I grew up in the 80’s on G.I. Joe, Rambo, and Indiana Jones Movies. I was taught if you got hurt just rub some dirt on it or walk it off. There are some great lessons that have served me well and some that have crippled me—and I’ve had to unlearn. Unfortunately, we seem to have attached this uber-masculine persona with biblical manhood. There are some things we need to unlearn, but also some great lessons that need to be preserved and taught to our boys.
“Boys will be boys.”
This has become an excuse for allowing bad behavior. Boys can be rambunctious. A lot of boys like playing in the woods and getting dirty and may even enjoy being rough (wrestling, play fighting, and so on). Those things aren’t bad, but we should teach our boys about the appropriate times to be rough and get dirty.
There’s a big difference between boys building a mud fort in the woods and then bullying a kid that’s weaker than them. If your kid comes home from playing and is covered head to toe in mud, “Boys will be boys.” But, if your son is beating a kid up at the park, that’s not “Boys will be boys.” That’s cowardly violence.
I was picked on as a kid for being the fat kid. I was strong and good at sports, but it didn’t matter. I was the fat kid. I got picked on a lot, and in turn I picked on and bullied kids that were easy targets. I have sinse sought out their forgiveness for my cruel behavior, but it wasn’t “Boys being boys” on my part or the kids that bullied me. It was sin! It was cruel. It was wrong.
We should be intentionally teaching our boys to stand up to bullies and defend those being bullied. We should be teaching our children it’s ok to wrestle and play fight, but it’s not ok to hurt someone verbally or physically. We should teach our boys they are strong, smart and have value, but we should also teach them to use those values and strengths to better those around them—not tear them down.
What Scripture says
Proverbs 6: 16-19 says:
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Proverbs 6: 16-19 seems to sum up the trouble that exists in toxic masculinity. We are teaching our sons that it’s ok to take advantage of those that can’t stand up to you. We are teaching our sons that they have to be as big and strong with ripped muscles as the guy on TV. We are teaching our sons they must live up to an ideal that’s not biblical or realistic.
Where to go from here
The pendulum seems to swing so far in both directions. We get so frustrated with the way it’s swinging one way that we go way too far in the other direction. I would highly recommend that we stop the pendulum all together.
Don’t go super-macho and don’t turn your little boys into little girls. Our boys need to be tough, but toughness isn’t a physical quality as much as it’s a mental trait. They need to know how to persevere and push forward. They need to know how to finish what they start and see a job through till the end. They need to know how to push forward in the face of adversity, because the reality of our current situation is this, if our boys are going to grow into biblical manhood, they are going to have be tough.
They are going to have to resist the pull into a cheap imitation (toxic masculinity) of real manhood and resist the pull of society to be emasculated all together. They will have to cling to what God’s Word says manhood looks like.
The Bible not only spells out what real masculinity looks like—Jesus. It also clearly points out the alternatives.
- The foolishness of Samson’s womanizing (Judges 14-16).
- The cowardice of the Barak (Judges 4).
- The weakness of king David (2 Samuel 11).
- The whole Book of Proverbs speaks like a father giving wisdom to his son about avoiding sexual sin, not cheating people, watching out for those who do, and other points of character and integrity.
This isn’t just about bullying and the effects of teaching our sons fake masculinity, but also about how they see and treat women. We teach our boys to go get that girl. But if a boy comes near our daughters, we threaten to shoot them. I’m bad about this. I want my girls to not be around boys at all, because I "know how boys are", but yet I take a sense of pride when I hear that a girl likes my son. It’s a double standard—and it's not right.
Let's teach our sons to see women the way we want boys to see our daughters. Let's treat them the way we want our daughters to be treated. Sexual harassment and exploitation are sin. We, as men, should not only fight the urge to participate in such things, but actively fight against them. Fight against pornography, sex trafficking and the dirty jokes and innuendoes that desensitize us. There's an entire study called Manhood Myths that covers the lies we're told as men.
Biblical manhood isn’t about picking a side, it’s about standing firm on the Word of God and refusing to budge for any man! That’s tough. That’s manly. That honors God.
Will is a doctoral student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary studying leadership. He is the associate pastor of students and men’s ministry at Memorial Baptist Church in Baytown, TX. Married to Lucinda for 14 years, they have four wonderful kids. Learn more about Will here. Grab his Field Guide Common Ground.
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