I hate mowing my lawn. Hate it with a passion. This is not an exaggeration either. If I could, I would have solid gravel all around my house. That, or a magical lawn fairy who would keep my lawn looking pristine without my ever having to lift a finger.

Since the lawn fairy still ignores my calls, I mow my lawn myself. The other day in the afternoon heat, I ventured outside to mow my lawn in the skimpiest outfit, publicly appropriate. Sounds sexy — definitely the opposite.

While grunting along, I noticed several guys redoing a roof across the street. If there’s one thing I hate more than mowing the lawn, it’s the idea of redoing my roof. The guys were on the housetop in the blazing sun, no cover to offer respite, and two were completely shirtless — their dark skin showed they did this often.

As I begrudgingly trudged across my grass, I had a moment of panic: what if those shirtless guys see me mowing my lawn? What will they think?

Some may scoff at my panic, but it was a legitimate fear.

What if those manly roofing men saw the poor little excuse for a masculine man chopping his lawn and laugh?

I was positive they’d think so little of me. And I knew they would realize how pathetic I was as a man.

They’d realize how much more masculine they are on that roof than me on the lowly ground. I found comfort in keeping my head down, hoping to avoid their mocking me.

My fear realized, one of the guys came down to his car and walked right by me. I freaked, unsure what he would do. Would he stop me to point out my weakness? Shake his head in pity at the sight of me?

Would he know how insecure I am when it comes to doing something stereotypically (and unfairly so) masculine?

True story — the guy just walked by and simply gave me a head nod with a “hello.”

No laughter, no pity — just a nod to say hi. I was shocked. Surely this meant he would wait to laugh at me with his buddies.

Yet, as far as I know, Tan Roofing Guy never paid me another thought. I didn’t hear any laughter from across the street. No pitying eyes burned the back of my neck. There was no reaction.

I realized something while mowing my lawn: I was the only one pitying myself. The only person doubting my masculinity was me.

I was the only person mocking my pathetic self, because I was the only guy outside that day who even had a thought about my being pathetic.

It caused me to stop and wonder: how often have I done this in the past? Have I made other assumptions about another man’s view of me? Has my view of myself grown negative simply because I believe others view me negatively?

I finished mowing the lawn and headed inside for a much needed shower. As I looked at my work that afternoon, all I could think was: I did this. I accomplished this.

An unusual sense of masculine pride came over me. Something I am not used to.

And then I called the magical lawn fairy to leave another message.

Do certain tasks make you feel more/less masculine? Have you doubted your masculinity based on your abilities, especially out in public? How do you find your own sense of masculinity in today’s culture?

* Photo courtesy ngillis, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • It’s crazy isn’t it? We worry so much about what other guys think when in reality they don’t even notice us. We tend to project our obsessive noticing of them, will be returned right back to us. Why is it so hard to move past the external things of what we wrongly think make us manly men?

    • Bugs- another reason I hate mowing the lawn.
      And I appreciate the compliment about the look. Most likely not the case, but still… thanks. 🙂

    • Hey Ashley, this has nothing to do with mowing grass (our CA drought was so bad that we replaced much of our lawn with flagstone), but my wife and I run a prayer group for an international missions ministry. She was talking to a new participant on Saturday who is a counselor for YWAM. The counselor was saying that she is encountering a huge wave of ladies with SSA issues and it was all pretty new to her. She went to a supervisor for support, and the supervisor incredibly told her to ignore the issue as it could get messy if the ladies developed attractions to her. She rejected that advice after prayer, but she is still looking for someone who could coach her a bit. I told my wife that I would contact you to see if you would be comfortable sharing any feedback with the counselor. You share so many helpful things here. Let me know if you would like to do that. Now, go back to you mowing…

      • I’d be happy to. Depending on what part of the world they are in and what not that is definitely one area where YWAM is lacking. If anything for simple lack of knowledge, but also I think it’s one of those things their afraid of in a way and would much rather just avoid.

        • Thanks Ashley! I’ll ask my wife to let her know that you are willing. Maybe I could connect the two of you on my FB private messages.

        • We typically fear what we don’t understand, and avoidance is the usual response. I knew nothing except what my husband had shared with me from his perspective. But when people started contacting us, we knew God was up to something. We have proceeded prayerfully, and approach all with love and compassion. We have heard so many heartbreaking stories and have built true friendships along the way. We don’t approach people as a project. They are human beings, with a heartbeat and a story and a longing for love and acceptance and relationship. So many have been damaged by what we, the church, thought was loving…

  • In looking back (at least before the stroke), most of the things I did were a means of projecting the image of being manly. I really didn’t know how to install windows or sheetrock. I knew almost nothing about construction (being a draftsman helped) or pouring concrete. I had a phobia about electrical work. Cars were just as foreign to me as girls were. Anything I ever knew I learned from books and YouTube. I even made sure to take off my shirt so that I would appear more ‘manly’.
    It was a major deflation to my ego and pride when I had to call a nurse for help just to go the restroom after the stroke. I had spent so many years being ‘manly’, that I forgot how to be me. The stroke brought that back to me.

    • I am so sorry for your stroke and the pain and trouble it caused you, Bradley. I know you’ve mentioned that part of your story before. I can’t imagine how that must have felt to struggle with so much. I pray you continue to find your identity in who Christ made you to be and not in what the “manly” things you do.

  • Good writing Dean! I relate strongly to this. “It caused me to stop and wonder: how often have I done this in the past?” Possibly billions if you are like me. I used to get so frustrated mowing the lawn that I would pick up the mower and throw it. If I had trouble starting it or there was some other problem, I just knew it was because I was incompetent. But I was at my worst with car repairs. I could not change the oil or even an air filter without taking 10 times the usual amount of time and making an absolute mess. When we were first married, I had my wife stand on our porch and pray while I was changing the oil, so I wouldn’t have a violent tantrum. I’d like to say that I beat all this while I was a young man, but I did not. It is only the last few years that I have started to take these thoughts captive. About 4 years ago, I was cleaning out the goat pens. While pushing a wheel barrow from the pen to our garden area, a small amount (really less than a hand full) of goat poop fell off to the ground. I was immediately overcome with a powerful sense of self-hatred: “How could I be so stupid and so clumsy!” I started to swear at myself and had the thought of heaving the wheel barrow into the street. The Holy Spirit had to walk me through this “crisis” very gently with logic that would have been patently evident to most 5 year olds: “Anybody doing this task would naturally lose the same amount of the barrow contents, if not more. It is just a normal part of the task. You didn’t do anything wrong.” I was somewhat startled to “learn”that and calmed down with a grateful heart. Now the Holy Spirit often talks to me about matters that are weightier than straying goat manure, but sometimes I need to go back to spiritual kindergarten because I missed some of those lessons. We continue to pray about your earlier post, Dean.

    • First- impressive that you can throw a lawn mower… Second, thank you for sharing your story. I relate to it a lot. I am always quick to criticize myself, something I should avoid doing since God doesn’t even do it to me. I pray you continue to grow in that. And I appreciate all your prayers, MI.

    • Mistaken_Identity, it’s in those moments, not just the weightier matters, but the little ones, that the Lord can teach us such major lessons and it’s all contributing to our sanctification. The Lord taught you patience, joy, peace, self-control, and not to grumble or complain — these are the things that contributes to the character of Christ Himself and He’s using even these tiny moments of crisis to “conform you to the image of the Son, Christ Jesus (Romans 8:29) moment by moment, little by little. And if we don’t pick up on these lessons, He will do as He did with Jonah when Jonah thought it was okay for him to be angry. God came back again and again, with great patience, to try to show Jonah that it wasn’t right for him to be angry (Jonah 3-4).
      Here’s a beautiful quote from a pastor of old Horatius Bonar who says:
      “A holy life is made up of a number of small things. Little words, not eloquent speeches or sermons; little deeds, not miracles, nor battles, nor one great heroic act or mighty martyrdom made up the true Christian life. The little constant sunbeam, not the lightning, the waters of Siloam “that go softly” in the meek mission of refreshment, not the “waters of the river, great and many,” rushing down in torrents, noise and force, are the true symbols of a holy life. The avoidance of little evils, little sins, inconsistencies, weaknesses, follies, indiscretions, imprudences, foibles, indulgencies of self and of the flesh; the avoidance of such little things as these goes far to make up, at least, the negative beauty of a holy life.”

  • There are so many osa people who arnt able to do any kind of work. But the difference is, SSA people think it is because of them being ‘less masculine’.
    In reality people are people, despite of their orientation. Some SSA men are very masculine and can do ‘men things’ way much better,than osa people.

    • I tend to get that impression when I resolve a computer problem for a guy and he’s all impressed with my skill set. Like he’s a guy and guys typically problem solve, but he needed my help because the solution eluded him. His compliment reinforces my manhood or “man card” membership if that makes sense.

  • When I lived with my parents, it was my job to mow the lawn. We had a pretty big yard, front and back, for a house in the city, and it took about an hour to mow the whole thing. I hated doing it. I’ve never been a fan of yard work. I’ve always wanted to live in an apartment or a condo in the city where I didn’t have to take care of a yard, trees, or bushes. I didn’t hate it for any negative view of myself; I just hated working so hard on something I really didn’t care about. It was also at a time when I was shy about taking my shirt off or even wearing a tank top because I was so tall and slim. But now that I do actually live in an apartment (which does, by the way, have a tiny yard, although I almost never cut the grass in it), I kind of wish I could cut the grass at my dad’s old house one more time, in the middle of summer, with my shirt off, just to kick this crap in the balls.

  • Hi Terri! I wasn’t sure if you and your husband were still doing that home church for the LGBT. Would you like to be a resource for this YWAM counselor also?

  • I think we all do this, especially us with masculinity, but all people with all issues. One of my favorite quotes ever is from Eleanore Roosevelt, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do”. Everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives that honestly, they aren’t thinking about what they think of you,they’re thinking about what OTHER people think of them. Chances are even possible if that one guy even DID give you a thought, it was a thought wondering if you looked down on him for doing a physical labor job, which are sometimes looked down upon by the intellectuals.
    Either way, great post. We need more of this. Also mowing the lawn is possibly the most annoying thing ever, especially if you have a push-mower.

    • I love that quote from Eleanore Roosevelt, Fred. Its truth is striking. Thank you for sharing.
      And I’m glad you agree that mowing lawns is terrible. I do have a push mower. And it’s NOT self-propelled. It’s the worst.

  • I struggle with the very same thing. I constantly worry about what others are thinking of me or project stories and make assumptions of how situations will end and then keep myself from doing certain things because of it. I don’t know why it is so difficult to move past sometimes. Fear can really get to me.

    • You are for sure not alone in how fear gets to you, Michael. It is difficult oftentimes to overcome that fear. I pray you continue to find the strength to overcome it.

  • Your enemy is in the mirror. Your doubt lives in your head. No one else sees it. Everything you do is innately masculine because, in fact, you are a male. Don’t guy into the stereotypes and lies that other attempt to sell you. You can return those, even without a receipt. 🙂

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