Authentic manliness

I recently finished reading a book which I highly recommend. Y'all are gonna laugh at the title, and I don't even care. It's called Mansfield's Book of Manly Men, by Stephen Mansfield.

As you are probably aware, manhood has taken a beating in our culture in recent years. We can have chicken-and-egg debates over how we got here, but the fact of the matter is there's a large segment of our society that thinks most of what masculinity has to offer is, at best, unnecessary, and in many cases, downright evil. Methinks there is a lack of understanding about what constitutes manliness. If we take our cues from the world of news and entertainment, it would appear most of the male "heroes" we're exposed to are highly ambitious, glory-grabbing, sexual predators, while a high percentage of the rest of the male population are a bunch of spineless morons who couldn't find their butts with both hands and a compass.

Well I'm no social scientist, but I believe we need a better model. Most real men don't get to be real men without someone coming alongside to show them the ropes. Mansfield's book explores this, in a humorous, inspiring, and challenging way, with stories about men who demonstrate qualities our world is in dire need of. One of those qualities is the ability to be a true friend, taken from the story of Jonathan. (BTW, Jonathan is one of the exceptions - most of the men in this book are not Bible characters, but historical figures, some well-known, others not so much.) In thinking how to apply Marcus' story, I kept going back to his prayer: "God, send me a friend, a man who can teach me what it means to be a husband, a father, a man." He didn't need some derelict who was just as lost as he was, but a man of substance.

We talk about authenticity, about being real and transparent, but let's face it: I don't want to indiscriminately start blabbing my stuff to anyone and everyone. Being vulnerable puts me at a potential disadvantage. If you know my stuff, how do I know you won't use it against me? No, there has to be some discretion, especially in the early going, as trust is built and respect is earned. That's how it is with men. Once the trust is established, there's a give and take, a little at a time, until there is relationship. In that relationship, there will be some good-natured ribbing, but you can also tell me the truth, even when it hurts, because I'll know you're doing it for my good. And we learn, as Marcus did about the men he looked up to in Man Church/Convoy, we all got stuff.

But someone has to make the first move. Am I looking for that guy in my sphere of influence who needs a friend? He probably won't ask for help, but I can tell he's struggling. What am I doing to make my foxhole a safe place when that new guy works up his courage and shows up for the first time?

Heads up, eyes open, men.

Scott Thompson