What does it mean to be a man? The barbarian of old had little trouble with this notion; there was little confusion over what it meant to be a man in the barbarian tribes, wherever and whenever they were found. The barbarian man’s measure was taken in large part by his strength- physical prowess, his courage and his ability to defend and provide for his family, his home and his clan.
He was not ashamed to be a man nor was he discouraged from being a man—in all his testosterone driven fury and glory. What a difference in where we are today where being a man is almost something we have to apologize for as traditional manly traits are being frowned upon.
Society would make you believe that all women want men who are not just in touch with their feminine side, but live there most of the time and that most men are stupid, bumbling or egoistical idiots who need to be retrained and tolerated, softened and civilized; interesting, you never see a pencil necked geek wearing skinny jeans and wielding a smart phone on the cover of a romance novel– just saying.
Does the barbarian in the heart of all women really want a man to be just a woman with a deeper voice? I think when it comes down to it, a woman wants a man to be a man, a man wants a woman to be a woman and that’s a barbarian notion that’s hard to shake, and I contend should not be shaken, in spite of what the world tells us.
I think many of our young men today are having an identity crisis. I see it at work, I see it in the churches—everywhere, young men getting more and more frustrated, confused and angry because they aren’t allowed to be men.
Most of them don’t have real men teaching them how to be a man- how to contain and direct the barbarian inside aching to be loosed, so they either act like immature idiots or they just become subjugated doormats wondering why the woman they have bowed down to does not respect them. Women, whether they admit it or not, need heroes and leaders. And men need to be heroes and lead, this goes back to that love and respect thing we find spelled out in the scriptures; a woman needs to feel loved and a man needs to feel respected.
…let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Eph 5:33
I think we need barbarian mentoring. The barbarians in the kingdom need to rise up and take the next generation under their wings and show them what it means to be a man, we need to invite them to stand with us side by side in the shield wall. This sounds like a huge task but it’s really not, unless of course you do not know what it means to be a man. Guys my age or older—baby boomers—had an advantage, we were raised by the generation of warriors that saved the world from Nazism and Imperialist Japan.
We had fathers or grandfathers, uncles and bosses who fought in a world war, together as men with a single simple purpose; to save the world, including their own homes and families, from an enemy that they were allowed to call an enemy, to fight a fight that they were allowed to win, and did win. And they returned home from the battlefields with that same spirit of accomplishment and pride and together build a better life for their families.
They were allowed and encouraged to work hard, and the harder they worked, the better off they were. These men were raised during the great depression so they never took work for granted, nor anything else for that matter—they were men who raised sons to be men. Where did we lose that? I contend that we didn’t, it just got tucked away as we got too comfortable living the fruits of what those men, and women, built for us. We just need to allow ourselves to once again be the men that our collective fathers and grandfathers were, God fearing, hard-working, sacrificially loving men, that’s all.
But that’s not enough, here is the key element; men need to always affirm the next generation of men. It’s a curious thing that a boy will never feel like a man, until someone who is a man in their eyes, tells them they are a man, preferably their father. We no longer have rites of passage that mark the day when a boy becomes a man. We no longer expect anything of our young men and we no longer demand that they act like men. Personal responsibility and accountability has gone out the window and we have become an entitlement society— ‘I am entitled to a pay check, I am entitled to health care, a smart phone, a car, an education, a place to live, internet—you name it, even if I didn’t lift a finger to earn it.’
On the other hand we don’t acknowledge hard work and responsibility like we should either—it just wouldn’t be fair to everyone else. ‘Here’s your participation trophy and a Pizza.’ We need to tell a young man when he has done the right thing, to acknowledge and affirm; ‘I sure appreciate the hard work you did, nice job.’ I always thank the guys who work on my construction jobs at the end of the day. If a guy knows you appreciate the effort he put into doing the job you asked him to do, he will come back the next day and work at it even more diligently. You have to give respect to get respect.
Respect is the food that fuels the heart of the man. A boy looks for material gain and only takes, a man looks for and gives respect, and a man who is respected is able to love.
So what gets the boy across the line to manhood?—like I said, affirmation, that point in time when he was respected and affirmed as a man. Women won’t understand this and that’s fine, we’ll talk about the barbarian women next time, but right now trust me that you also need to hear this for the sake of the men in your life– a man needs to hear these words or he will struggle with being a man for the rest of his life- here are the words; I am proud of you. And they need to come from a father, or at least a Father figure. It doesn’t hurt to hear them from his wife either.
You can take that to the bank. That is the respect pivot point between being a boy and becoming a man. Affirmation. Ladies, don’t doubt me on this and don’t poo poo it as silly.
Only a man who has been affirmed as a man can stop acting like a boy who is trying to get attention. Only a man who is comfortable in his manliness can be tender to his woman without seeming like a girly man. Only a man who is secure in his manliness can see the world through the eyes of his children without being immature and childish. Only a man who has been affirmed can rest at the end of a hard day without feeling like a loser. Only a man who has been affirmed can look in the mirror and like what they see.