by Stephen Kimball
What makes a man? In some cultures, a child is believed to make the transition to manhood at the ripe old age of 13. In the minds of many in this country the arbitrary age is 18, when you can enter military service. Some people believe the age to be 21, when you can legally drink alcohol. But one doesn’t just snap his fingers and suddenly find that he has become a man, when one day ago he was a child. Without question, being an adult male does not necessarily equal being a man. Sadly, many stretch their childhood well into their 20’s or 30’s and for some, manhood may never come at all. Others designate manhood based on things other than age, like the onset of puberty or loss of virginity or killing your first wildebeest or taking on the responsibility of a job or perhaps graduation or marriage, or fatherhood. Actually, there is no milestone in and of itself, no matter how significant, that signifies manhood. Becoming a man is a process – A process by which you discover the meaning of manhood for yourself. A process you are actually well into at this point in your life whether you recognize it or not. Hopefully, this letter will help you to really begin to think about it and formulate your own convictions on what it really means to be a man.
The world has many misconceptions about what manhood looks like. So before we get to the real qualifications, lets first take a look at a few of these erroneous, stereotypical expressions of manhood we see in our society today, as they speak to what true manhood is not! As previously stated, age is not a factor. Neither, your appearance; how tall, dark and handsome you are, how much hair you can grow on your face or chest, how big your biceps are or how pretty your girlfriend is. It’s not about your personality; how charismatic you are, how driven you are or how endearing your sense of humor. It is not about how talented or athletic you are; if you can build the biggest tower, run the fastest race, or bag the biggest buck. It’s not about how “well rounded” you are with your knowledge of current events or politics. Not even your sports knowledge is an indicator. I mean what does it really matter who the UFC champ is, or how well your fantasy football team does? It’s not about your education; what your SAT score is or what degree you hold (or are in pursuit of). It’s not about money; how much stuff you amass, what your address is or how big and dirty your truck or your dog is. It’s not about conquering a woman or a video game. It’s not about how well you follow or don’t follow the “rules”. It’s not about whether you hold a position of leadership at your school, work, social club or even in the church. No, manhood cannot truly be defined by any position, possession or accomplishment. Neither is it determined by any physical or mental attribute or capability whatsoever.
Here’s where we must make the distinction between how the world defines manhood and what it means to be a man who is a follower of Jesus Christ – a man of God. It’s easy to be deceived, especially at such a young age, into thinking that success or popularity equals “manhood”. But do not be deceived! The God who created you and knows you intimately, looks beneath the surface into the recesses of the heart, and what really matters is what he sees in there. Lose that perspective and begin to live your life with the ideals of the world, guided by your own selfish desires, and fall short of what God has planned for your life. On the other hand, live life with an undying deep desire to understand the heart of God and to walk in the wisdom of His Word and you will end up all the man he intends you to be. My advice is strive to be the man God intends you to be. So what are the qualities or characteristics that make up the true definition of manhood and how do you begin to acquire them?
Remember, these things are a part of you on the inside – your character. There is no switch you can flip where you are suddenly endowed with moral and ethical strength. As you live life with an eternal perspective, guided by God in all you do, faith and experience will lead you to a greater and greater realization of these attributes. First, it’s important to hone in on what values you believe to be most important to live by. Think about them – write them down. They may be different in your home or in your heart but at our home our family values are on display in our dining room where everyone can be reminded of them. And we often refer to them when one or more gets broken. They are as follows: love God, family first, tell the truth, work hard, be kind and forgive. It’s not so much a list it’s more of a flow chart. “Love God” is in the center and each of the others flows from that most important relationship. Once you decide for yourself what values you see as imperative, then live your life adhering to them without compromise. Any man I have ever looked up to as someone I would want to emulate in life has been a man of conviction – someone who lived what he believed. I challenge you to be that kind of a man.
There are certain universal, altruistic characteristics of the man of God. Namely, the man of God is not self-centered, he is Christ centered. He is not self-controlled, he is Christ-controlled. He is not self-righteous, he lives his life with humility. He is not self-reliant but has an unwavering faith and dependency on God’s Word. He is not self-confident, he is confident that God is his strength in his weakness. Understanding the sovereignty of God, He is not a “self-made man” but has an awareness that without the hand of God in his life he would be destitute in every way. This is an over-arching, God centered perspective that guides the man of God to do the right thing for the right reasons.
The true measure of a man is what’s on the inside. It is his strength of character and integrity and it becomes apparent in a myriad of ways: In a strong work ethic, in how one bears up under difficult circumstances, if you are a man of your word, honest, courageous, kind, respectful, helpful, compassionate, loving, humble, forgiving, responsible, teachable, generous, discerning, wise. If I could impart one thing to you from the bottom of my heart to yours it would be to fortify your mind and heart with the sure foundation of God’s Word. Love it, seek to understand it and apply it and you will continue to see the fruit, that God has already planned for your life, come to pass. He will use you in great ways – in ways you may never even be aware of – for His glory and at the end of the day you will be honored, by God, in this life and beyond, for being the man that God intended you to be. May you be blessed, all your days, in all your pursuits.
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