Maybe you’ve seen the movie clips: Mom goes out of town, Dad gets left with the kids…and has no idea what to do.
Dinner’s burned, kids are screaming, and laundry has exploded in the living room.
While it may make for a laughable movie scene, this is just a simple example of the ways in which culture shapes our views of men and masculinity.
And it’s not just secular culture. Ever heard a sermon illustration that sounds the same way?
Both church and culture have bought into several myths about men that are worth debunking.
Myth 1: Men are completely inept at home
We’ve bought this myth from culture like a lobster in boiling water – subtly over time; and once you catch on, it’s far too late.
Read the movie clip example again. Think about it. How often are men and fathers portrayed as bumbling and ignorant – clueless how to navigate domestic life?
The not-so-shocking irony of it all is that the ignorant domestic man has, for many men, become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Men can look all around at culture and conclude that “I’m not SUPPOSED to know how to function domestically.”
Even at church, our conversations betray our perceptions of men at home. “Uh oh, Dad – home with the kids while mom’s gone? What are you gonna do?!”
We’d never talk about mom this way; but dad’s perceived lack of domestic ability is fair game. If church believes the home to be one of the greatest places for ministry and discipleship – and it should be – then that’s not just true for mom. Discipleship soars when men, like Jesus, grab a towel and get to work (John 13).
Myth 2: Men have their identity tied to their jobs
It’s one of the first questions we ask when meeting someone new: “so, what do you do?” So much of a man’s identity is evident in that simple ask. And this compulsion to climb the corporate ladder brings a dilemma with it: men have so much pressure on them to succeed corporately that they wrap themselves in it; only to face more pressure to “leave work at work.”
When things are not well at work – or, worse: work is unavailable – men are left feeling purposeless. When you’ve been taught that your purpose lies in your job, why are we surprised?
The church, on the other hand, has done well to point our identities to Christ, and nothing else. Yet there is still the temptation to tie masculine identity to the workplace.
Let’s be clear: the Bible certainly supports men working hard and providing well (1 Tim. 5:8). But even right perspective can have a negative outworking, if we’re not careful.
For example: this emphasis on men as responsible workers – a good thing! – can become particularly difficult when layoffs happen. Or certain seasons when the wife may be working and the husband is not. Frankly, the church is not always sure how to handle these arrangements and can make the man feel inferior for his circumstances.
Myth 3: Men shouldn’t express emotion
While culture is pulling away from this myth, it takes significant time to untangle years of the “real men don’t cry” mantra.
What’s insane is that this idea that “men don’t cry” has backfired tremendously. Social perception of male emotion as “weak” is juxtaposed with a society that complains men are bad at expressing how they feel. A catch-22 for dudes if there ever was one.
Even in the church, there are pockets of religious folks who will see a man as effeminate for anything from shedding a tear to writing poetry to not enjoying hunting. A “man’s man,” it’s suggested, is an Esau-like character (Gen. 25) who splits firewood with one hand and can wrestle a bear with the other.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with those traditional “manly” hobbies and activities. But when they are perceived as THE way to pursue “manly dominion” – those of us who would rather be buried in a book or composing music or painting are made to feel as though we are less.
When a love or preference for certain activities becomes the litmus test for “biblical manhood,” rather than humility and servanthood, we shun a whole section of men in our church. We’ve confused preference for godliness.
Am I a bad Christian because I prefer to do the dishes or read a book than work on the car or go camping? Seems nonsensical, but the way in which we often talk about manhood suggests as much.
So where do we turn? How should we understand masculinity?
Succinctly, here’s what Philippians 2:3-7 says about Jesus, fully-God and fully-man, our Great Example:
This description should color the way we talk about what it means to be men: humility and servanthood, because of Christ (Eph. 5:21). These are the marks of true manhood.