Crisis of Manliness


Where do we start? As a pastor and an advocate for manhood – I have seen so many men asking – HOW DO I BECOME ONE?

In a recent small group discussion I have with our men in church – we found out that all of them came from homes with no fathers or the very least passive fathers who never lead. But we are blessed because we became part of a church community where many men exemplifies servant leadership and manhood in its truest essence – respecting and honoring their wife and leading their family well.

teddy+manlinessAs the recent book by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead confirmed, absent fathers are one of the strongest predictors of violence among young men in the United States, at least as important as poverty, lack of education, or minority status. The ease with which men of my baby-boomer generation have abdicated our roles as fathers is undoubtedly connected with feminism and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Boomers were told that we shouldn’t be hung up about providing masculine role models for children and should do whatever made us happiest, including escape an unsatisfying marriage. After all, to hold things together for the sake of the children would restrict both men and women to old-fashioned “patriarchal” responsibilities. The results of this hard, bright credo of selfishness are today’s under-fathered young men, many of them from broken homes, prone to identify their maleness with aggression because they have no better model to go by.

As men, we have to be vigilant in looking for male role models who would help us in our manliness. We cannot rely on what popular culture dictates to us – we have to dig deeper and surround ourselves with men of honor and integrity. Men who are tender warriors – they don’t pick fights but they know how to fight when a fight is called for.

Our culture is good at emasculating men. Some cultures are even trying to experiment on a genderless society. Imagine a society with no men and women only humans. It is not how we were created. Men and women were created for a specific purpose. Men and women are wired differently and to take gender or attack gender is to attack the divine design of God. No wonder we see so many men and women confused with their gender roles.

According to the regnant orthodoxy, men and women should have exactly the same kinds of capacities and ambitions. They should be equally interested in becoming tycoons, winning battles, driving tractors, and nurturing children. But this is not reality. In general, men don’t want to work in day-care centers or teach kindergarten, and women don’t want to be truck drivers or join the military. Moreover, women are far more likely than men to leave successful jobs to devote time to families, and women under 30 are more eager for lasting marriages and numerous children than women of their parents’ generation (doubtless yearning for what their parents denied them). We should recognize at last that, as long as women are guaranteed an equal opportunity to pursue whatever occupation they want, it does not matter that men and women on the whole still choose different vocations. Remaining injustices should be addressed by procedural liberalism, which has always brought the most solid progress. We should stop trying to reengineer the human soul to prevent boys from being boyish, while encouraging all forms of self-expression in girls.

All that 30 years of behavioral conditioning has done is drive maleness underground and distort it by severing it from traditional sources of masculine restraint and civility. The gurus of sensitivity have tried to convince men to become open, fluid, nonhegemonic, and genderless beings who are unafraid to cry. But little boys still want to play war and shoot up the living room with plastic howitzers, and we can’t give them all Ritalin. Psychologists have begun to express concern about our educational institutions’ readiness to pathologize what once would have been regarded as boyish high spirits — rough-housing, “hating” girls, locker-room language — and to treat ordinary immaturity with powerful drugs.

Society at large despises manly actions – this could be in due part because of men who have abused their roles as husbands and protectors of supposedly their family and the women in their lives. When men fail to man up, women swould step up the plate. And I thank God for women who have stepped up and fill the void of irresponsible men. Thus this blog is a challenge for men to MAN UP. This is not to say women can’t step up but we men have some catching up to do.

We have to go back in educating boys to be men rather than empower them to stay as boys forever. We don’t need more Peter Pans. We need a knight in shining armor, we need a warrior who would fight, we need a benevolent king who would lead. We need a man-friend.

The best way of convincing young men to treat women with respect is to educate them in the traditional virtues, which make it a disgrace to treat anyone basely, dishonestly, or exploitatively. Moreover, the surest way of raising young men to treat young women as friends rather than as objects for sexual exploitation is to appeal to their natural longing to be honored and esteemed by the young women to whom they are attracted. When our erotic attraction to another is properly directed, it leads us to cultivate the virtues of moderation, honesty, gratitude, and compassion that make us worthy of love in the eyes of the beloved. We try to be virtuous because we want to be worthy of being loved.

Quotations and ideas came from the article “The Crisis of Manliness” by Waller Newell. Read the whole article at