Most men today arrive in adulthood with injured masculinity. We are victims of bad or absent fathering, or abuse by other males. Rather than displaying the characteristics of mature manhood, we display the absence of masculinity in passivity, indecision, effeminacy, and moral weakness, or the false masculinity of machoism and agression.
How Did We Get Here?
We have forgotten and neglected the truths of the biological and emotional distinctives of male and female. We have abandoned the biblical view of masculinity, and substituted all kinds of imbalances in its place.
This has mainly occured as a reaction to the domineering masculinity of the recent past in our society. Just as those in power in the recent past justified the second class citizenship of some races, and slavery, they also justified the supression of women. The women’s movement rightfully looked for certain types of equality in our society, and have largely achieved them, including the right to vote, to own property, and to be paid equal wages for equal work.
But something happened along the way. In trying to counter the false masculinity of the domineering, and even voilent men leading society, the women’s movement began to hate the masculine. They tried to say that men and women were not only equal in rights, but equal in personality and temperament – that there was no difference between male and female. And they even tried to denigrate and destroy some of the traits we call male, like aggression and leadership by fiat, by labeling them as “pathologic,” when they were really created by God to be used properly, and in balance with concilation and leadership by consensus, respectively.
The Post-Feminism Men’s Movement
In more recent days, popular psychologists like John Gray have become very successful because they have been teaching the balanced truth about men and women – that they are different in some very foundational ways. Not that one is better than the other, but that they are merely complimentary, and are both needed in relationships and society.
Additionally, Robert Bly’s book Iron John helped usher in what’s called the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement . A long list of both secular and Christian books have filled the shelves to help men find and heal their masculinity. Additionally, there is the ongoing series of stadium events, Promise Keepers, now in their 14th year, as well as other ministries specifically focused on men, like Million Mighty Men.
Should Men Be “All Masculine” and Women be “All Feminine”?
Before we talk about the true masculine, it should be noted that men and women both have a mix of what we consider masculine and feminine traits. Leadership and decisiveness, which some call masculine traits, are also the traits of a mature woman. The ability to nurture children and emote is often called feminine, but a healthy man will also be able to do such things. And, some men are more sensitive than others, while some women are more aggressive than others. These are not bad things, but deep down, there are some essential qualities that each man must have at their core to be a healthy man, and each woman must have to be a healthy woman.
Developing Gender Identity
Psychology shows us that children develop a sense of maleness or femaleness between the ages of 2 and 4. They do so by bonding with a same-sex adult, and in doing so, internalize that gender so that they later see themselves as male or female. However, when this bonding is interrupted by the absence of a male or female role model to bond with, or by an abusive or bad role model, often, this gender formation is incomplete.
Some psychologists have postulated that this is what leads many into homosexuality. Based on this theory, they treat gays by helping them heal their hurts with respect to gender, and help them to see the true masculine or feminine, rather than the twisted version they experienced and rejected. And many of us have arrived into adulthood with injured gender identity, even if we never became gay to try and solve this inner need.
Next Time: Part II: The True Masculine: The Warrior