In concluding a recent blog, Aaron Renn offered a quote from Richard Reeves’ new book, “Of Boys and Men.”  Below is the quote and some comments on it:

“Until around 2015, the phrase toxic masculinity warranted just a handful of mentions in a couple corners of academia.  According to sociologist Carol Harrington, the number of articles using the term prior to 2015 never exceeded twenty, and almost all mentions were in scholarly journals.  But with the rise of Donald Trump and the #MeToo movement, progressives brought it into everyday use.  By 2017, there were thousands of mentions, mostly in the mainstream media.  Harrington points out that the term is almost never defined, even by academics, and is instead used to simply “signal disapproval.”  Lacking any coherent or consistent definition, the phrase now refers to any male behavior that the user disapproves of, from the tragic to the trivial.  It has been blamed, among other things, for mass shootings, gang violence, rape, online trolling, climate change, the financial crisis, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and an unwillingness to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

When I began writing this blog back in 2009, I envisioned writing on masculinity because of what I had learned from Leanne Payne.  She wrote in Crisis in Masculinity that “a culture will never become decadent in the face of healthy, balanced masculinity.  When a nation or an entire Western culture backslides, it is the masculine which is first to decline.” I will always be grateful for the healing I found (and continue to find) in her writings. I believe she is a forgotten voice in helping men find inner healing from a biblical perspective.  

In confronting toxic masculinity, I value Payne’s viewpoint: “To think on the transcendent nature of gender is awe-inspiring, for sexuality and gender are grounded in the Being of God and His creation. Masculinity and femininity have utterly transcendent dimensions.” 

Jesus reminds us of the transcendent nature of gender: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Matt 19:4-5). I am created as a man.  I have spent a lifetime learning how to live out of the unique masculine soul given to me by my loving heavenly Father.  I am who God says I am, and He continues to form who I am as a man.  I am still under construction. 

So when the term “toxic masculinity” began to appear in our cultural consciousness, I knew I had to continue to be voice crying out to men in the modern wastelands of gender confusion.  I refuse to cave to the voices that want to shame me into denying my masculinity.  I will continue to cry out to others in the wilderness. As Payne notes, “Masculinity… is… not a thing to be learned, but rather a quality to be tasted or experienced.  The masculine within is called forth and blessed by the masculine without.” 

Be aware, men, that in our culture, the term toxic masculinity is used primarily as a “signal of disapproval.”  So my advice is threefold:  First, celebrate the transcendent nature of your masculinity. God made you to be a man for a reason.  Second, find another older male, a mentor or coach, who can affirm you in your masculinity.  Third, find a group of men who seek the Lord, hold each other accountable, pray for each other, and practice soul care with each other.