What Is (not) a Man?

“My mom is more of a man than my dad will ever be.”

This was a comment made by a member of my discussion group of high school aged young men, while we tackled the question, “What is a man?”

At one junction in the conversation, I asked a few of them (who were 18 or over) if they considered themselves “a man”.  It was a difficult question to answer with certainty.

The discussion evolved, “When a woman says that “You’re not a man”, what does she mean?

Their thoughts;  “The size of your…”  (I won’t go further.)  However, the overall, rational consensus was that if a woman made that statement, she felt that the guy was failing in some form of responsibility.

“Are you a man?”  I’ve asked the question directly to young men, and I’ve yet to not encounter some kind of hesitation.  Why?  Why is manhood such a difficult question to own?

On a personal level, one day I woke up and realized that I had a wife, kids and a mortgage…I realized that I was not a child…but when did I become a man?  (Getting to manhood with your eyes open is another discussion – read the Alien vs Predator blog.)

So is manhood just about the degree of assuming or managing responsibility?  Is this what gauges manhood?  What is a man?  What is a working definition of masculinity?  Since you asked, let me answer.  (Prepare yourself.)

Well, a man is an adult male.

Is that too simple?  Is that the lowest common denominator, or maybe that is the pinnacle of a very practical observation?

A man is a man.  If we could naturally and heartily accept that, would there not be a lot less confusion and self doubt in the hearts of our boys and emerging men?

But, I think we’ve obscured the real question, the one that brings home the million dollars when you leave the show.  Despite the cultural leanings, masculine stereotypes, and historical environments…  despite the varied plethora of internet explanations and hits about a “real man”, the real questions is about the “quality” or “kind” of man one strives to be.  We need to shift the question to “What kind of man do I want to be?”

Based on Genesis chapter 2 in the Bible, and using Adam as a template of manhood and masculinity, I purpose this as a working definition, not of a man, but what a man should strive to be…

A “Genesis Man” is a male in  relationship with God, equipped with a sense of purpose and inclination towards employment, moral responsibility, possessing a strong sense of familial and mentoring sensibilities, a reservoir of wisdom, and one who uses his language to build into the lives of his family and relationships.

Now, “What’s wrong with men?”  I’ll answer that next time.