My kids’ school curriculum includes learning Latin, something I never studied. They’ve been working on it for years and have complained about it a lot. My wife and I have tried to remind them of the long-term benefits. They typically meet that encouragement with a frustrated sigh. But a couple of weeks ago, my son and I had a night to ourselves, so we took advantage by watching a guy movie. Halfway through, the main character had his shirt off, displaying a number of tattoos in a foreign language. I didn’t think anything of it, but my son muttered something. When I asked him what he said, he explained that the tattoos are in Latin—and he translated them. It was a minor detail, but it added to our understanding of the character and how he sees himself.
His knowledge of Latin helped us accurately define what we otherwise wouldn’t have. Defining things well helps us see more clearly. It gives us a better grip on reality and the truth. When we define subjects or terms incorrectly, the opposite occurs. And one of the most important subjects to define correctly is ourselves. When our identities aren’t grounded in truth, our hearts, minds, and decisions are filled with confusion, contradiction, and destruction. Since our manhood is such a large part of our identities, how we define it is essential to our well-being. To make sure we aren’t getting it wrong, here are 5 things that should never define your manhood.
1. Career Success or Failure
Career success may fill you with self-confidence. It may make you feel like more of a man but not always. I’ve encountered many men who have experienced the pinnacle of achievement but still feel like less than a man. And even if it does make you feel a boost of manhood, what about when you fail—or worse, if you get fired? What happens then?A man is never the sum of his bank account, possessions, or salary.
2. How Much Money You Have or Make
A man is never the sum of his bank account, possessions, or salary. There’s nothing wrong with earning a high salary and having money. However, tying it to our manhood breeds arrogance and greed. That’s why the Apostle Paul said, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Alternatively, being without money will cause low self-worth, discontentment, and jealousy.
3. The Approval of Others
“I don’t care what people say about me.” When people say that, I think one the following. One, it’s true and it was a lot of hard work to arrive at that place. Or two, they’re lying. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’ll take the latter. It’s easy to say you don’t care, but most of us do, and that’s OK. And we should care what at least some people think of us. But we need to work hard to make sure our manhood is not defined by it. Otherwise, in our minds, we’ll be as manly or as emasculated as the last comment that came our way.
4. How Much Sex You Have or Haven’t Had
I was at an NBA game in the mid-’90s when a man sitting next to me commented about A.C. Green, a player in his eleventh season, being a virgin in his mid-thirties. The man shook his head, clearly looking down on Green. But A.C. Green is a man of conviction and self-discipline. He withstood years of temptation to stay true to his beliefs. That’s as manly as a person can get. Defining our manhood by what happens in the bedroom gives us a distorted view of sex. It causes us to look at women as sexual conquests rather than as people. The purpose of sex changes into something to make us feel powerful rather than an intimate connection and expression of love.
5. Physical Prowess
After consulting several sources, I found that our physical strength potential reaches its peak somewhere in our mid- to late twenties. So from 30 on, our strength potential deteriorates. That means that when we define our manhood based on physicality, our manhood will decrease with every passing year after 30.
6. Knowledge and Intelligence
This one is too difficult to define. Knowledge and intelligence about what? How to fix a car? Build a house? Fix a plumbing issue? Have the ability to explain the mathematical solution to the Monty Hall problem? Possess a working knowledge of puts and calls? How about explaining the origin of the universe or the theology of original sin? We all have areas of expertise and interest. There will always be someone smarter and with more knowledge. Finding our manhood in these things is a breeding ground for comparison, and it’ll only lead to arrogance or a lack of self-confidence.
7. The Amount of Power You Possess or Lack
Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot had more power and influence than you or I will probably ever even see. Does that mean they reached a higher level of manhood? Certainly not. Having power isn’t bad, depending on who has it. It simply emphasizes what’s in our hearts. Using power to define our manhood makes us ripe for corruption and abuse. This is something Jesus confronted often. It may seem odd, but the people Jesus conflicted with were the religious leaders. They became enamored with their own power instead of devoting themselves to God. Jesus even told them tax collectors and prostitutes were entering heaven before they were in Matthew 21:31. Power will never make you a man. In fact, I consider Jesus the greatest man to ever live, and Philippians 2:7 says that “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”
Sound off: What are some other things that should never define your manhood?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some words you would use to describe yourself?”