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I don’t understand what’s going on, but the symptoms are everywhere. I turn on the news. The sportscaster has too-white teeth (yeah, I know everyone does, but still . . .) and talks as if he had slush in his mouth. He’s cutesy and sweet—too sweet. Another anchor seems nice. He really does. But, he talks like it’s quite okay to be “precious” (if you know what I mean), and he over plucks his eyebrows.
One only has to look back a few years, and the movie stars had square jaws, cleft chins, walked and sat like men, and even the handsomest ones (think Paul Newman, young John Wayne, Gregory Peck, and Gary Cooper) were masculine, square-shouldered, and tough. Today, the stars are baby-faced, long-haired, and if they didn’t carry guns, they wouldn’t be tough at all.
In the “old” days, any successful man dressed, talked, walked, and sat like a man. There was an unwritten understanding about how a man was supposed to act. He didn’t talk sweet—although he might sweet talk. He didn’t look pretty—though he might have been very handsome. He dressed like a man. (Don’t get me started on dress! The androgynous look is awful on both men and women. Enough said.) I’m not saying men need to go back to wearing suits every day and, like in the old TV shows, climbing and going after crooks dressed to the nines. No, we’re less formal today. But, tell me what’s wrong with looking like a man, even from a distance?
I realize that some boys are naturally more manly than others. I’m okay with that. If their dads act like men and spend time with their sons, I believe those sons will outgrow any limp-wristed tendencies, don’t you? I also understand that more sensitive men become artists, writers, and musicians, but they don't have to be effeminate. A tenor can be manly. Intuitive, creative males can act like men. There’s no reason for a guy to be wimpy.
It’s interesting to read some of the Bible passages on this subject. (Are you surprised?) Read these:
- And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD (1 Chronicles 28:20).
- Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me (Job 38:3).
- They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks (Joel 2:7).
- But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ . . . and the head of Christ is God (1 Corinthians 11:3).
- Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men (be like men), be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13).
So, how can we help our sons become real men?
- Don’t underestimate the power of example. When a boy’s father is masculine and kind, most of the time, the son will follow. Oddly enough, when the mother is feminine and fulfills her biblical role in the home, she also helps her son to be manly. If the boy’s father isn’t involved in his life, the mother can make sure he has another positive male role model (uncle, grandfather, etc.) who will take extra time with him. His mom can also point out men she admires and say why. (If your child is artistic, point out artists who are manly: James Galway, Lang Lang, and Yo Yo Ma come to mind. They’re exceptionally sensitive artists who act like men.)
- Never shame your son! Only point out positive role models without saying anything negative about your son. For example: “Your dad (or Mr. Jones) certainly acts like a man. I admire him.” “Did you see how Mr. Smith opened the door for his wife? Well done!” “Phil’s new haircut is so nice and masculine.” “I like the way Stephen sits.”
- Don’t overprotect your son. Helicopter moms don’t let their boys climb trees, get dirty, and play ball. Let your son act like a boy, even if he needs a Band-Aid from time to time.
- Teach boys manners, how to dress, and the refined way to speak and act. Help him learn how to order in a restaurant. Show him courteous driving. Help your son be a gentleman.
- Encourage all his interests. Whether your son is interested in science, math, technology, music, fishing, art and design, sports, carpentry, or cooking, encourage him to develop his talents. Some of his interests will eventually fall by the wayside, but your son will, in the process, find what he loves best. When we encourage our sons, they rise to the occasion and become better men.
- Look to the future. Your son needs to know he will be on his own after college (or other vocational preparation), therefore he needs to become an independent man by that time. Help him to grow and plan. Talk to him about his future, when he’s willing to talk. (I found one of the best times to talk to my own son was in the car when it was just the two of us. It wasn’t very confrontational, since I had to look ahead to drive. Maybe that will work for you, too.)
- Praise your son. Nothing helps anyone more than sincere praise. When your son acts like a man, tell him. “You really look nice today.” “I’m impressed with the way you fixed that leak.” “Some woman will get a jewel in you.” “Way to go!”
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth (Psalm 144:12a).