How men can be forces for good
Written by Bonnie Pue
When people find out how many sons I have, their responses are humorous. Just recently, a woman looked like she was experiencing whiplash:
“Wha?! You have SIX SONS?!”
I know. It blows my mind too. Statistically, it is a rarity, but my husband and I like to consider it an act of God. Even as I write this, I can hear the clash of plastic lightsabers outside my door.
I’m the first to resist old-fashioned, unbiblical, and limiting stereotypes, but I also happen to have front-row seats to the undeniable (and scientifically proven) impact of testosterone on the physical and physiological development of these young men.
Having these sons changes how I look at the Canadian culture they’re growing up in. I often ask myself, “What are men up against?” and “What do they need in order to be a faithful force for good?”
What are men up against?
The landscape has dramatically changed over the last 50 to 60 years. While it used to be common to see honest, decent men portrayed in film and advertising, the entertainment of the ’90s and 2000s became riddled with tones of male inferiority, poking fun at their supposed lower intelligence and downplaying or ignoring their strengths. The subscribers to the “future is female” motto sometimes forget that sexism is wrong no matter who the target is.
In addition to these belittling messages, there has also been a steep rise in digital distractions that are crippling men. According to a study published by Oxford in 2018, 94 per cent of all those addicted to video games are male.
Video games offer an inferior, and arguably inconsequential, source of honour to many guys who feel like they “need a win” in life. In addition to the addictive nature of video games, the bombardment of pornographic images that algorithmically target men day after day tells them that women enjoy being objectified and that true euphoria is connected to domineering behaviour in the bedroom.
Internet culture pushes video games and sexual prowess as some of the few remaining fields where men can find some kind of triumph. Meanwhile, the media often portrays male strength as toxic.
These are some of the mixed messages young men are facing, and studies show that a growing number of boys are facing them without a father in the home, or even in their life at all. According to a 2016 Statistics Canada report, over 1.2 million families in Canada do not have a father present. This means many, many children are growing up without fathers who can model what true masculinity is actually about.
What do men need in order to be a faithful force for good?
Regardless of a man’s family of origin or whether his father was a godly example, Jesus’ call to His disciples echoes throughout the ages: “Follow Me.” Jesus, living on earth as a man, set the ultimate example for authentic masculinity.
If a man wants to be great and receive appropriate honour, that is not necessarily prideful. In my view, a desire for greatness is actually preferable to an apathetic forfeiting of your calling and destiny. So, if you want to be great, Jesus is clear: “You must be a servant of all.” Ephesians 5 emphasizes the way husbands must be ready to lay down their lives for their wives, even as Christ laid down His life for His bride, the Church. In 1 Peter 5, we see a reminder that humility is the prerequisite for God-ordained honour.
As tough as it may sound, the pathway to true masculinity is marked by sacrifice and suffering. A large part of this is connected to the way men treat the women around them. In the overly-sexualized environment of our culture, these men remember that by the grace of God, they can govern their sexual desires and not have their sinful nature rule over them.
True men see women not as objects to conquer but as daughters of God to be valued and protected. They remember they are designed to do what is right, not what is easy. They sacrifice and suffer, they do not always get what they want, and they are not always understood. Society may see their servanthood as a weakness, but at the end of the day they are the kind of men who are faithful forces for good. They may not change the whole world, but they certainly will change their parts of the world.
Bonnie Pue is a mother of six and co-founder of the Union Movement living in Mission, B.C. Read more from the “Making love matter(s)” column.