Recently, I read an article by Elizabeth Grace Matthew entitled Fragility, Not Feminization, Is What’s Ailing America’s Men.  I wonder – can we overemphasize feminization while neglecting the fragility of men?  Matthews  maintains that “we must first resist framing as the de-masculinization of men what is in fact the infantilization (or, de-adultification, if you will) of all Americans – male and female alike.”  Rather than cultivating perseverance, we are teaching boys and girls to expect convenience and to seek comfort.  She believes that “making both men and women more like small children is at the core of today’s veneration of fragility and marginalization of grit.  Making men less masculine has nothing to do with it.”  

Matthews also sees “an infantilized culture” where men and women contend “against each other in a condition of perverse equality.”  This happens through “coddling” rather than by “fostering their maturity through the development of physical, emotional, and intellectual resilience” expressed emotionally and intellectually as well as physically.  Through “gentle parenting” and “inclusion” our country is becoming increasingly fragile.  

Beyond this, women are not necessarily more fragile than men.  “Using ‘masculine’ as though it is a synonym for ‘adult,'” notes Matthew, “we tends to equate what is ‘feminine’ with what is ‘infantile.'”  Teenage girls may struggle more with mental health issues when they identify as progressive, since “insulation from political perspectives with which one disagrees and adherence to one’s preferred pronouns” are important to their sense of safety.  Matthew believes that women tend to be more agreeable and more neurotic than men.  Thus, they may feel “triggered” by gender dysphoria.  Women are, however,  more likely to experience empathy toward – or to think negatively about – the one whose behavior triggered them.  

Meanwhile, boys often react in a masculine version of infantile existence: “wallowing in the kind of Peter Pan-dom that makes them unsuitable partners for adult women.”  Matthew suggests that men have a greater propensity toward aggression – not as a flaw, but as a biological reality.  “Men should not be accused of ‘toxic masculinity’ simply for being less agreeable and more aggressive than the average woman.”  We need to be careful that we do not blame the personal and psychological fragility of men as a decline in masculinity.  “We risk,” Matthews argues, “implying that such fragility is somehow constitutive of womanhood.”

From Matthew’s perspective, we should focus not so much on the decline of masculinity but rather on the development of character. “Women are capable of the same moral growth and accountability that those who praise the ‘masculine virtues’ seek to reestablish as a norm for men.”  And virtues such as reason, courage, and strength may be exhibited differently by females than by males.  Matthew concludes by stating, “Contemporary American women must exemplify them – no less than our brothers today or our foremothers in the nineteenth century – for the benefit of men and women alike, if our society is to thrive.”

In my view, this article hearkens back to the call to be both “lion and lamb.”  As a man, I confess that I can not live up to this metaphor.  I need what Matthew calls “development of character.”  I need Jesus’ help to wear the clothing of both the lion and the lamb.  “You must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.  Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves , which binds us all together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:12-14).

This prompts me to confess: 1) I am a broken man, whose heart is being mended by the Lord,  2) I am His beloved sinner, and 3) He’s not through with me yet.