What does a manly man look like? Go ahead, be stereotypical: rough, loud, and aggressive. Sure. Maybe sometimes.
What about a man do you personally admire? Maybe he’s steady, firm, sticks to his word, takes ownership, and works hard. Great. We’re getting closer.
But do you know what neither of those have in common? “Oh, he’s married. He has a girlfriend. He’s engaged.” No one admires someone else for having a woman on their arm, unless that admirer is a 12-year-old boy and the guy is someone faking a “good life” on Instagram. No, you admire a man for being a man. Here’s the rub.
Historically, a man is shown to be a man when he can protect his family, provide for their good living, and have a lot of kids.
You’re free to disagree, but that’s the historical reality across cultures. From a man’s perspective of modern culture, these classic pillars of manhood to protect, procreate, and provide are almost eradicated—or at least severely reduced. Today, we don’t have active threats on the borders of our neighborhood or our nation. Jobs may be hard to come by, but I don’t know anyone who is starving. We actually have an obesity problem, in case you forgot. The “protect” and “provide” pillars don’t mean what they used to.
The age-old, obvious challenges that show a man who he is seem gone. Even though there are countless, critically needed ways to provide and protect today even when we’re single, it can feel like procreation is the only accessible one left. This leads a lot of guys to thinking the last remaining way to prove your masculinity is through sex. If you wonder why our American culture, and western culture at large, is so obsessed with sex, that’s one big reason why. Because we don’t believe we have other ways to prove our worth (and it’s an easy one that at least for a moment makes us feel better).
I’ve had a couple relationships that I would consider serious. Neither ended great. Like any normal person, I felt sad about it. But unfortunately, I didn’t believe I had anyone to really talk about it with. So my way to deal with breakup looked more like hooking up with strangers than it did having an honest conversation about how I was feeling.
Christians have absorbed this obsession with sex, at least in a different way. Either we are awkward about it and simply stamp it out (sometimes inadvertently making it look like “forbidden fruit” and thereby more appealing) or we are straight-up desperate to be in a relationship. If you’ve met someone you want to marry, good for you.
But having witnessed many, many friends bounce from relationship to relationship, I question whether or not many of us are really just trying to fill a void in our souls with another human being.
Outside of church, I see a ton of bitter men in culture (often only voicing their opinions online) because they fail to realize that they have worth outside of being in a relationship. It saddens me, because if everyone, Christian or not, saw themselves how God saw them, they would never have a self-esteem issue again.
Relationships are a red herring on the quest for self-worth. If you don’t respect yourself, a romantic relationship will not make you whole—it will create more insecurity.
Don’t let your personal imperfections stop you from pursuing a relationship, if that’s what you want. But erase the expectation that a relationship will make you whole, or make you feel better about you. That’s something only God can give, and he’s just waiting for us to follow his lead.