This year has been a hot year for the transgender theme. It seems to be on the news every week if not more – from Jenner to bathroom laws. We live in a world that is, more and more, questioning genders and the validity of them, or at least the number. I believe there are two for humans, and only two – male and female. But, in a culture that questions that truth, understanding what it means to be a man or woman can be tough…especially if you listen to main stream culture. And…if you succeed in understanding in theory, you still have the question of what does it look like, day-in and day-out.
In working with men, and being one myself, I have found four areas that seem to be helpful for us men in our own formation and in deepening our understanding of what it is to be a man…in the practical sense: our soul, our skills, our service and our solidarity.
As we focus on developing these four areas in our lives, our confidence in living our own masculinity will grow. As our confidence grows, so does our willingness to take on initiative and responsibility…which our culture desperately needs Christian men to do.
This one might not need much commentary, so I will keep it short under that assumption. As Catholics, we understand this means the immortal aspect of our being – the part that is joined with our body to make us human. Forming it, and allowing it to be transformed by God’s grace is very important. Without it, we risk losing heaven and spending eternity in hell. Not fun.
It also means, in my categorization, building our character. As men, it isn’t enough to just be pious. We need to be virtuous. We need courage, resilience, prudence, temperance, and all the rest. Men of character, joined with the grace of God, can change the world. If you don’t believe me, look at the lives of the saints. We have to form our souls.
Many young men these days are walking around more like either zombies or little boys. Part of this is because we lack mentors. Older men don’t invest in the lives of younger men, or actual boys even, like they did long ago. Skill sets don’t get passed down. Young men might love the vision of being a man in today’s world, but they don’t know what it means right here and right now today. Learning basic skills are a large part of that process of living as a man on a daily basis. When we understand the vision of what it is to be a Christian man, but we don’t really know what or how to do those things on a daily basis, we can feel paralyzed.
As we develop our basic skill set, we will build our confidence in taking action. This could be anything from learning how to fish (so you can take your children out to the lake and fish with them) to learning how to change a tire to understanding how to shoot a gun to knowing tips on how to excel in a job interview. The list is nearly endless. I am saddened at the thought that our young men these days might only be good at video games, fantasy football and social media posts.
We need to learn real life skills so we can shape the culture, and other men.
Pope Francis, among others, is doing a great job reminding us that Jesus was clear in his command to serve the poor. This is a basic duty of a disciple and a wonderful opportunity for grace (it is a work of mercy, in the year of mercy). The amazing thing about service is that it doesn’t have to be dramatic. It does have to be done in love. And this is a tremendous gift to men, who need to become servant leaders – whether it be in the workforce, the home or the community. It also helps us develop compassion, so important in finding a fulfilling life and living authentically the gospel.
If we look around our neighborhood or parish, I have no doubt we will find a chance to serve.
As men in pursuit of a God-man who was brutally killed, we need a brotherhood to survive. In college I had great buddies, but they really were only drinking buddies. When I chose to follow Christ, our friendship didn’t really last. By solidarity, I mean actual brothers you are pursuing Jesus with, holding each other accountable and striving to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron.
If we seek to grow in these four areas of our life, we will change. We will become, or at least make progress, men with chests. Here is the bonus feature: if we seek to invite men into this experience with us, not only we will change, but we will help other men experience a similar transformation.
And men, if we become who we were made to be, we will set the world on fire.