Meditations on Manhood

Consider, for a moment, the ideal man. Perhaps this man exists in your life, or perhaps this man exists in a book or in your mind. However, picture him as best you can. Consider his drives, his values, his actions. What about him makes you say, “That man is a real man!”

I don’t know if he’s my “ideal” example, but my most visible and current example has to come from fiction. The recent Captain America film and character made me want to stand up and cheer in a movie for the first time in my adult life. He represents all the good, true, and right things about the United States without taking a jingoistic or arrogant stance. One characteristic stood out to me, however.

Self-sacrifice.

There’s a scene in the latter 3rd of the Avengers movie, where an alien grenade or explosives of some kind crashes through a wall into a room full of scared civilians. Captain America sees this and, without a visible concern for his own safety, immediately jumps through the hole in the wall to put himself between the explosion and the people. In the Captain America movie, the titular hero leaps onto a grenade to save others from the deadly explosion while everyone else dives for cover.  When you look at the honors our country (and military) gives, most of them have to do with sacrificial actions performed by individuals which saves the lives of others. Jesus said no one has greater love than he lays down his life for his friends.

A real man lays down his life for others.

As I think through the men who I have considered manly in my life, I have never found myself admiring the hunters, the mechanics, the policemen, or the soldiers for their professions. I think what they do takes skill, and I have gratitude for what it takes to do those jobs. I tend to value intelligence and cleverness, and so I appreciate those qualities when I see those in others. I have consistently admired, however, the men who have given their lives, their dreams, their resources for their families or their cause. This does not come from a masochistic sense: there is no honor in throwing away one’s life needlessly. For me, there’s something manly about a man who considers others more than himself.

We need more men like that in this country, in the world. When I watch the political shenanigans playing out in congress and in the senate, I wonder how different things would happen if more men would stand up and take control. When I watch the breakdown in the family, I wonder how things would change if more men would step up. When I watch our crumbling schools, I wonder how things would reform if more men would step up.

Here’s to the return of men.

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