In a recent online survey conducted by Hart Research Associates and covered in the Wall Street Journal, 44 percent of American men said they are finding it “harder to be a man today compared with their father’s generation.” The most common explanation pointed to the rise of women: “Women attaining a stronger position in the workplace, a stronger position financially, and greater gender equity.” Nearly a third conceded that as women take greater responsibility outside the home the confidence of American men is eroding. “While the old mold in male-female relationships has been broken” observes Jeff Horwitt, “it’s clear that the new shape has yet to be set.”
Many of the advances of women has been necessary and favorable in complementing the genders. The extreme feminist movement is another issue. My concern, however, is how Christian men respond to the new reality. What will the “new shape” be like? My generation lived comfortably, with minimal challenges to a patriarchy which privileged men, assuming male authority over women. while expecting their submission. But not today. For better or worse, Christian men are being forced to grapple with their gender identity. It no longer can be just assumed. It will be a continuing issue when, for example, Facebook provides more than 50 choices for gender identification. This will only make it more confusing and contentious.
So here is some advise from someone who has struggled with his gender identity as a man. I have had to repent and change many of my attitudes and behavior towards women. This began in my early 30’s and continues to this day. Just ask my wife. First and foremost, settle in your heart that your identity as a man is found in God, not how others see you or how you see yourself. Your personhood is not your creation but a gift granted to you by your heavenly father. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Let Jesus be the key to your true identity as a man. Give him all of your broken heart. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). Secure maleness begins with a healed heart.
Secondly, work out your lifestyle in relation to the contemporary gender roles. Richard Rohr give this warning. “Men’s liberation is….more difficult than women’s liberation. Women know that they are oppressed and that in itself is the beginning of liberation.” But men have neglect to see their need for liberation from old patterns and habits. Learn to celebrate and rejoice in your identity as a man, while being accepting and affirming of women. There is a complimentary, balanced way of relating to the feminine for each of us.
Thirdly, be intentional about learning the shape of your masculine soul. For example I am not as practical and rational. I am more feeling and intuitive then a lot of guys. I have felt like a “misfit” in the male culture. But over the years I have come to peace with who I am as man. I celebrate my strengths, and have worked hard on my “inferiors.” “Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Rom 12:3).
One final thought. Often these blogs are too short to explain what is on my heart. My three points might not give much clarity. But if you keep reading or look back at previous blogs, you will sense my passion for helping men to live out of their true masculine soul, while discovering and embracing the feminine which bring balance to our masculinity. The masculine out of balance has been the source of much pain in relationships for many years.