What Is a Real Man?
Do real men walk tall and carry a big stick?
Do real men wear earrings?
Do real men hunt, fish, scratch, chew, and spit?
Do real men cuss?
Do real men talk dirty about sex?
Do real men open car doors for women, use linen napkins, enjoy candlelight
dinners, classical music, master the social graces, and converse astutely
about business, politics and sports?
Do real men cry?
Do real men get angry?
Do real men fight?
Do real men walk away?
Do real men ask for help?
Do real men quit?
Do real men pray?
Do real men drink beer?
Do real men love well?
Do real men "open up?"
Do real men want or need intimacy?
I won't attempt to answer these questions now. However, I will suggest a
way for us to find the answers. I've discovered an important secret about
men --- most men suffer and don't know it. It's not that we completely
ignore our suffering, we suppress it. And when we suppress our suffering,
we deny our need. And when we deny our need, we delay our healing. And when we delay our healing, we abdicate from our journey toward real manhood.
I believe any man can become a real man. Real men are the men who choose to partner with God in life and choose to demonstrate His strong love to an
Real men are authentic men. But authentic manhood doesn't just hap-pen.
It's a choice that leads to choices. It's a step that becomes a journey.
It's tough but rewarding. It's the biggest challenge a man will face. And it
be-gins when a man faces his suffering...
Ready for the first step?
The Lonely Man
Most men are profoundly lonely.
Yesterday I had lunch with three guys I've known for years. We spent ninety minutes together. We talked about business, God, current news, and the TV program, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" We laughed, exchanged thoughts and ideas. But we didn't know each other any better after lunch than before.
Last night I went with a group of guys to an NBA game. We talked
basketball, exercise, golf, and business. We spent about five hours
together. But we didn't know each other any better alter the game than
before. "Should every lunch or outing be a therapy session?" No.
But one reason we are profoundly lonely is that we are s-l-o-w to open up.
Actually, most of us never do. We talk about issues, ideas, and interests,
yet seldom disclose our feelings, needs, hurts, fears, hopes, dreams,
struggles, sins, or disappointments.
Lonely men reveal what they think and conceal who they are. Lonely men live on life's side roads. They smile, laugh, work, play, make deals, and hang
out with their buddies. But nobody gets on the inside. Therefore, lonely
men settle for surface talk, surface relationships, and a surface existence.
Lonely men usually engage life through competition. Everything is a game.
"What's wrong with that?" Let's see... Some things are worth competing for.
The value of our competitiveness is determined by the value of its object:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the
prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the
games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not
last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (I Cor. 9:24,25).
However, when competition defines a man's life, then it becomes a wall to
hide behind or an activity to get lost in. A competitive spirit sees
everyone as an opponent to conquer not a person to open up to. A
competitive spirit keeps opponents at arm's length. A competitive spirit is
always on the defensive and never lets its guard down.
I know men who compete at work twelve hours a day not just to make money or get ahead, but to avoid going home and facing their wives' soul-probing
questions: "How are you feeling?" "Is something bothering you?" "Is
everything all right?" "Are you sure nothing's wrong?"
Competitive men surround themselves with noise and activity to dull the
ache of their lonely souls and to keep from being "found out." Inscribed on
the lonely man's tank top, "Sissies open up. Let the games begin!"
So the games begin --- work, sex, power, money, investing, sports,
hobbies, television, video games, surfing the net, guns, golf, fishing,
hunting, bowling, racing, running, hiking, exercise, power lifting,
basketball, football, baseball, tennis, bowling, pool, roller blades,
extreme sports --- you name it we play it!
The lonely man muscles his way through life. Competition is his shield.
Therefore, the man is known by what he does not by who he is.
Competition makes a great mistress. She doesn't look behind the mask, she
doesn't ask any soul-probing questions. But she has her price. Competition
drains the masculine soul.
This is why the lonely man feels like a pack mule. He carries back breaking
loads of emotional baggage. His isolated soul is crammed full of suppressed
emotions, unresolved anger, gnawing guilt, humiliating shame, crushed
dreams, and acute disappointments. He gropes for strength. He hides his
pain. Yet, to protect his fragile ego, he stays in the game and competes
with a vengeance.
When anyone tries to get past his shield, the lonely man retreats behind
socially accepted responses: "I'm fine," "It's under control," "Nothing's
wrong," "I can handle it!" What happens when the lonely man remains lonely?
Hold on to your ball cap...
The Passive Man
These words are inscribed on the doormat of the lonely man's soul,
"passivity welcome." Don't misunderstand the passive man. He's not a three
hundred pound couch potato with beer stains on his tee shirt whose
fingers are callused from channel surfing.
The passive man can be an aggressive competitor, a successful leader, a
gifted performer. The passive man can make a name for himself and leave his
mark on society. Yet, for all his sound and fury, passivity rules his soul.
"What is passivity?" Passivity is the tendency of the masculine soul to
allow part of his life to remain untouched and unmoved. And the part that
remains untouched and unmoved is the most important part --- the hidden
soul, the hurting boy, the wounded warrior, the lonely seeker, the
frustrated conqueror, the disillusioned hero, the needy beggar.
A passive man hides the personal, displays the impersonal. He shrinks from
transparency, gravitates toward hypocrisy. The passive man dodges what God desires --- in the inner parts (Psalm 51:6).
I know passive men who eat tough decisions for breakfast, but who would
rather sleep on a bed of nails than un-mask their fragile egos by admitting
one moral failure ("I've sinned..."), one emotional need ("I need you..."),
or one painful disappointment ("I hurt...")
The passive man usually handles "tough stuff' and almost always side-steps
the "vulnerable strut". Therefore, like father Adam, the passive man is
What happens if passivity goes unchecked?
The Angry Man
A weak man looks for ways to defend himself. And since all men are weak,
all men look for weapons to defend themselves. Anger is often the weapon of choice. Angry men react in one of two ways-attack or retreat.
Saul was a weak man. He led one of the most powerful nations on earth, but
he lost his grip on God and he felt threatened by young David's presence in
the palace. So Saul defended him-self (his fragile ego). Like a deranged
yellow jacket out of hell, Saul tried to pin David to the wall
with his spear (I Samuel 18).
Unrighteous anger kills. It intimidates. It eliminates the threat. It keeps
people away. It explodes. It keeps the soul locked up. Attack works... for
Angry men can also retreat. Retreat allows rage to go underground. The
weapon is silence. The weak ego is shielded in isolation.
I've used both tactics. I'd be a wealthy man if I had a dollar for every
time I've tried to intimidate my enemy or for every time I've withdrawn
into the basement of my soul and locked the door behind me. Both maneuvers give me a sense of winning. But it doesn't last. It's a cheap victory because nothing really changes and my soul continues to suffer.
What happens if the angry man stays angry?
The Addicted Man
Almost from the moment of birth the undertow of life threatens to drag us
under. To avoid being pulled out into the ocean we need an anchor. Men know their souls are unanchored and off-center. So we look for something to grab hold of a "fix"- something to stop the drift, something to make us feel
Sooner or later we attach ourselves... to something --- work, sports,
exercise, food, money, sex, fantasies, fetishes, masturbation, power,
alcohol, nicotine, aggression, intelligence, politics, religion,
position... or to someone --- women, lovers, prostitutes, pornography, the
seductive voice of an anonymous phone sex solicitor, cyber-sex... whatever
stops the drift even for a moment
Anchors have chains. And what anchors us controls us. What secures us
imprisons us. Our attachments become our addictions.
Paul lamented his anchor to sin: I do not understand what I do. For what I
want to do l do not do, but what l hate I do [Romans 7:15]. Sin is an
anchor. It's also addictive. And every man sins. Therefore, every man is
addicted to something or someone.
But all addictions aren't obvious. I know skinny men addicted to food and
healthy men addicted to exercise. And all addictions don't appear harmful.
I know men addicted to religion, power, and to themselves. But all
And once anchored (attached), we're hooked. Once hooked, we have to have it and we have to have more of it. It eases our suffering when we do it, but we're frustrated when we don't. How do addicted men cope? Not too well.
The addicted man usually makes one of three choices: (1) He gives in and
indulges himself --- "To hell with it!" (2) He goes under and depresses
himself --- "I'm hopeless. I'll never get any better!" or (3) He gives up
and destroys him-self --- "I can't take it any longer!"
Not a pretty picture.
Is there any hope?
Where do we go for help?
The Crucified Man
The Real Man, offers a no-nonsense invitation to the masculine soul: If
anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross
daily and follow me [Luke 9:23).
"Sounds tough?" It is!
The mask comes off. The soul is stripped. The selfish center of life dies.
The Real Man is not always literal, but He is always realistic. Jesus
didn't ask us to carry a wooden cross on our shoulders or wear a gold cross
around our necks. But He did ask us to stare death in the face every day.
Death is the choice of desperate men.
"Take up your cross" is a volitional choice. It's His demand, but it's my
choice. I choose to die or I choose not to die. I choose against my
selfishness or I don't. It's that simple. Every day the selfish man
breathes this prayer, "Lord, bless me real well." Every day the crucified
man breathes this prayer, "Lord, give me the courage to die well."
Crucifixion brings deliverance and freedom. The cross destroys my hiding
places, melts my rage, and ends my addictions. The cross frees me to begin
my journey toward real manhood. Real manhood begins in the valley of the
shadow of death. "Take up your cross" is a gut-wrenching decision. Who
dares to take the first step toward death?
The Relational Man
The Real Man looks into the masculine soul and says, "Come to me" (Matthew
11:28). And with this simple invitation He asks...
"Do you want to become a real man?"
"Are you willing to step up to the plate?"
"Are you ready for authentic relationship?"
"Then come . . . .come to Me."
Do what Peter did. Peter seemed like a man's man who never walked away
from a fight. But when blustery Peter met the Real Man, he fell at Jesus'
feet and said, 'Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man!' Luke 5:8).
Peter crumbled before Authentic Manhood. "I'm a mess. I'm ruined. I can't
help myself!" Jesus didn't soften Peter's radical self-assessment ---
"Peter, don't be so hard on yourself. You're not that bad. Don't put
yourself down." The Real Man agreed. Peter was ruined. But Jesus didn't
leave Peter there. Instead He challenged him --- "Follow me." And Peter
left everything and followed Him [Luke 5:11).
The cross cleanses. The invitation to "come" restores. Here we learn what
authentic manhood is all about. Here we see real manhood displayed in
living color. Jesus is the Father's "show and tell" about what it means to
be a real man.
The cross pries my selfish hands off the control center of my life. The
invitation to "come" sets my course in a new direction. The Real Man leads,
I follow. The Real Man talks, I listen. The Real Man teaches, I learn. The
Real Man commands, I obey.
The relational man is an obedient man. He walks in the shadow of Another.
The relational man initiates nothing on his own. He watches every move the
Real Man makes and he "follows the Leader."
The relational man steps away from the crowd of hypocrites (why do you call me, "Lord, Lord,,' and do not do what I say? -- Luke 6:46)) falls at his
Lord's feet and whispers, "Lord, I come...
The Loving Man
The Real Man knows me. He knows when I fake it. And He knows when I try and live without Him. Yet He wants to set me free!
Free from: phony soul who is tired of wearing masks; addicted soul who is
exhausted from covering my tracks; wounded soul who is sick of being sick;
lonely soul who is weary of pretending not to need anyone; depressed soul
who is sick of feigning a smile; guilty soul who is ready to come clean;
angry soul who longs for peace; passive soul who feels unable to move;
arrogant soul who hates my own self-importance; lying soul who is tired of
But most of all the Real Man wants to set me free to love. My command is
this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:12).
The free man loves. He has nothing to hide. He doesn't wait for others to
love him first. His rage is gone. His heart is anchored to the Real Man. He
"opens up." He allows people in. He gives himself up. He lets himself go.
He admits his need. He welcomes help. He looks for ways to care.
The loving man no longer bullies his way through life or retreats into the
basement of his soul. He no longer seeks his happiness first. He no longer
has to be "in control."
The loving man loves because he is loved by the One who is love.
The loving man is the real man. And the real man is the relational man. And
the relational man is the crucified man. And the crucified man is no longer
the lonely man, the passive man, the angry man, or the addicted man. Christ
is the Real Man. The best we can do is reflect His life. And that's exactly
what real men do!
--By Dr. Charles B. Brown