Men today are bamboozled about maleness. Men question, should they be strong, masculine leaders or should they be softer, more feminine? Our society is now full of “gentle” men. Unfortunately many are very unhappy. Men’s encounter groups are springing up all over the world to help men deal with their intense sadness. Men are beating drums, dancing war dances and participating in extreme sporting events to recapture their manhood. Are you confused about your manhood? What is true manhood anyway? This article will help you answer these vitally important questions.
Unfortunately, as writer Robert Bly puts it, we now live in the age of the “soft male.” In the early ’90s, he expressed his concerns about American men in a book titled, Iron John. Although I do not agree with some of his methods for handling the problems about the American male, I can agree with some of his observations.
Mr. Bly wrote: “The male in the past 20 years has become more thoughtful, more gentle …. He’s a nice boy who pleases not only his mother but also the young woman he is living with ….
“But many of these men are not happy. You quickly notice a lack of energy in them. They are life preserving but not exactly life-giving. Ironically, you often see these men with strong women who positively radiate energy.
“Here we have a finely tuned young man, ecologically superior to his father, sympathetic to the whole harmony of the universe, yet he himself has little vitality to offer” (Iron John).
Today, many men, young and old, do not understand what it means to be a man. Many are perplexed on how to behave in marriage, in the family or in society. To put it simply, men are suffering from serious gender confusion.
Our Upside-Down Society
What has caused this confusion in men?
The women’s movement has led the pack in creating new sex roles for both men and women. Having almost complete access to a liberal press and television, the feminist movement has wielded considerable influence over the massive social changes taking place the last several decades. The traditional roles for men—leader, husband, father, provider and protector—have become the focal point of criticism and ridicule in newspaper articles, books, movies and tv sitcoms. The “Dagwood” cartoon is a perfect example of such ridicule. Mr. Bumstead is portrayed as a bumbling idiot who must always be bailed out by a bright, intelligent—always on target—wife.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote this about our current social values: “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding” (Isaiah 29:15-16). Isaiah criticizes our leaders—the men and women who influence our culture—by showing they are guilty of turning things upside down. “Upside down” is an apt description of our society and its values. It is a perfect description of many of today’s marriages and families. The new roles carved out for men and women today are not as God designed them to be.
But, the feminist movement does not share all of the blame for the plight of today’s men. There are several other conditions that are contributing to our “soft male” syndrome. The truth is, men have had their own part in creating this problem.
Women Rule Over Them
The majority of today’s families are suffering from absentee fathers. Because of selfishness, either in career pursuits or just plain pleasure seeking, many men are shunning their responsibilities at home. How many fathers have allowed themselves to become mere shadows in the family? Think about this scenario: Tonight, how many homes will have a father either sleeping on a couch or absorbed in a sports program on tv, while the wife is disciplining, instructing and nurturing the children–alone? Far too many!
Men are capitulating their role as leader, energizer and influencer to their wives. Our sons (and daughters) are growing up without a father actively involved with and guiding their young lives. Many wives have been forced to be both father and mother. Today’s sons are growing up under a heavy feminine influence. Many men have become soft because they are not being properly taught how to be men.
Let’s consider one other factor contributing to the effect of “soft males.” Our high divorce rate has produced a large number of female-dominated, single parent families. In other words, too many sons are growing up without any male role model in the home. Isaiah also wrote of our time, “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isaiah 3:12). Think about this scripture. God holds heavy criticism for our modern society.
God is upset with all men who allow children to oppress and women to rule. But is God upset with just the men? Who else is at fault? Certainly a large share of the blame rests with today’s women. We live in a female-dominated society. God says that this is definitely in error. Do we see the problem? Men have given up their leadership role and women have cheeringly accepted it. The result? The family is falling apart.
Combine all of these factors together—the feminist movement, the media ridicule of men, the lack of strong male role models, female-dominated families—and it becomes easy to see why we have “soft males” that must turn to mother for help when they face a crisis!
Although some thinking people recognize the weaknesses in today’s men, they do not realize the somber consequences if the problems are not corrected quickly. Robert Bly feels that men are just experiencing another saga in our evolution. But man is not a product of evolution. We cannot evolve our way out of society’s tragic problems.
All too often, society’s wrong values can creep into the Church. As men in God’s Church, we must not be confused about manhood. We must live faithfully according to God’s revealed knowledge about men and the role we must play in marriage, in family and in society. Our society no longer knows how to value real manhood. Many men are suffering great unhappiness as a result. It is time we recapture value in true manhood.
The Man Is the Head
God designed men and women to function a certain way for a tremendous spiritual purpose. God reveals in Genesis, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27). God’s supreme purpose is for men and women to be born into His own spirit-family. God planned this physical life to be the training ground for that eternal life. To qualify to live for eternity, men and women must first live as God devised physically.
Modern men and women have rejected God’s revealed knowledge concerning the unique sex roles for men and women. A global disaster is about to strike this planet as a result. All mankind must learn to live as God intended. Humanity will never be happy until they live according to God’s revealed purpose. What does God reveal about His intended role for men?
Recently I saw a public television program where a scientist was explaining that the female evolved first. That piece of information does not square with your Bible. Paul instructed Timothy, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). God created Adam first. Why? Was it because he was better? No. Adam was created first because God intended that he be the head or leader of the family. Paul explained to the Ephesians, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). The man’s God-ordained role as leader of the family is markedly evident throughout the Bible. Paul stated it this way to the Corinthians: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). What does Paul mean when he uses the word head?
In these two verses Paul used the Greek word kephale for head. The Strong’s number for this word is 2776. Thayer’s shows that this word means, “anything supreme, chief, prominent, of persons, master lord … of a husband in relation to his wife.” In today’s language, we could use the word president, chancellor, prime minister, king or captain in place of head. In other words, Paul taught that Adam was given seniority over Eve. By extension then, married men hold seniority over their wives.
It is also interesting to note that kephale indicates that the headship must be seized, or taken hold. Where do most men fail today? How did Adam fail? Adam failed by not taking hold of or seizing his God-given authority. Study for yourself the incident in Genesis 3. Although Bible scholars and today’s educators see Adam and Eve’s story as an allegory, we must see it as divine revelation. Chapters 1 and 2 make it clear that Adam was the appointed leader, the one in charge. Eve was to be his helper (Genesis 2:18). But who took charge? Eve. She ate of the wrong tree and led Adam to do so. Adam sinned by eating of the wrong tree. However, he was not deceived into eating (1 Timothy 2:14). He allowed Eve to lead him into this sin. Adam allowed Eve to make the decision. By following Eve, he disobeyed God’s direct command to him alone (Genesis 2:16-17). Eve had not been created yet. Adam should have taught her God’s command. Who committed the greater sin? Clearly it was Adam.
Christ the Perfect Example
Some men are failing today in marriage and in their family life because they will not take hold of or seize their God-ordained authority. Some men prefer that women assume the role of leader and decision maker. This is a serious sin before God. Paul wrote, “But I suffer not a woman … to usurp authority over the man …” (1 Timothy 2:12). Men must be careful not to fall into Adam’s sin. Women must learn not to repeat Eve’s sin. The lesson from Genesis is a tough one. When a man is weak or when a woman commandeers a man’s authority, tragic events take place. Children suffer the most. Genesis records Adam and Eve’s tragic family problems that arose as a result of their sin. Remember, their firstborn son killed his brother. Adam and Eve’s decision to reject God’s revealed knowledge has brought much suffering into the life of mankind ever since.
There is another side to men’s problems with leadership. Those willing to lead have not known how to lead! When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they began to decide for themselves what was right and wrong. Cut off from God’s revelation, men have been experimenting with their authority ever since. Since Adam’s time, most men have been trying to decide for themselves what leadership means. History is full of examples of wrong leadership. In past ages, men made women slaves—mere property. Even today, some men expect their wives to fulfill their every whim. Over time, men have been despotic tyrants, dictators and absolute rulers who abuse power. This is not as God intended. If a man is considered a king, then his wife is the queen. Although a man and woman do not share equal authority, they shouldbe equal in dignity. In our modern times, too many women and wives have been physically and verbally abused. God is going to severely punish men for committing such crimes. How then should a man “seize” his authority?
Jesus Christ is the perfect example. Men should lead their wives as Christ leads the Church. Paul’s statement to the Ephesians is worth repeating here. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). How does Christ lead the Church? He leads it by love and service! Men should lead their wives and families by loving and serving them. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (verse 25). A man who is Christ-like in his marriage will exhibit outgoing concern for his wife and her welfare. It is true that a woman was created to be a man’s helper. But a husband who understands what it means to be a leader will lovingly serve his wife’s and family’s needs.
Paul wrote the Colossians, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19). God’s Church has needs. Christ takes care of those needs in love. A husband who has Christ’s character is kind, considerate, affectionate and giving. He does not treat his wife with bitterness or resentment.
As head of the Church, Christ leads by saving it. Christ rescues, saves and helps the Church. A husband should also be a type of savior toward his wife. Jesus Christ has so much love for the Church that He willingly gave Himself for it as the supreme sacrifice. Jesus Christ gives instead of trying to get. The husband, as a leader, must follow Christ’s example.
As a type of savior, husbands have been given an exalted position. We should not let that go to our heads. With this position comes grave responsibility. In referring to leadership, Christ taught the disciples, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). A husband must have the attitude of a servant toward his wife and family. Jesus Christ said this of Himself, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus Christ did not “lord it over” the disciples. He does not “lord it over” the Church. He served the disciples and now serves the Church. Men should not “lord it over” their wives.
Many men have trouble with the words submission and authority. Some have fallen into the trap of thinking that they must make all of the decisions all of the time. Jesus Christ does not even do this with the Church (Matthew 16:19). God designed women with the capacity to help their husbands in the decision-making process. There are many times when a wife’s input is necessary. There may be times when a husband and wife will disagree. This does not mean that the wife is rebellious. However, both husband and wife should realize that Christ has given final authority in the decision-making process to the man. Men must use wisdom and outgoing concern when making decisions.
A husband must set the example in Christian character as well. Men must set the example in prayer, Bible study and fasting. Men should set an example of submission and obedience to God’s government in the Church (Hebrews 13:17). Men should set the pace of serving in the Church.
Some men in God’s Church are married to nonbelievers. These men have a special opportunity to set an example for their wives. Paul taught the Corinthians, “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Unfortunately, God’s ministers have had the opportunity to talk with some women, not in the Church, who have some very upsetting stories to tell concerning their “converted” husbands. Just because a wife is not in the Church doesn’t mean a husband has free reign to do as he pleases. A man who lives with a nonmember mate must be even more careful to act like Christ.
A husband must provide for his wife. In other words, he must rescue, help and save his wife physically. Every man naturally sees to his own needs. He must provide for hers as well. Paul instructed the Ephesians, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Ephesians 5:28-29). If we truly cherish our wives, we will see that they are nourished and taken care of physically. Paul wrote Timothy, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). In comparison to a woman’s body, a man’s body and cell structure was designed to handle hard physical labor. Men were designed to be the providers.
As men, we should be hardworking so that we can provide for the needs of our wives and family. Our society is full of men who are just too lazy to work. Too many men are on the take. They are leaving it to the government or other family members to provide for their families. Many women today are working outside of the home because their husbands are not. Those of us in God’s Church must be careful that we do not fall into that category.
Yes, economically it is very difficult today. Some families’ needs require that both husband and wife work. If there are small children at home, if at all possible, the wife should not work. Whether a wife works or not is a serious decision. Discussing this situation with a minister could be helpful. If a wife goes to work because a husband will not, God says that man has “denied the faith, and is worse then an infidel.” That is a very serious condemnation. What should a man do if he loses his job? He should work eight hours a day to get another job! Until he finds a job, he should also be willing to work several part-time jobs. What if a man cannot find a job in his area of training? He should seek the proper education or retraining to obtain a job. Having a good work ethic is a large part of developing strong Christian character in men. Some men in the Church in Paul’s day were not working, as they should. He instructed them: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
A husband has responsibility to provide for his wife’s spiritual development as well. Peter wrote, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). A man owes his wife honor and respect. He must provide for her physical needs. But he must also realize that she is an heir of eternal life. A man must ensure that his wife has the time and opportunities to attain the Kingdom of God.
The most significant job Christ performs as Head of the Church is that of teacher. “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). Jesus Christ desires a bride who is beautiful because of righteousness (Revelation 19:7-8). Christ is going to ensure our future beauty through His teaching. He is washing the Church now through the His Word.
A man must also teach his wife. “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14:35). A husband should know his Bible well enough so that he can guide his wife and family spiritually.
A God-oriented husband should be ever watchful over the spiritual needs of his wife and family. Are we making sure our wives have time to pray and study? Do our wives have time to fast without interruption from us or the children? Do we take the time to patiently answer our wives’ Bible questions? Are we conducting family Bible studies? Are we ashamed to do these things? Jesus Christ warns us, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). Great shame will come upon us men if we do not teach our wives and families.
Let’s stop the drum beating and heart bleeding. Soft men will never be able to solve family’s or society’s problems. Gaining a better understanding of true manhood—found only in the pages of your Bible—will help you get back on the path to godly manliness. Let’s become better men and recapture the value in true manhood. It is time we study our Bibles and ask God to make us the men we need to be!