adultery, he had every right to stand up for the law and lead the charge to stone her, but he did not. He could have told the crowd, “listen to me, I know best”, but he did not. What did he do? He made one statement then squatted down on the dirt and wrote in the sand. That is a true man that leads by example and not by power.
Another example about Jesus was his fearless approach to the crucifiction. His defense of himself before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate. Both of which had “manly” men that wanted to uses their power and authority to persecute the weak. Though Jesus was fraile from the ordeal that he was going through we was anything but weak. He boldly told Pilate that authority comes from above and did not back down when questioned.
Look at the saints. Very few of them are warriors. They didn’t get to be saints by winning battles. They got to be saints by allowing himself to be weak and let God work through them. Society manliness is wearing the most trendy clothes, St. Frances shunned his fancy clothes in the town square. Society manliness is doing everything necessary to get the most money. The saints tried to live in poverty. All notions of hollywood manliness are put out by the saints. Real men don’t rely on their power to get people to listen to them through intimidation, real men meet people where they are and help them with the problem at hand.
Jesus manliness didn’t come from outside but from inside. He had a self determination that he exuded through his actions. Jesus didn’t need muscles or guns to show his authority he had all of his manliness inside of him. Christian men are called to live out this internal manliness. Manliness doesn’t come from outside. Designer jeans, bench pressing or growing a mustache will not make you more of a man. Standing up for your principles in the face of adversity when all of your friends have left you will. Standing up for the marginalized and following the example of the Jesus will.
I could write a whole book on this and many have been written about it so I will wrap up this topic for now, in pointing out that original man Adam was swayed from his convictions by the devil and lost all God had given him. Jesus was not swayed and took on the devil and won for all of mankind. That is true manliness.