YOBcast Episode 020: Manliness

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What is manliness? Who modeled manliness for us? Is there a one-size-fits-all model for manliness in today’s culture?

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Enjoy the episode! And don’t forget to comment below: what does “manliness” mean to you? Where have you seen manliness modeled? What do you think of Wild at Heart?

Links from the show

Tom’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/tom/

Elliott’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/elliott/

Bradley’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/bradley/

Joel’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/joel/

Frank’s posts: https://www.yourotherbrothers.com/author/frank/

Wild at Heart on Amazon: http://a.co/2qlBrCw

Fathered by God on Amazon: http://a.co/3xVu4TR

Struggle Central on Amazon: http://a.co/03tKh46

The Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

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  • So, I’m all caught up at work right now, and had some extra time to catch-up on this podcast.

    What does “manliness” mean to me? Well, it’s funny, but the first thought that comes to mind, since I am killing time at work, at present, is that if any one of the majority of these “men” that I work with here were to catch me listening to a podcast about navigating homosexuality and masculinity, I’d probably become the instant new gossip topic of this entire place!

    I work with a bunch of “railroaders” right now, who tend to be far more vulgar than any of my military career buddies ever even thought about being. I think it’s all just another mask that these guys wear, though, in order to try and “fit in.”

    But the ironic thing about “railroaders” is that these “very rough on the exterior” dudes will also put any group of women to absolute shame, when it comes to gossiping about one another the way they do! In fact, I think they often act like a bunch of insecure high school girls, if my full opinion were to be told. But that’s just a passing thought because of my surroundings right now.

    Manliness, to me, isn’t just one specific thing. I believe it is many things that play into the deeper character of who a male human being is. And it’s how accurately what he shows to other people on the outside, actually matches up with what is hidden from most people on the inside.

    Some things I’ve personally come to expect, and which do catch me off guard when they are missing (and none of these, all by themselves, are a “make or break” issue of “manliness” to me), are…

    A firm handshake. When I meet another man, especially for the first time, and I go to shake his hand and it feels like I’ve just gripped hold of a water balloon or something, I admit that this catches me off guard. And it often makes for a negative, first impression. It is probably extremely unfair of me to make an initial judge of character based upon this age-old, masculine-American tradition, but it is certainly one of those (stereotypical or not) non-negotiables that both my grandfather and my dad instilled into me, while growing up. In fact, many times the handshake itself IS the first impression.

    Keeping one’s word. This, of course, does show a great deal about a man’s chatacter. Because, for me personally, keeping one’s word is a key to one very central and vital issue within any and every relationship with another human being… That issue is Trust! Truth be told, each time a man breaks his word to me, then he further breaks down the ability I have to trust him in any kind of relationship, be it business, personal, or family related.

    Confidence. This is not always an expectation with me. In other words, I certainly don’t expect every man to be completely confident, in every situation. Lord knows that there are plenty where I am certainly not! But I also know my personal limitations, and I’m not in the business of intentionally trying to impress anybody. So I do expect any man who takes on a responsibility for something, especially if that something affects other people, that he act confidently in his ability to carry out the task. Even if I am not fully confident in my own ability toward something, I know that it is calming to the people who are depending upon me that I appear confident, even when I may not be.

    Not afraid of reaching out for advice or help from another person… and certainly never too proud to ask for help from God. The sober, self-realization that no man is an island, and that no man should make a habit of always attempting to do it all on his own, are both healthy self-awarenesses for a man to have. This awareness is never a counter-weight to his confidence, value or self-worth, but rather, this self-awareness is the crowning jewel to his inwardly secure “manliness” within all of those things!

    And finally, What do I think about “Wild At Heart”? There are few books that have captured my attention the way that this particular book did, and even fewer that I’ve actually read cover-to-cover, more than once. But “Wild At Heart” was indeed a book like that for me, and I’ve referred back to it on several occasions, since.

    Love you guys!

    • mike

      Ah, handshakes :). Here in Canada you know Canadians are nice! Their handshakes are often nice i.e. gentle and weaker than those of our neighbor to the south! And, in my grandfather’s land of Ukraine offering a handshake is fraught with surprise where a bear hug and more are more appropriate. Glad you are here Dean.

  • Ashley Lavergne

    So many thoughts! I love how you guys make me think about things. And Bradley is so awesome! I love his accent! (I have one too so I’m not teasing I really do think it’s awesome)
    Too many things that could be said. You guys touched on sooo much stuff. Like the legitimate question of what is the standard. How the stereotypes came from a certain point in time when that was just how life was.
    And even though I usually go on about how it is for femininity and what not I think this time I’m gonna talk about my very manly and very sensitive Latin american husband. Now, not only is he sensitive for our north american standards, but even other latin americans find him sensitive. And it’s always so topsy turvy for us because these generic marriage books (like wild at heart is a generalization) that say “in certain situations women do this and the man do this” or “the woman reacts this way while the man reacts that way” and a good 7 or 8 times out of 10 we are the exact opposite. In relationship dynamics and the way our emotions seem to play out, but I feel like our core longings are the same as other men and women but the part that has been set into a generalized pattern are the way those longings manifest. He loves sports and wishes I cleaned house more often (but he’s the clean freak, not me) but I still see him so different than what I was accustomed to with “American” masculinity. One time I was describing a situation to my brother and he says “so he’s the girl?” and not that I make fun of my husband, but I have thought jokingly “I would be the one to marry a more ‘feminine’ man.” Not that I think he’s feminine at all, but if I were to describe him emotionally that’s just how it would come off. All that to say, the point Elliot had made in the beginning of what way are we talking about this? Biblically, culturally, etc because it really can vary and I still don’t think its those outer things that determine it. What are those inner things? I dunno know yet. Things I’m looking for myself. I also have yet to find a book on womanhood that resonates with me. But I can say it has been marriage that has got me thinking about it. It wasn’t really ever something I thought about before that.

    • Kevin Frye

      My wife and I are similar. I’m often much more emotional that she is, I cook more than she does, and there are a lot of other cultural and logistical matters between us that make me look more feminine and her look more masculine.

      • Asher

        Likewise. I like to joke that instead of my wife being a “football widow” (or insert other sport); I’m the basketball bachelor. Like to play sports, but never understood the big deal about watching a bunch of strangers play. She, on the other hand, is very much into it. One of several ways we’re a little backwards from perceived “normal”.

  • Ashley Lavergne

    And then one sore spot I have with this conversation were all the years people telling me that I wasn’t feminine. My tomboy stage as a child still hasnt ended. I didnt like shopping or typically femine activities and the discomfort they caused made me shy away from them for a long time. I would actually say something to the extent of “girls do that” if it was something girly that I generally didnt do. And I absolutly hate when people connect that with my sexuality. They have nothing to do with each other for me personally. And I hate that for a while certain teachings and almost had me convinced that it did. That the way it read was that because my core longings didn’t manifest in a typical way was because I had issues with my gender identity. It added extra stress and burden mentally to my life that were unnessecary and brought me no closer to holiness. I didn’t get excited about shoe ahopping because I didn’t like the shoes everyone else did and that fact made my 16 year old self uncomfortable so its just easier to say “I dont like shopping.” Everyone drools about their crush and I have to exagerate or make one up. Everyone loves dressing up and so do I but not the same way. Over the years I get excites every time I realize that I’m doing something “feminine” because I realize that its something that’s always been there no matter how much people cant see it for what it is. The Proverbs 31 woman did everything! And she had strong arms! And she did business! “Back in the day” staying at home and making dinner meant skinning and parting an entire animal! So, yes, I’m on a personal journey to find what womanhood is in the eyes of God, not the box of gender roles. I know its a hard thing to find in all the confusion, but hang in there guys. I like makeup and climbing trees. I think we can have it all. Or almost anyway. I think this is one of my deepest heart comments this far. Thanks for giving us all the space to do that

    • Kevin Frye

      I completely understand what you mean about the connection of our likes and dislikes with our sexuality or sin nature causing more anxiety than necessary and doing more harm than good. The only reason I don’t paint my nails anymore is that I’m not allowed to at my job. I never grew out of that phase. I’m still artistic, still creative, still emotional, and I’m still a godly man, whole and redeemed and blessed. All of the shame and judgment Christians laid on me through the years have done me no good and haven’t changed anything about me.

  • mike

    What is a man? Has to have the XY chromosomes and plenty of testosterone. Yah, we’re three quarters there!
    Is manliness then genetics too? I say yes. God is kind there is no mould nor model for manliness. You don’t have to find a GQ man to imitate nor imitate or envy anyone else! Each of us is uniquely manly with our own mannerisms, likes, and passions. Some like the garden others the wilderness! We need to relax in that freedom and just blossom into the unique guy God has made.
    And, I think Eldridge is correct we are all “wild at heart”! That word ‘wild’ means ‘in the natural state’ and ‘uncultivated ‘. For sure our hearts are like that: wild. And God concurs men’s hearts are “deceitful…desperately wicked.. and beyond cure”, but the solution is not to be emboldened by its wildness! Instead, it needs to be mortified daily. Yes, killed!
    Real men put to death things: their own wild natural hearts. But they do it not themselves. Real men recognize they need Jesus. His Power in them putting to death daily that wild heart! And in the area of their sexuality in dealing with all that testosterone it is manly to hold tight the virtue of chastity. Chastity is about saying “yes” to God’s plan for our sexuality. No matter where a man is in his life, a chaste man masters his sexual feelings, and knows how to express them at the proper times — only in heterosexual marriage in the Presence of God.

    • Michael

      Your last paragraph reminds me of the spoken verse in the For King and Country song, God Forgive Us:

      Live Free.
      It’s not the liberty to do whatever you want whenever and wherever you want,
      But rather it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity
      And finding freedom by connecting with the Creator who conceived you.
      Let the light flood into your eyes for the first time.
      Feeling the blood course through your veins, finding the truest version of yourself
      By knowing the one who knows you even better than you know yourself.

      Also has some echoes of Tom’s benediction from this and the Sports podcast (which referenced the Jon Jorgenson Who You Are YouTube video).

      • mike

        Thx Michael. Love that song and the words esp. “But rather it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity”! Thx for including the lyrics.
        I think an unmanly guy would say “Stop God you’re restricting my freedom!” But when he grows up he learns the paradox that instead living in the confines of God’s boundaries makes him TRULY FREE :).

      • mike

        Thx Michael. Love that song and the words esp. “But rather it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity”! Thx for including the lyrics.
        I think an unmanly guy would say “Stop God you’re restricting my freedom!” But when he grows up he learns the paradox that instead living in the confines of God’s boundaries makes him TRULY FREE :).

  • Michael

    I tried reading Wild At Heart about twelve years ago (it was a gift from my mom before I headed off to my freshman year of college, actually); I had heard good things about it and was highly optimistic when I first picked it up, but I grew more irritated as I kept reading. I remember getting about halfway through the book when I finally had enough and threw it across the room. The only reason I picked it up again was so that I could donate it to, yes, my local Goodwill – so check there if you’re looking for a copy. I can’t remember what Eldridge had said that provoked such a strong reaction in me, but I’m willing to bet I could locate it if I gave the book another go. I was a different person back then, and wasn’t ready to confront a lot of things at that time, so maybe I would react differently to it now. I was probably hoping the book could fix me. I appreciate Elliott’s critical remarks about the book’s fascination with fairy tales from Western civilization. I do recall that being a source of friction (fiction friction?) for me as I read the book. Maybe I should give it another try.

    Are there as many strong reactions to the book, Captivated, that his wife wrote? That would be an interesting comparison.

    Now Boundaries? There’s a book!!! 🙂

  • Eugene Heffron

    In this day and age where the “gender neutrality” movement is in full swing it is becoming harder and harder to define what really makes a man. I agree with Elliott that there is some underlying element that has made men be men through the ages but it is hard to really hone in on what it is exactly.

    • Brad

      I totally agree Eugene. I think one of our problems as a society is that out of our tendency to value the individual over the communal and to steer far way from generalizing, we’ve ended up stripping the genders of anything that would differentiate them (gender neutrality). Interestingly, I think when we recognize the (general) differences between the genders, it allows everyone in that gender to own the gender-trait communally (even if an individual possesses the trait to a lesser degree) and to then express masculinity/femininity in varied expressions that celebrate each person’s uniqueness. Rather than each having to try to prove we possess individually some culturally-identified gender trait, we are all freed to use our unique and varied personalities to express the traits God biologically connects with our gender, because we know we own that trait by association with our gender.

      One example: God has used testosterone to make men (generally) more muscular, hairy, and competitive than women. There is a strength, confidence, and a potential for wooliness that comes with being a man, and I get to own/live in that trait (even if, for example, my wife happens to be more muscular, woolly, competitive, and confident than I am). I am a man therefore I’m associated with strength, confidence, and hairiness. Everything I do then gets viewed through this masculinity – viewed through the strength, confidence, and scratchy-face potential imbued on me by my gender (I don’t have to bring it, it’s mine just by virtue of being a man). And so when a man is tender/gentle it has a totally different flavor from when a woman is tender/gentle. The first is masculine gentleness; the second is feminine gentleness (both awesome!). I think a part of masculinity is recognizing that this “manly flavor” seasons everything we do – not because of how we act, how our body looks, or if we have a beard, but just because we’re men.

      Another example: God has used estrogen and progesterone to make women (generally) more relational and nurturing than men. There is an approachability and caring-nature that comes with being a women, and a woman gets to own/live in that trait (even if her husband happens to be more approachable, caring, and nurturing than she is). Just by being a women she’s associated with approachability and caring – it’s imbued on her by her gender and the things she does get viewed through this femininity. (I won’t try to unpack that any further, because, being a man, I definitely don’t understand femininity as well as I understand masculinity – and that’s not saying much!).

      I feel like it’s helpful to identify the biological and biblical traits God has given to masculinity and to recognize that as we live out the traits unique to each of our personalities we reflect the traits of masculinity imbued on us in ways that are unique to us. I’ve listed strength and confidence as traits owned by the masculine. Agree? Disagree? What other traits has God associated with manliness?

      Side note: Just because a trait is masculine or feminine, doesn’t mean they have a monopoly on it. Obviously it’s also important for women to have strength and confidence, and for men to be approachable and caring. Femininity doesn’t have the monopoly on beauty; the masculine is also beautiful – but I guess we probably all agree about that one! Lol.

  • Kevin Frye

    I read Wild at Heart when I was eighteen, and then again a few years later. It was pivotal in my life as God used it to clear up a lot of the confusion I had inside me and then lead me to seek Him to initiate me into manhood directly in lieu of my biological father. That book and the subsequent initiation which God led me through absolutely changed my life.

    I know there are a lot of opposing views to Wild at Heart and John Eldredge, but I think a lot of the accusations against him and that book are misplaced and based on misunderstandings of what he’s said. I believe that a lot of people are very sensitive to certain topics, perhaps due to past wounds or weaknesses that were never resolved. When those topics come up, those people react out of fear or bitterness or pain, and those reactions and feelings have been with those people for so long that they think they are just part of who they are. I know I used to tell myself that I didn’t need to be on anyone’s team or have any guy friends growing up. I thought that was just how I was, and to insinuate that all guys needed to have a buddy or be on a team made my eyes roll. But now I know better, because my past fears of being on a team, of being compared to my peers and not measuring up, the rejections I’ve faced, and the pain those have caused me have been healed. I’m a different person now.

    I watched an interview of John Eldredge a few years ago, and the interviewer was asking him about his book Wild at Heart. He questioned Eldredge about whether he thought he had made too many broad, blanket statements about all men being the same way and finding true masculinity in the same things. Eldredge’s response was very good. I don’t remember his exact words, but he said that his statements about those things in his book were meant to point to a goal more than to give step-by-step instructions. He said that men needed to do what scared them, what they had always felt meaninglessly restricted from doing, to break free from their bondage of fear and addiction to comfort. He said that some men who knew only the comforts of modern American life needed to go out in the woods and build a fire and sleep on the ground for a few days, while other guys who knew only life in the countryside needed to go to New York and try hailing a taxi. The point is not what we do to become strong, capable men, but that we break free from fear and move forward in boldness.

    • mike

      Kevin, your final paragraph Eldredge paraphrase is really what I would call therapy for anxiety desensitization useful to deal with irrational fears/anxieties for EITHER gender. Recently, a good friend just finished psychotherapy because she was raised in a home with a very protective mother. She feared driving in the big city, flying in an airplane and even going to a large busy grocery store. This significant agoraphobia and depression had made her into a poor passive reclusive girl. She too needed to slowly increasingly do what scared her. She needed to slowly increase her driving route and venture deeper into the big city center. She started camping in her back yard, progressed to a city park and finally into the great outdoors where bears and wolves roam! She gained confidence and became stronger. This is just modern psychology. But to say THIS is about masculinity is quite the leap for me and others. Just sayin’.

  • WaveDave

    Well, I have been told over and again I am not very manly. The final straw came just recently when I heard someone say that those who are soft spoken (like myself) have an effeminant spirit about them and they should repent of such. I honestly can’t fathom where people get such ideas, but I can’t see Jesus condemning people for being soft spoken, quiet people. I need to listen more to what the Lord says, and stop worrying about other people’s opinions…just sayin’

    • Ugh. I feel you, Dave. That sense that I’m not “manly” because of my sensitivity or quietness. You’re not alone, brother.

      • WaveDave

        Thank you so much!!! Glad to be able to get back on YOB

  • Brad

    Wow, what a great podcast! Thanks guys for being real. So cool to hear the different perspectives and the resulting dialogue.

  • Marcus

    Just finished the manliness podcast… TBH, this is the first one with which I’ve resonated the least. Especially with comments made by you, Elliot. (Sorry bro!) Don’t get me wrong, there were many great points made by ALL! But… I just didn’t find this one full of “YESSSS!” moments like I usually do. It was more like “Ummmm… Nope, can’t get behind that statement/argument.” 🙂
    And for a manliness podcast, I felt a lot of, well, angst coming thru. I do appreciate very MUCH your honesty/transparency in this and all previous podcasts, however! Just had to give some feedback… That is all. Love you, brothers!

    • Thanks for your feedback! I’m curious what things particularly you couldn’t “get behind.”

  • Eddie

    As I mentioned to Tom, the subject is appropriate for this blog, but the podcast had some shortcomimgs in my opinion. My biggest grievance was in regards to Bradley’s comment when he was advised to look to Jesus for an example as to masculinity. “What am I looking at!?” My question exactly. I think there should have been some discussion to this effect as to Jesus-centered masculinity. I recall an article expanding on the nine masculine qualities of Jesus. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/nine-attributes-of-a-real-man
    A contrasting discussion of this more divine form versus toxic masculinity would be fruitful as a second part to the podcast. IMHO.
    In my own personal search, I recently stumbled upon the Duke University Men’s Project: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-09-12/duke-recruits-men-program-fight-toxic-masculinity
    This study hopes to study and reverse the ill behavior and effects of toxic masculinity.

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