As men examine their identity, they should acknowledge their own definitions of manhood and the societal influences on their self-perception.
For Matthew Bell, junior construction management major, being a man is, as he puts it, “at the base, our genetic makeup” but also “to be a strong supporter and to care for the rest of everybody.”
Tanner Meyer, freshman nursing major, furthered this sentiment. “Being the one that people look up to not because you’re better than them but because you stand up for your morals and what is right,” Meyer said.
While every man strives for this, in practice, most men fall short in some category or emphasize a certain trait to the extreme. This inherently leads many toward the ideas and practice of toxic masculinity.
What is toxic masculinity and why is there so much attention around it? Olivia Petter, a writer for The Independent, describes toxic masculinity as something that “dictates that men should be stoic and strong, both emotionally and physically.”
With awareness from the #MeToo movement, toxic masculinity is at the center of discussion about the behavior and attitudes of being a man. Men are called into question about the meaning of manhood and what it should look like. Bell pointed out how limiting men to certain categories of interests only encourages this toxicity. He said, “Trying to label all guys into one interest and saying that other people are not men if they have other interests is dangerous.”
Writing for Religion News Service, Nate Pyle, an ordained pastor in the Reformed Church of America, called attention to a tweet from author and professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Owen Strachan. “Men today are often soft, weak, passive, and unprotective,” Strachan wrote. So, the question arises: are men becoming too soft, in today’s generation?
Bell said, “Guys are changing, compared to how they use to be … Guys are starting to be more in tune with their emotions and expressing them.”
What can Christ teach men in today’s generation about avoiding toxic masculinity and leading a fruitful life? Believers often look at the duties which Christ performed as a man. Christ exemplified a model that men strive for in their lives to reach for the respect and kindness that he embodied.
Meyer said, “Jesus is going to the lowest of those and bringing his heart to them.” He referenced Christ’s actions of protecting an adulterous woman in John 8:1-11, saying, “Being tendered hearted” like Christ is something that men should mimic in order to follow his ideals.
“Christ showed emotions … He was struggling a lot … He did not want to die on the cross, but he fulfilled his duty,” Bell said. Christ’s manhood is demonstrated through his tender moments in life, offering love, support, loyalty and faithfulness to the poor and downtrodden.
Since Christians can turn always turn to Christ for guidelines on how to live a proper life as a human being and as a man, how can this be applicable to a man’s life? Emphasizing that a good life comes in the form of the passions and pursuits in our professions, Bell said, “They need to find their passions and their joys.” The pursuit of passions, with Christ as a guideline on living a proper life, could be an antidote the confusion that men hold about their identity.
Meyer said, “Point back to God; point it back to the amazing leaders in our community [and] amazing leaders in our world” as a man’s basis for his identity.
Photo courtesy of Karl Fredrickson