“The tonic of masculinity” caught my attention while reading an article by Bill Donaghy about men. “If we have been steeped in the lies of porn, if we’ve let ourselves be defined by the hashtag “toxic masculinity”, then we have work to do,” declares Donaghy. He exhorts us to, “go back to the beginning to discover that primordial call to the tonic of masculinity ! (my emphasis)
The intention of toxic masculinity is to deny and do away with what is the natural strength of men, which is, of course, expressed differently in each man. While it is true that men need to live in the awareness of how their natural male strength has done great of harm to women since the fall, our task today, as never before is to walk humbly with our Lord, asking Him for the grace and mercy to rightly exercise our place in the social order as God intended it. We must not deny who we are.
As C. S. Lewis so famously said, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chest and expect of them virtue and enterprise….we castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” The challenge becomes that of knowing how our strength and passion as men, can be used of God, rather then being misdirected into harmful, and even destructive patterns of behavior. We have to do this work, without the help of the dominant culture.
To meet this challenge in the gender wars of our time, men need to be able to receive by faith the gift of their God given masculinity ( being a man). After God made both in his image we read, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Because of the contemporary narrative, which is highly critical of maleness, men will need help in being affirmed in their masculine roles as being “very good.”
Pope Benedict XVI gave this wise pastoral advise for men. “Man comes to the profoundest sense to himself not through what he does but through what he accepts. He must wait for the gift of love, and love can only be received as a gift……One must wait for it, let it be given to one. And one cannot become wholly man in any other way than by being loved, by letting oneself be loved….”
These are words of gold, offering tonic for many men living in shame and disillusionment. Let me brake this statement down. May these words sink into your soul and help you rise up with new tonic for your masculine soul.
First, spiritual tonic cannot be applied to the crisis in masculinity by relying on our effort. Men simply cannot fix their problem. The culture also cries out to men, “fix your problem.” We can’t do it. We are part of Adam’s fallen race. Let this sink in – men need to learn to receive. It is by the grace of God that we are given to capacity to change.
Second, even more difficult is the necessity of waiting. God is able to mold and make us into the men we are intended to be. Let this sink in – it is a process. I personally know. God has been reshaping me for over many years.
Thirdly, always remember that you are his “beloved.” Let this sink in – it about receiving love. Like the Pope said, “one cannot become wholly man in any other way than be being loved, by letting oneself be loved….” There is nothing we can do expect to receive the gift.