Guest Post: Being a Manly Man

All my life I’ve fought insecurity.

Blame it on my parent’s early divorce. Blame it on my alcoholic father. Blame it on having successful older brothers. Blame it on pressure to be good at sports. Blame it on society’s false projection of authentic manhood.

Whatever. It’s there, and it’s real.

It’s my problem, and I have to defeat it.

My insecurity contributed to an overwhelming drive for recognition and acceptance as a man.

In Stephen Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, he talks about “the moment” he knew he became a man. It’s a fun read and an envious story as well. It started as Mansfield was stuck in a Middle Eastern country due to travel issues with his visa. A local friend, “Nadeem,” arranged a rooftop party with high-level government officials (and their bodyguards), businessmen and a man dressed in traditional Arab cloth headdress. This mish-mash of men made cross-cultural small talk until the conversation lagged.

That’s when the more traditional-looking leaned forward and asked Mansfield a life-changing question…

“A son. Do you have? he asked. I’m telling you every man on that roof stopped what he was doing and turned to hear my answer.

“I do,” I replied.

“Ah.” He grew excited. “His name?”

“Jonathan,” I answered.

The man slapped his knee and shouted, “Aha! Then you have a new name! You are Abujon!” Suddenly, there was a lot of smiling and head nodding and Arab voices one on top of the other.

They could tell I didn’t understand. Nadeem tried to explain. Apparently, when an Arab man has a son, his name changes.

Mansfield explains Abu, which means “father,” and the name of his son combined for his new name due to the Arab cultural importance of fatherhood. After his renaming, Manfield said the party went to a whole other level with dancing, excitement and even more extravagant food. This experience unsettled Mansfield who processed it and describes it in his book this way…

By the time of that night in Damascus, I was 41 years old. I had been a Christian for 23 years. I had been a husband for 17 years. I had been a father for 13 years.

Yet never before in all my life had I been welcomed into the fellowship of men.

I don’t have that kind of story. What I have, is a past full of failed attempts to achieve that manhood recognition that never came.

I had served four years active duty as a US Marine, multiple deployments (most short-term) and three more years as a national guardsman. I had a kid. A green Jeep Wrangler 4×4. Guns. A mortgage. And some cool hobbies – skiing, fly fishing and guiding white water trips and backpacking trips through National Parks. I had a great job. And a beautiful wife.

On the outside, I had all the markings of a man’s man. But on the inside, I was still a boy. And my perpetual boyhood almost ruined my life. I was fleeing responsibility, seeking adventure and excitement and ignoring the romantic needs of my wife. Unlike Mansfield’s cross-cultural rooftop affirmation, the moment I realized I became a man is when I laid down my hobbies and decided to grow up.

The Bible says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Cor. 13).

That’s my story. I became a man when I decided it was more important to save my marriage, be a great dad and leave a good name for my savior than land another trout, ski, hike or climb another mountain or guide another raft-full of strangers on another weekend.

I became a man when I took responsibility for what God had entrusted to me. And I have never regretted it.

Do you know when you became a man? Are you still searching for that recognition as a man? Is insecurity an issue you need to bring before God today?

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