The literary device of the “everyman” has run its course. The everyman was supposed to be a compilation of all things men; a circle of attributes, attitudes, and activities that all men, everywhere do. Sadly, it has also become a way of measuring men against a arbitrary list of accomplishments, communicating the message: “if you aren’t like the Dos Equis man, you don’t measure up.”
Trolling through the news this morning, cnn.com posted an op ed. article, written by a woman, that asked an interesting question: “Is the ‘be a man’ stereotype hurting boys?” I can only assume the image of Jaylen Fryberg, the most recent school shooter, holding what appears to be a deer rifle, had something to do with her thesis, however, the ties were a bit thin. The article did quote a few of his facebook posts, non-descript and vague references to situations and his reactions to them; but nothing that would be considered a direct threat upon anyone involved. The goal was to connect Jaylen with the pressure that young men face to live up to the “be a man” standard that is pushed via every form of media. I have a problem with this for a couple reasons.
- “Be a man” has been shouted at me on sports fields, in arenas, and every other form of sports and recreation arena throughout my entire life. Where these things were never shouted to me was when I need to be the first to forgive, the one to lead my wife spiritually, the one to offer reconciliation, or to serve and protect those around me. Where were the people shouting “be a man” then. “Be a man” is better translated: “Toughen up in useless endeavors, but when it comes to raising kids, being a husband, leading your family who cares.” But that takes to long to say.
- Was Jalyen struggling with the “be a man” mentality: YES! How do I know that? From his facebook page? From his twitter account? From his actions? No! Because he’s a guy and we all struggle with it. The late onset of manhood in our country (some would argue as late as the mid thirties for the arrival of manhood), stems in part from this mentality that manhood (responsibility, leadership, integrity, and self-dependence) is so hard to grasp, with so many pressures, that I would rather start living that way later and embrace the low standards, responsibility free life of bachelor-hood right now. The pervasive feeling of never living up to the “be a man” standard is cuasing more and more boys to put off even trying.
So what’s the answer? How do we fix the problem?
It starts with our definition of manhood. Framing manhood as a balance between the warrior King David, who led his troops into battle and fought for God’s Kingdom, and the poet David who showed the tenderness of his heart in the Psalms. Calling men to a manhood that reflects power and the ability to harness it. The picture of manhood that is connected to his heavenly Father from where he receives his resolve and fortitude. We need a picture of manhood that is offered grace when we fail, forgiveness for when we stumble, and an identity for what we can become. We need the cross of Christ who offers all these things.
The “be a man” mantra is not all bad, its just that we need to figure out what kind of man it is we need to become.