What is Masculinity Anyway? by Glenn McClure

Posted on July 29, 2008 by


A lot of us are not even sure what masculinity is, what it looks like or where it comes from. Is this simply an issue of gender or is masculinity a deeper reality? There are obvious stereotypical images that many of us have grown up with and associated with the masculine and being a “real man”: John Wayne, the Fonz, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo or Rocky Balboa. There is something deep in the heart of a boy that needs to know that he is strong, capable, comes through, has what it takes.

I have a seven-year-old son named Max and he continues to amaze me with the things that make his heart come alive: Star Wars, Prince Caspian, Harry Potter, being a cowboy(six shooter cap gun and holster), playing baseball, Tae Kwon Do, using any stick he can find as a sword or spear and wrestling with me (I’m the dragon and he is the young, strong prince). I should say that I have yet to teach my son how to sword fight with a stick or how to pretend that he and I are Jedi warriors. His imagination, heart and words all speak the language of a boy, a man in the making or one who bears the image of God through his masculinity.

As I researched the issue of masculinity, I read something I had never considered before. Leanne Payne writes in her book Crisis in Masculinity that “man contains within himself at least the vestigial elements of both the masculine and the feminine.” She goes on to write that the Judaic creation account states that before Eve was taken from Adam’s body, Adam was created both male and female in the image of God (Gen 1:27). The two taken together, compose God’s image. She goes on to write that in the terrain of the heart the masculine and feminine are two complementary poles of the human psyche and that they are capacities and potentialities that must be nurtured, affirmed and in proper balance. This explains why, still using the analogy of my son Max, the Jedi Warrior likes to have stories read to him, likes to pray and cuddle with me at night. There is certainly a softer, more intimate side to my son that he is not afraid to let me see.

Elizabeth Elliot, states that “the essence of masculinity is initiation and the essence of femininity is response.” Leanne Payne goes on to write “much that is called emotional illness or instability today is merely the masculine or the feminine unaffirmed and out of balance within the personality.” According to Leanne Payne and others, masculinity is not a thing to be learned, but rather a quality to be tasted or experienced. She writes “the masculine within is called forth and blessed by the masculine without.” John Eldredge writes “in order to understand how a man receives a wound, you must understand the central truth of a boy’s journey to manhood: Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he’s got from a man, or the company of men.” If the masculinity is not called forth and blessed by the father, it will lay dormant and the boy will split off from his masculinity and over develop his feminine. Payne writes, “a man is never a man until his father tells him that he is one.” It is interesting to note that even Jesus was affirmed as a son by God the Father. The Apostle Peter writes about one account “For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Jesus needed to hear those words from His father and so do we.

We are in the beginning stages of this work with our sons. They are not men-yet-but we can affirm and bless the masculinity that is in our boys and call it forth. May God the Father help us as we desire to deposit a huge dose of affirmation into their hearts in a few weeks.

Posted in: Uncategorized