Like most men who grew up without a father in the home, I was never taught by a man how to be a man; so, I learned to be a man the best way I could: by watching other males in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, I didn’t always make the right choices from the “men” I learned from as teachers. I chose to follow my fatherless friends, other confused males, societal norms, and agenda-driven media to show me how to be a man.
Men often overcompensate in order to prove and affirm their masculinity. And based on what I observed, I pretty much narrowed down manhood to the pursuit of 5 things. I call these 5 things “The A-tions,” or the 5 misconception of manhood. Allow me to quickly explain each.Men often overcompensate in order to prove and affirm their masculinity.
This is when we try to define our manhood by how smart we are, where we go to college, how many degrees we earn, and how much we know based on how much others don’t know. In other words, if I’m smarter than you, then I must be a better man than you, right? Wrong! Overcompensation was me getting more degrees than a thermometer and earning a doctorate degree before I was 30 years old. Manhood is not determined by how much a man knows but rather how much he grows in wisdom as a man.
This is defining manhood by what you do for a living; the title or position you hold or achieve (think CEO, doctor, president, director…). That’s why the first thing a stranger usually asks you when you’re on a plane is “What do you do?” Overcompensation for me in this area was becoming a business owner by age 22, a university professor by age 24, and a published author by age 26. Are you starting to see a pattern here? Manhood is not determined by what man does but rather by who a man is. We are human beings, not human “doings.”
This is when we define our manhood by how much money we make, what we own, our net worth, and what and how much we can buy. More times than not, our level of education and our chosen occupation dictate this. At least for me, it did. Manhood is not determined by how much a man makes but rather by how much of a difference a man makes in the lives of others. Income with no impact is wasteful.
This is when we attempt to define manhood based on popularity, notoriety, and respect. How many people know us, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook? How many value what we have to say, desire to be us or be with us? Or how many do we have the ability to gain access to? This speaks to our desire for “significance,” to be and feel important. For me, and for a lot of men, it was my ability to attract, sleep with, and impress beautiful women. It was also me pursuing standing ovations and the praises from the people in my speaking audiences. Just think awards, affirmation, and achievement. Authentic manhood is not defined by a man’s reputation but rather his character. Reputation is who people think you are; character is who you are when nobody’s looking.
This is when a man attempts to define his manhood by how many other men fear him or look up to him. This speaks to our desire for power and influence, and every man has an innate desire for it. And men will often pursue intimidation through almost any means: physically (I’m stronger, bigger, faster, and tougher), financially (I’m richer), professionally (I’m more influential), intellectually (I’m smarter), socially (I’m more important), relationally (I’m better looking, dress better, more sophisticated) and even spiritually (I’m a better person). Intimidation also shows itself as anger and control issues in our family when the people closest to us fear us the most (i.e., wife and children). Manhood is not defined by how many people fear you but rather by how many people believe in you and trust you.
I don’t know about you, but when finding out how to be a man, I’ve had to learn the hard way that true manhood is not measured by the number of degrees I have, the position I hold, the number of people who know me, or the size of my paycheck but rather by God’s opinion of me and serving others.
Sound off: What would you like to teach your kids about what it means to be man?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How would you describe what it means to be a man?”