Reclaiming Our Masculine Identity Part II: The (R)emasculation of Man6:00:00 AMJonah Soucy
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how over the last couple decades there has been an attack on masculinity. That attack has taken several different forms; and at times, we ourselves have fed into it. If you haven’t read it, check it out here. This week, we are going to continue this discussion and see if we can provide the solution.
So what does authentic masculinity look like? In the book “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge, he takes this question head-on. There’s a quote on the inside cover which I think really captures the essence of what it’s all about: “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” (1) For each of us, those three things are going to look a little different, but I think that Eldredge is onto something here.
I think there’s a reason that guys love action/adventure movies and games like Call of Duty. There’s something there which strikes our hearts. For example, recently I had the chance to go see the new Mel Gibson movie Hacksaw Ridge. For those unfamiliar, the movie is about Desmond T. Doss, a conscientious objector who decided to go war anyway. What makes his story unique is that he still held onto his deeply-rooted beliefs, refusing to bear arms. Desmond Doss ran into the middle of battle without a single weapon to defend himself and saved 75 lives. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I highly encourage any man reading this to go see the movie and I don’t want to spoil anything. But at the end of the movie, we got to see clips of interviews from several veterans who were saved by Doss’ actions. It hit me at that moment what a man this guy was.
Few of us are ever going to fight in war or save 75 lives; but I think it’s a true statement that all of us want to be part of something great. To be clear, I’m not trying to glorify violence or war. In a perfect world neither of these things would exist. Maybe our battle is overcoming racism or some other form of discrimination. Maybe it’s more of an interior battle such as depression or addiction. And why do we fight? It’s not out of some masochism that Eldredge writes that all men long for a battle to fight, it’s because we want something worth fighting for. This is where the idea of “a beauty to rescue” comes into play. We’re not necessarily talking about a damsel in distress here. Our families and our country are great “beauties” that at times need rescuing. Sometimes they need rescuing from our own shortcomings and vices. To love is to fight for something worth holding on to. If you stop fighting for it, it can shrivel up and fade into oblivion. It is one of the most noble battles we can undertake.
Every man longs for “an adventure to live”. What does that adventure look like to you? I can’t answer the question for you; we all have different dreams and aspirations we want to reach.
However I think I can tell you what it doesn’t look like. It doesn’t look like becoming a Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin. It’s not living your whole life around pleasing your every desire as a slave to your own flesh. And here’s one that’s a little less obvious: it’s not to become a man who can’t feel deeply things such as gratitude and love. To feel deeply is not a trait reserved to women. Dietrich von Hildebrand writes that “Affectivity can never be too intense as long as the cooperation of heart, will, and intellect… is not disturbed.” (2) Leonardo da Vinci once said “the greater the man, the deeper his love.” As men, we have to be real enough with ourselves to let us experience this magnificently deep dimension of our lives.
A lot of what we’ve touched on are but small brushstrokes in authentic masculinity. Other words like gentleman, chivalry, virtuous, strong, and courageous all come to mind as well. It’s incredibly difficult to pinpoint exactly what lies at the essence of authentic masculinity. As we’ve gone on this investigative journey into the heart of the matter, it seems we’ve done little but say a few characteristics of masculinity and given a few examples of what it is and isn’t. However, to really nail it on the head, so to speak, is an impossible task. The heart of a man is just as much a mystery as the heart of a woman, and when asked to describe either we’re always going to fall hopelessly short. I’d like to believe, though, that in each of us there is this natural tendency to recognize it; that when the Desmond Doss’s of the world go by we see them and go, now that’s a man. It’s not about how big of a beard you can grow, or how big of a killstreak you can get on Call of Duty. It’s not about how many woman you can hook up with or how much you can drink at a party. It’s not even about trying to hearken back to the old days of John Wayne or the age of the gentlemen(though I think they were certainly a lot closer in those cultures to the essence of masculinity then we are today). To be a man is to be so much more than any of these things. Don’t let the world tell you the qualifications. Don’t back down from the struggles you face. Find something or someone worth fighting for, worth living for, worth dying for. Love, not only when you feel like it or when it’s convenient. Make the sacrifices that are necessary. And seek to know yourself better, because the best version of yourself and the man you want to be is already a blueprint in your soul.
"I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man.
-1 Kings 2:2 (The last word’s of King David to his son)
- John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, inside cover
- Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Heart, p.54