What is True Manhood?

by Kevin D. Denee

Real men are rare today. Few people understand what true manhood is. Here’s how you can develop masculinity God’s way!

Today’s “men” reflect a variety of pictures, ranging from weakness to dim-witted silliness to indecisiveness to feminine sensitivities to carelessness—and beyond. They are given to extremes, lacking control over their emotions and desires. In short, this world produces males who are like puddles of liquid—spineless blobs.

Do you know what true masculinity is? Do you know what it means to be a man?

While you may have various ideas or thoughts on the matter, you more than likely do not know the complete answer. The reason is that society has conditioned mankind, to one degree or another, to think that men should be a certain way—and this conditioning is wrong!

Seemingly, masculinity can now only be found in history books or musical ballads—the only places where terms such as “honor” and “character” still exist. What has replaced manhood is a shame.

I am reminded of a popular song that was on the radio several years ago. It was sung by a woman, and it asked, “Where have all the cowboys gone?” While it did not contain entirely correct understanding, it did paint a picture of the absence of real men today, and that women would appreciate one in their lives.

God’s youth—especially the young men—must pay great attention to this subject. This article should not be read just once and then put away on the shelf. It ought to be used as a foundation—a beginning of things to work on in your life.

Young men, you cannot afford to toss aside the principles here—you cannot afford to be ignorant of what true manhood is. Here’s why: Do you want to someday have a truly successful marriage and be a good father to your children? You cannot achieve either if you neglect the subject of masculinity and your role in marriage and the family. Do you want to take the lead in your life and in other situations? If so, you cannot ignore what it means to be a true man.

Every male should aspire to be a real masculine leader. This article will show you how to start.

Ladies, Listen Up!

Let’s briefly address the ladies first. At first glance, females may think this article is only for their male counterparts. On the contrary! For several reasons, it is also extremely valuable for those aspiring to be true ladies.

First, as a teen or young woman, you probably have many misconceptions of what a man should be.

Second, as you grow older, you will want to think about and learn what to look for in your future “life-long mate.”

Third, if you hope to be a mother someday, you will play a critical role in teaching your sons how to grow up to be the right kind of men.

Finally, by learning and understanding the man’s role in life, you will also learn about your role.

Wrong Teaching

Young men have to unlearn certain things they may have picked up in the world before they can learn the right way.

One popular trend today is what could be called the “metrosexual movement.” A metrosexual can be defined as “a heterosexual male who is in touch with his feminine side—he color coordinates [and] cares deeply about exfoliation…” (en.wikipedia.org).

Tragically, it is now “cool” for a man to act feminine. Television shows promote metrosexuals to an ever greater extent. Anyone who is different—who represents the strong men of previous generations—is literally scorned and laughed at. Also, pop culture proclaims that it is “cool” to be homosexual. This, of course, greatly influenced the metrosexual movement and, in general, a man’s perceived role in society.

Another aspect of Western society is that men are generally pictured as dumb weaklings. Take a moment to look at some of the commercials or sitcom advertisements you commonly see on television. Here is a typical scenario: The wise, balanced, reasonable wife tries to convince her brainless, weak-willed, irrational husband that he should do this or not do that. Throughout the commercial, the viewer has to “bear long” with the idiot husband, as the wife shows the obviously better way (usually whatever the commercial is trying to sell).

Young people are also taught that they must accept everything that is considered inclusive and tolerant. Schools and churches promote “accepting” everyone and everything. If someone’s actions do not fit your standard, you are considered to be “judging the person” and not being “open-minded” enough. It is ironic that young people in the Church are made to feel guilty when they reject other people’s wrong values. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty for having high standards and moral values.

There is certainly nothing wrong with being sensitive to a woman’s needs, and you should sincerely try at times. On the other hand, to be “in touch with your feminine side” is simply another way of saying “effeminate.”

The Bible has strong words about effeminacy: “Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” The scripture continues by defining what “unrighteous” can mean: “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:10).

Whether today’s pop culture agrees with God or not, He simply says that effeminate men will not be allowed to be in His kingdom. These are strong words—and should be a strong warning to all of God’s youth.

It is an ongoing battle to go the other way—to swim against the stream of society. Young men must fight against all the pulls of the world. They must realize that the world will try to push them to become more effeminate—the opposite of masculine.

However, another element affects our young men.

A Lack of Fathers

Sadly, many families are split. This means that the mother is often left to rear the children alone. This scenario is also found in the Church, with unmarried mothers being called. Many men have simply thrown out, forgotten or ignored their responsibility to rear their children.

Some teens in God’s Church may not have a good example of a father in their lives, due to a wide variety of circumstances. This can present a serious problem for young men. Because there is no prominent father figure in the picture, young boys grow up not seeing good examples of masculinity. For example, the father is not there to have invaluable “man-to-man” talks with his son. Almost any adult male who had been reared by a father can remember these talks, and most would admit that times like these made a significant impression on their lives.

Almost inevitably, young men who do not have a father figure in their lives will have to work at masculinity even more. There is a tendency for some to act more feminine, as a woman is the only role model in the family. If you are in these shoes, be aware that you may have more of an upward battle. However, true masculinity is still attainable—and must be sought.

Young men in this situation should turn to others for examples. There may be men in your congregation who are good examples of masculinity, or perhaps you have a grandfather who can offer fatherly advice. Take time to watch and learn from such men. There may even be instances of men in the world, especially those in times past (such as presidents, leaders, etc.), who can be relatively good examples of manhood. You can learn things from them in certain limited cases.

Of course, no man in the Church—let alone the world—has perfected true masculinity, but you should be able to learn things and apply them to your own personality and character.

Common Misconceptions

When you think of somebody who is “manly,” some of these things may come to mind, but they are NOT exemplary of masculine men:

The Cocky Braggart: If you are good at something, let people find out on their own. No one appreciates the man who is always talking about his accomplishments. Also, while confidence is a good thing, being cocky is not. Learn the difference.

The Power-Hungry Employee: A man should aspire to be successful, but success should never come at the expense of others or at the expense of compromising one’s standards.

The Know-It-All: While a man should always be concerned with learning more in life, he should never “show off” his knowledge by constantly breaking into conversations to tell all that he knows on a certain subject, or to try to top the last comment made by someone else.

The Arrogant and Fierce Competitor: Many men who think they are “manly” are simply arrogant. A man should know what he is capable of, but never come across as proud of who he is or what he can do.

The Tarzans, James Bonds or Superheroes: While they can be entertaining, these Hollywood “heroes” are not examples of real men.

The Domineering Dictator: The man who thinks he must rule with an iron fist is not exemplifying true manhood. Often, these types are insecure, but cover it up with a bullying approach.

Characteristics of Manhood

Now that we have a thorough idea of what masculinity is not, what IS true masculinity? The simplest answer is: being the man that God intended! No human or Hollywood interpretation can present the correct definition. Instead, we must look at the overall, big picture of “What does God want me to be like?”

Here are some practical areas on which all young men should work.

Putting God First: This is by far the most important point. Since true masculinity is defined as whom God wants us to be, the only way to become that man is to put God first in life. The world would never consider this part of true manhood, but, in fact, it far outweighs all other characteristics! It should be the one that is worked on the most.

A man needs to make time to study the Bible, along with the Church’s vast array of literature. If you do this as a teen, you will build a foundation that will serve you for the rest of your life. You also need to pray—talk—to God. He should be your closest confidant, One who is with you your entire life.

By putting God first, you will automatically be on your way to building masculinity.

Having Character: This is tied to the first point. You might ask, “What exactly is character?”—it is knowing right from wrong, turning from the wrong and doing what is right, even in the face of pressures and temptations to give in. Character needs to be exercised in all areas of your life—big and small.

You learn through this magazine, and at Sabbath services, right from wrong. Be determined to show the resolve and strength necessary to do the right thing. As you grow older and begin to date, ladies will appreciate a man who has character—who has a strong backbone.

Character is revealed through your actions, and therefore it defines who you are. You should not be concerned with how you act just around people, but how you behave all the time. Character is not something you turn on and off depending upon whose presence you are in. Ask yourself: “Do I show character whether I am with a group of my friends who are my own age or with adults?”—“Do I show character even when I am alone?”

Strive to build character every day and in every situation.

Taking Initiative; Taking Charge: Do not allow yourself to be like so many young people who are just “along for the ride,” wherever it takes them. A real man is in control of his life.

Start small. Take charge of little things, such as a small group activity or conversing on the Internet with other youth in the Church. You will develop confidence that allows you to take the lead in other situations.

The same is true for initiative, which can be defined as going above and beyond—in school, at home, at work, in serving at services, and so on. Parents, employers and peers will greatly appreciate this. (Of course, be careful not to overstep your bounds.)

Determine to show initiative and take charge in your life.

Using Common Sense: So many people today, both male and female, lack common sense. Be determined to reflect common sense in every area of your life. This means thinking through what you do or say before actually doing or saying it!

An entire article could be devoted to just this topic. Strive to use common sense.

Making Good Decisions: A man must show good judgment in all areas of life. This means that he cannot be indecisive or “wishy-washy.” So many youth “don’t care.” They just “go with the flow” and are not decisive.

Women like men who are willing and able to make decisions, such as deciding where they will go and what they will do on a date. When older and married, they will appreciate when the husband takes the lead in the tougher decisions.

Throughout your teenage years, you need to be decisive. Do not just “go with the flow.” Try to form well thought-out, resolute judgments (after seeking right counsel). This can be practiced during group activities in the Church. At school, push yourself to make decisions during group projects (but try not to alienate others by being pushy or domineering).

In addition, when you see major news stories or events taking place, see and analyze them from God’s perspective; decide how they might be part of His Plan for mankind.

Make active decisions in your personal life.

Setting Goals and Having a Purpose in Life: A man who takes charge, has initiative and common sense, and makes decisions, also sets goals. Ask yourself what you want to accomplish in your teenage years. Set short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.

Here are a few things to work on: Preparing to eventually lead a home and love and care for a wife and children; building your storehouse of godly and physical knowledge; refining your personality, including learning how to be a gentleman (i.e., studying etiquette books); and working toward a promising career that will support your family.

Again, a godly woman admires a man who lives with purpose and sets goals.

Being Strong: As mentioned earlier, men are often characterized as weaklings. Just watching a little bit of television will almost make you nauseous when you look at how pathetic and idiotic male characters are portrayed.

Proverbs 20:29 explains that the glory of young men is their strength—both mentally and physically. A young man ought to be physically strong. However, this does not mean that he spends hours each week weightlifting and vainly admiring his growing and bulging muscles in the mirror. Instead, strength can be developed through moderate exercise and outdoor activity.

A young man should also be mentally and emotionally strong. Care about school. Realize it is an opportunity to expand your mind—your mental muscle!—not a daily nuisance that you simply have to “get through.” And, when things go wrong in life, as they often do, use it as an opportunity to learn, instead of “going to pieces,” complaining or sulking about it.

Above all else, a young man must be spiritually strong.

Having Vitality and Good Health: A man cares about his physical health. This means that you should be exercising throughout your teenage life. However you do this—running, walking, bicycling, mountain biking, rollerblading, playing sports, etc.—be sure to keep physically fit. The stereotypical videogame addict, who rarely sees the sun, simply does not exemplify manhood.

Be aware of your diet. The type of man whom Hollywood portrays eats only steak, potatoes and chewy coffee, and the “typical” teenager eats a lot of potato chips, candy, pizza and soda. Men understand that a balanced diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Being Bold and Confident: Do not be confused, as these two qualities are very different from arrogance and cockiness. If you want to be bold and confident, turn to the Bible to understand how to do this.

Do not be bold in a way that is abrasive to others, but in a way that shows people that you have strong convictions.

Also, learning and understanding your strengths and weaknesses can allow you to become confident in whatever you do. So many young people reflect almost no confidence—determine to be the opposite!

Being Conscientious, Sensitive and Tactful: Young men in God’s Church must always learn to be more conscientious and sensitive—to think about the needs and concerns of other people (Phil. 2:4). Learn about the God-ordained roles of women, and treat them with respect and honor. Be sensitive to others, always willing to listen and help. And, when offering advice or support, use tact—thoughtful consideration and discretion.

Being conscientious is simply living the give way of life!

Learn by Example

Successful people study the lives of other successful people. Likewise, to obtain true masculinity, study the lives of real men. Reading biographies and autobiographies of presidents, business leaders, etc. will help you learn about strength, honor, duty, virtue, etc., and what they did to become successful. What you learn from these men’s stories can be invaluable.

(Young people, take the time to read our book Herbert W. Armstrong – His Life in Proper Perspective, which you might feel is only for adults, to study an example of true success.)

Dig into the pages of your Bible. Many men in God’s Word almost explode with masculinity. Study the life of King David, a bold leader who led mighty men. Read about Samson, Gideon, Moses, Jacob, Joseph. These men certainly had human weaknesses, as we all do, but their strengths were amazing.

Most importantly, read about the life of Jesus Christ. The world ignorantly paints Him as a scrawny, effeminate weakling. The world’s version of “Jesus” is a “girly man,” to use the vernacular from California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead, learn about the real Christ of the Bible—the hardworking carpenter, the Man who would not compromise, the Man who stood up to the “intellectuals” of His day.

Be Yourself!

One thing must be stressed. To become a true man does not mean to become like another “yellow pencil in a box.” Everybody has different personalities; the world would be a boring place if this were not the case. God loves variety.

Take the principles that you have just learned and apply them. Write out all the points, and make it your goal to improve in each and every one of them.

Young men, apply this article and find true manhood!

You may wish to read: