Measuring sticks, part 2
Hiking in Corcovado National Park, once the rain started the howler monkeys began their chorus, presumably trying to keep track of one another in the noise of the downpour. It turns out that howlers just may be the loudest land animals on earth. Some people have reported hearing them from as far as three miles away! Sounds like my neighbor’s car…
A common benchmark we use today to measure a man is his vehicle. In my neighborhood it’s all about trucks, and bigger is better. I’ve seen F150s lifted so high that the driver needed a step stool to get in. There are women in my neighborhood that drive bigger trucks than mine (I drive a little, unmanly Ford Ranger). I’ve always wanted to ask, Do you actually use your 4WD Cadillac Escalade off-road or to haul anything? Or is it just to pick up your latte and maybe some eggs at the grocery store? In some circles it might be your car (Mustang?), motorcycle (Harley?), or even your boat.
For the first decade of my driving years I only rode motorcycles. My first bike was a 1983 Honda Nighthawk CB550. I bought it my senior year in high school and was the only guy on our campus to ride a motorcycle to school every day. After moving to California, my friends all rode older European bikes like Ducatis, Moto Guzzis, and Nortons. So I bought a 1975 BMW R90S, one of the original racing bikes. It had been ridden hard and was in rough shape, but it looked cool and I fit in with all of my new friends when we rode around the beach or to see a local band or to San Francisco for the weekend. That bike made me feel like a man.
In the rashness of our youth, another common measuring stick we often apply is sports. What sports does a guy play? Is he a true athlete or just a wannabe? When he’s older it’s his sports knowledge. Can he talk with the guys at the office about the Sunday football games on Monday morning? Does he have an NCAA tournament bracket? Does he even know what a bracket is? In my house, the joke is that I like to watch the real news (i.e., ESPN SportsCenter). But my 10-year old Josh can whip me in a game of HORSE, my 12-year old Ryan can run circles around me on the track, and my 14-year old Sydney can climb to the top of a wall (outdoors or at the climbing gym) before I can even find my second hold.
Although men often get caught up in sports and cars, one of the biggest pulls on a man’s pride is to define himself by his job. Guys at my church do manly jobs: Dave’s an electrician, Ron’s a plumber, Bill’s a concrete layer. People need these guys and their jobs require strength and skill. I’ve called on Dave and Ron to help with my electrical and plumbing emergencies. It has been a long time since I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by someone with a microbiology emergency: Hurry Dave, we need you to explain to us membrane transport mechanisms of the mold growing on our bagels! The guy I told you about in the story in part 1, he had a manly job and he knew it. And he knew that I was just a science nerd, a bookworm. It honestly felt like high school, but with adults!
Maybe you can relate to some of these definitions of manliness, maybe not. But I assume we can all relate, at least to some degree, to using our outdoor hobbies as the measure of our manhood. Hunting, fishing, riding ORVs in the desert, rock climbing, ice climbing, river rafting, backpacking, surfing – all manly activities. When I was young, real men read the latest Cabela’s catalog in the bathroom in anticipation of the next sports season. Real men did things that could get them injured. Real men shot stuff, caught stuff, chased stuff, climbed stuff, raced stuff. Naturally, I wanted to be a real man. I still do.
Questions for thought
What do you do to convince yourself or others that you’re a man? Which of your possessions or activities makes you feel manly?
How do you judge other men? What measure do you hold them to?
Are there guys in your circle of influence at work or church that you don’t associate with because they don’t seem particularly manly to you?
Lord, we confess today that our definition of manliness has gotten all messed up. The world’s values have crept into our values and muddied the waters. Reveal to us, mighty God, where we have substituted worthless idols for your truth. Show us who we truly are, Father, and help us to redefine ourselves by your standards of manliness. Teach us to embrace other men, made in your image, as fellow men, brothers in Christ. In His name we pray, amen.