Admittedly, I don’t watch much TV. It’s not that I’m against TV. I just don’t get into it. But the show’s opening jingles stick with me. And even though I may have watched only one episode, the jingle for Two and a Half Men is bouncing between my ears. Right now. Just because I mentioned it!
It’s now bouncing between your ears. And for that, I’m sorry. Anyway, moving on!
I don’t want to focus on the show as much as the lyrics. They’re pretty simple.
“Men, men, men, men, manly men, men men”
And it repeats. That’s it.
But it makes me curious – what makes a man manly? I mean, it definitely can’t be either of those guys on the show, right? Neither are good role models of what manly looks like. So is it men who fix cars, work out, and have biceps as big as my thighs and are also tall, dark, and handsome? Or is it men who make heaps of money in their careers? Is it pouring massive amounts of hours into the work week, working 7 days a week? What about hunting and fishing? Does being a manly man mean being an outdoorsmen? Is it being able to fix or build things and be the handyman on TV that makes all that stuff look super easy because of TV magic?
Then there’s sports. Does playing or loving sports make a man manly? Do tattoos, piercings, rock climbing, or a job/career make a man manly? Is it stuffing down fear, insecurities, and emotions, refusing to show or cry?
I love to work out. Swimming, running, and cycling are my jam. But I’m definitely not swollen like Arnold in his prime. I like the outdoors and enjoy hunting, but not like other guys. You see, I don’t like cold. Period. Just ask my wife. So, hunting can be a challenge when it’s cold. Does that mean I’m not manly?
And there’s nothing tall about me. I’m 5’7″ with shoes on. I’m not dark. And handsome, I’ll just leave that for my wife to answer.
I don’t make heaps of money. I like football, but I can live without it. And tattoos are just too much pain for me. Rock climbing is too dangerous!
Again, I don’t like pain.
If these man men manly, then where does that leave me? Where does that leave you? Maybe a better question is this – If none of these make men manly, then what does? What is it that identifies a man as a manly man?
The story of Joseph
There’s probably a better answer out there than the one I’m about to give. So feel free to contribute. But mine is found in Genesis in the story of Joseph, specifically with Joseph’s 11 brothers and their father, Jacob.
I’ll briefly summarize the story so we’re all on the same page. Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous, hating brothers. Joseph succeeds in a military leader’s home until that military leader’s wife unsuccessfully tries to seduce Joseph. (By the way, sleeping with women doesn’t make men manly). Joseph refuses her offers, and she’s not happy. So, she concocts a story that lands Joseph in prison. Joseph rises from prison and becomes second in command over all of Egypt.
Enter Joseph’s brothers – the ones who sold him and really wanted him dead.
They come to Egypt to buy food because of a famine. Egypt has food because of God’s purpose with Joseph. Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and they have a family reunion, including Jacob, their father.
Here is where one verse points me toward what a manly man is supposed to be like.
Jacob dies, and the brothers and Joseph mourn. Then we have this verse.
Genesis 50:15 But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said.
At this point, Joseph has forgiven his brothers. And Joseph has shown no signs of payback. Yet the brothers are fearful. Why?
In Middle Eastern culture, siblings would wait for the father to die before they would retaliate against each other. This is present in Genesis in the story of Jacob and Esau, where Jacob had stolen Esau’s blessing.
Genesis 27:41 From that time on, Esau hated Jacob because their father had given Jacob the blessing. And Esau began to scheme: “I will soon be mourning my father’s death. Then I will kill my brother, Jacob.”
Knowing that cultural fact fits very well why Joseph’s brothers are afraid. Jacob is now dead, and Jacob, as the father, was a covering, a protection for the family.
And there it is right there.
Maybe I’m wrong. But maybe, just perhaps, as men, we’re to be a covering, a protection for our family. This is true for single men, married men with kids, and grandfathers. What makes a manly man is providing safety and security for those God has entrusted to our care. When the wife and kids know they are safe under a husband and father’s covering, protected by him, they thrive precisely because they are secure.
What makes a man manly, then, is not the exterior things but the interior things. Specifically, it’s answering the question, is he living under the covering and protection of his Heavenly Father?
Our media today speaks another version of what it means to be manly. And I’ll ruffle a few feathers here. Manly men are NOT what our media says. The standard is not a rock solid 6-pack with a tan and money! (I don’t have the money, and I’ve tried to get a 6-pack, but alas, the red velvet cake and lasagna cause it to be ever more elusive the older I get.) It’s not power or control, not showing emotions, tough as nails and hard as steel exterior.
Counter to media, Paul challenges men to be on guard, to be alert and ready to defend, to stand firm in faith, to be obedient, to be courageous, to be strong (note he’s probably not talking body builder strong), to be men worthy of respect, obedient to their Heavenly Father, sincere, knowing what is right and doing it, and doing all of that in love (more concern for others than self – not only emotion). A manly man loves God and is confident in that love to love those God has entrusted to his care. Regardless of what it costs him.
Guys, we are the restraining force for those we care for because God is the restraining force for us. We can do what we were created to do because of what God has done and is doing for us. Our identity is not in what is seen in media, but in what is unseen, that is, what’s going on inside us, and how that unseen work comes out in daily living. It’s your identity in Christ. And it’s that identity that makes us manly men.
This means when something is happening outside the house, and your wife wants you to check it out, even though you know it’s nothing, you still take the risk, pull up your big boy britches, put your shoes on, and head outside to put her mind at ease. And if it is something, then you do something to protect. You are her protector. So protect!
This means when one of your children makes a mistake, and you have a right to be angry, you show love instead. You create an environment where they feel safe to share with you. That doesn’t mean you don’t correct poor choices or behavior but do so without causing fear, for fear always shuts others down.
This means when you’re tempted, and no one would ever find out, you don’t. Period. End of story. There isn’t another option.
This means keeping the spending reasonable, no matter the toy!
Being a manly man means looking at your family and saying these three words.
“I’ve got this.”
Because you do. Not in your own strength, of course. But in God’s. And they see Him in you, working in you, and you being confident because of God’s presence in your life. You are their covering, protection, and restraining force that provides security because of your sacrifices. It’ll cost you. But it’s worth it all!
You are loved!