Sunday, September 2, 2012

Men: Academic, Artist, or Athlete?

Girls, what comes to mind when you hear the word "man?"

Most likely, when I asked that question, an image came to mind instead of a definition. Whatever image you most associate with a guy is what came to mind. Culture and society (that includes literature, media, perhaps even the church) is good at projecting images of what men ought to look like-- personas. And these are often pretty accurately reflective of what men really do look like. Here, I'll show you what I mean. Come with me on a quick diversion that illustrates this point well... :-)

FRONTIER MAN: the all-American, hunts, fishes, lives off the land, isn't afraid to get dirty

THE SUPER HERO: holds super powers, rescues the ladies, flies, wears tights 

THE MUSICIAN / THE HIPSTER (these two often mingle)
Wears skinny jeans, plays guitar, hibernates in coffee shops, writes, is very exclusive

 THE KNIGHT: noble, suave, heroic, generally rides a steed

THE GEEK: genius, mechanically-minded, often speaks in a foreign language

THE STUD: strong physique, warrior-type, executes strong plan of attack


THE JERK: witty, popular, shrewd, irresponsible (sometimes learning a lesson) 

Girls are always out to find "a real man." At least this is what I hear a lot. They've been searching since the days of the ancients, and nothing has changed since. But are they simply searching for an image, a persona, of what we've been told is a man... or should they instead be looking for a definition of what a man ought to be? This summer, and this first week of the new semester, I've been reading and watching (mostly watching) an exorbitant amount of Victorian novels, poetry, and BBC time period dramas. This was partly in order to prepare for my Jane Austen class at WJU and partly because, at the end of the day, it's highly therapeutic to lay down and immerse yourself in three hours of beautiful English countryside-- at least for a girl. And if there's one thing in these stories, it's a plethora of male characters to analyze. We women highly enjoy this. Due to the extensive character development that takes place in these plots, there's much opportunity to examine the various types of men. There's usually the upstanding male lead (whose integrity and affection attract the heroine) and the licentious scalawag (whose passion and charm seduce the side characters). We root for the sympathetic heroine to finally come to terms with the male lead. But this isn't simply because he's a man who adheres to the classic romantic persona; it's because he's a hero at heart.  

Sy Rogers had a more effective way of categorizing these men during a conference I once attended. He said that men typically fall into one of three types: 1) the academic 2) the artist 3) the athlete. Obviously, there is some overlap, and certain people definitely seem to have all three. But, basically, men in each of these categories are known for their strengths, which come in the form of either intellectual capabilities, emotional expression, or physical aptitudes. What was profound to me was... they're ALL men. From a Christian perspective, if we gals are eager to find "real men" (which, from what I hear, translates into leaders who are spiritually mature), we can find them in all three of these categories, despite what culture tells us is admirable or popular. One man may not fit the athletic type-- he isn't muscular at all and tends to stay pretty clean-- but his well-researched scholarly work changes the world of science, politics, psychology, or theology. Another man may be relatively uneducated and simplistic in thought-- but his physical strength provides the ability to work with his hands to create things or participate in sports, where he can give glory to his Creator. Still another may not fit the athletic or academic type, yet his expressive creative abilities allow him to use music, art, or literature to create beauty that speaks powerful truths. They are all equally admirable, and they are all equally masculine.

Ladies, there are many guys out there who need encouragement in what God has created them to be. They're up under a lot of competition and pressure by society to act or look a certain way. If you meet a man who does not fit your preconceived stereotype, but has actions that speak volumes about his character, he is the "real man." I'm thinking of people like Eric Liddell, Peter Marshall, and Jim Elliot, whose faith and integrity dominated their careers, which were Olympic runner, preacher/writer, and evangelist. Don't run after the wrong ones-- the ones who fit the mold but have no substance. Don't fall in love with a persona because, believe me, it's easy to do. Look for the man who is confident in his identity, whether that be academic, artist, athlete, or whatever stamp you might place on him. Ultimately, if he is a Christian, his identity is in Christ, and that must be flagrantly displayed in whatever his hands find to do. Look discerningly for the hero at heart.

... As Elinor Dashwood appropriately put it, he is the one who you must highly esteem. He is the one who is "amiable and worthy."

For a more extensive (and pretty exhaustive) read, I recommend this article. The Marks of Manhood