Growing up I was always amazed how many young men eagerly ran to get into relationships with young women, something I fully salute and enjoy watching to this day, but I noticed many lacked something…they did not know who they were as men.
The Search For Masculinity
Society says that real men are the ones who have the high salaried career, drive that new car, feed a porn addiction under the cover of night, hold up their end of the bar with the amount of beer they can consume with mates, embody athleticism, walk in popularity, and achieve high success. Ten years down the track they may still be searching for that relationship, that person, that job, or that life, but they are still unsatisfied as men. They are searching for satisfaction or masculinity in things that leave them dry and running on empty. It is as if they never really spent that quality time getting away from it all to be alone and discover who they are as men.
Something I struggled with, and I believe all men do at some stage in their life is this issue of masculine identity. We look to mentors, peers, sports stars, leaders and even those closest to us being mates and family to show us. We seek to know what a masculine identity is, and we search it out, and too often it is in the wrong areas.
Step One: Acknowledging What’s Missing
I remember as a young guy in my early twenties, struggling with who I was as a man. I had male friends, but never had close relationships with anyone. I even hated the idea that if someone got to know the real me, then I would not be worth knowing. I felt as though they would think I was a fraud in life, or I was boring, so I usually went silent around people and retreated. Part of it stemmed from the fact that I came from a broken family, and I grew up with extreme poverty, abuse, and hurt everywhere I turned. Life was something I wanted to keep hidden and I was deeply ashamed of. I was ashamed of the way I sounded and looked in the mirror. I was dating one girl, but I was embarrassed to bring her home to see my family because of this issue. It was an extremely awkward period I never want to return to. However, internally acknowledging what was missing was a key part of starting on a journey that followed over the space of the next ten years. It was scary admitting to myself what was missing. I literally travelled the world to find out who I was away from the comfort, and security of life. It was a time in which I tested my own character and found hope in the face of fire and adversity. I found value in having men surrounding me on this walk. Here are 4 steps for growing in masculinity.
Step Two: Determine To Go On The Journey
In the original Mad Max film, my favorite quotes is,
Where must we go, we who wander from this wasteland, in search of our better selves?
This line epitomizes everything about being men. It is a road that every guy must take, and a question that everyone must ask of himself, “Where can we go in search of our better selves?” As a Christian male, one thing I truly believe and am unashamed to say is that our better self can be found in knowing Christ. Our masculine man is found wholly in knowing Christ, and loving those around us, but mainly learning to love ourselves as Christ loved us. Whatever you call it, if you are a man of faith or not, we all need to learn to love ourselves and forgive ourselves. However, it still leaves this burning question of traveling that road to redemption, that road less travelled to find out who we are when that wasteland screams out what a man should be.
Step Three: Overcome The Obstacle Of Opinions
One of the greatest pieces of advice I received quite came from a man that is like a father figure. He said,
Josh, never live your life to impress anyone. If they are not impressed by the fact that you don’t need their approval, then they are not worth knowing.
I remember sitting there stunned and silent for a moment because I knew this was true, but I replied “What about loneliness and rejection along the way?” He responded, “The greatest leaders throughout history were forged this way; Churchhill, Calvin, more importantly the Lord…All suffered rejection and loneliness in every walk, but all came through it without seeking the approval of men.” To me this was something I already knew, but it was reaffirmed. Everyone will have an opinion of you. Some might be negative, some positive. Our masculinity is not based on other people’s opinions of us. Rather, masculinity is built on making those tough decisions and walking the talk when others don’t. In other words, when rubber hits the road, just keep going with your head held high in the courage of your convictions.
Step Four: Persevere With Other Men
Last year I went with some amazing people to Greece and Turkey on a study tour taking the journey that the Apostle Paul took in the New Testament. Each day we visited all the sites from the first century, and finished each day over beer discussing what impact these places had on us. One thing that amazed me was this sense of Paul being alone, imprisoned, tortured and even hurt on many occasions, but his focus was always on his faith. He could have given up and said enough is enough. Instead Paul remained confident that the hardship was evidence of his walk, and it was in these difficulties, and taking those roads less travelled with adversity that his character and masculinity were proven.
Paul wrote to the Romans,
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…(Romans 5:3-4 NASB)
Finding masculinity and developing manly character traits doesn’t happen overnight. Every day I wake up I still struggle in some small way with issues of doubt, shame from my past, and I struggle with this idea of masculinity. However, the difference is that I don’t do it alone, I walk with other brothers from Australia, the UK, the USA and all around the world. We do this thing called life together, and if one of us falls we grab them and pull them back up to keep walking through this wasteland side by side.
I would like to challenge you today, if you feel lost as a man, going through a masculinity crisis, or suffering with knowing who you are as a person, you are not alone. Gather some great fellas around you, get into something bigger than yourself that you know is going to push you hard and challenge you. As you walk through tribulations, your trials will bring about that aspect of patience and perseverance to keep running this race called life. It is when you are walking the bumpy roads that your character shows, and the rough edges are knocked off, and you begin to see the real man develop, and by the end you can honestly stand knowing that through it all you have come to the end with hope.