Man Alive: What is Manhood?

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 KJV)

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NLT)

Hoppy , Topper, and friends

In my formative years, I was privileged to have some wonderful men in my life.  My dad was older, and he was a good man. He sacrificed much in his life for the good of others.  My Uncle Charlie was a prototypical man’s man: hard-working, kind, and generous to a fault. Both were tough as nails. Since I grew up in the 1950’s I was also exposed to a panoply of heroic male figures in media. (I was a big Hopalong Cassidy fan. Google it)

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he used the word andrizomai.  It comes right from the root word which means “man.” The King James Bible translates it “quit you like men.”  Strong opines that it means “to act manly.” The Word Study Bible offers, “To behave oneself with the wisdom and courage of a man, as opposed to a babe or child in Christ. To behave courageously.”  The modern translations all settle on some variant of “be brave” or “be courageous.”  All of the more literal translations go with some adaptation of, “act like men.”  Here’s the point: The Apostle Paul, and by extension the Holy Spirit, thought that this word would have a clear meaning to the reader of that day.  There was a connotation to the concept of manhood that was understood to be hard-wired in the minds of people.

Sometime last Fall, I was reading one more article in a seemingly endless stream of articles about how awful men are, especially white men.  It seems there is some new crime revealed every day and attributed to the male essence: toxic masculinity.  Being a man and having appreciated the qualities of what I consider real manhood in others for a lifetime, I decided to do a little non-scientific research. Words paint pictures in our minds. If a person has not been brainwashed by the media and the academy, what is the picture they have of the term “manhood.”

Using email and social media, I asked for input from my readers.  The response was very good, and very quick.  This subject elicits passion. In an attempt to identify the archetypes embedded in their hearts, I asked them, “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term manhood?” There were a few who obviously over-thought it, writing paragraphs, and others who opted for the “be like Jesus” Christian convention.  I agree, we all want to be like Jesus, but what does that mean in behavior or attitude, and is it really your first thought, or an acquired construct that requires conscious insertion.

There were all kinds of responses, many of which used different terms for the same idea. In an attempt to analyze data, I grouped them under general headings that seem to express the same intent.  There were a couple of negative responses. One person said it was difficult to answer, as this individual had never had any real examples to judge by. Another said the subject made them uncomfortable but didn’t really elaborate. Finally, one individual informed me that the question made them angry.  I feel compassion for these three people. I pray that God heals and helps them to know some godly men.

The picture of manhood painted by these responses did not include anything that resembles the “macho” mindset, or anything that seems remotely toxic.  Quite the opposite. The manhood described here is very strong, compassionate, and reliable.  Many of the categories overlap, but there was enough differentiation that it seemed good to keep them discrete.  Here is a non- professional tabulation of the 10 categories and the percentage (rounded to the nearest whole number) of responses in each one:

Characteristic Percentage
Responsible 23%
Christlike 15%
Inner strength 14%
Protector 12%
Mature 10%
Courageous 8%
Integrity 7%
Stands up for what’s right 4%
Stable and consistent 3%
Other (3) 3% (1% each)

So, the archetypal man our respondents have described is responsible, courageous, and mature.  He stands up for what’s right, protects the weak, and exudes a sense of inner strength.  He conducts his affairs with integrity. He is stable and consistent. You can count on him.  In sum, he is Christlike. I think Paul would agree, that is acting like a man.

My intent is to take some time with each of these characteristics as they may apply today.  Not just defining the words but looking for ways to incorporate them where they are missing, or to nurture and grow them where they already exist.  I don’t know about you, but I want to act like a man.

15 thoughts on “Man Alive: What is Manhood?

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