October 4, 2010

Male Ambiguity 2

Although last week's humorous post on Male Ambiguity pointed to something really funny about us men, the truth is there are many reasons for us to be confused about what it means to be a man. And that is no laughing matter! Most men, me included, spend a good amount of time trying to discover just what it means to be male in our world, and with that, why it seems so important to us to make an impact while we are here on earth.

Why does this process take longer than it should? Let me throw out a few thoughts for your consideration:

We are robbed by valid images of manhood and the transition to manhood by absentee man and unavailable fathers. Here's some examples- Abusive or silent or emotionally detached dads, broken homes caused by divorce or single mother homes, men consumed by career, etc. All these contribute to young boys being left to fend for themselves as they mature.

There is also a deterioration of extended family. In many cultures, extended family by necessity must live together. Or they live or work close by. In the United States, we are a much more mobile society, one where it is common to move to support a career change or advancement. It's probably now less common to stay rooted in one place! Therefore, there is a lack of real relationships with uncles, grandfathers, older brothers and other men to build networks of friendship and support.

Even under the best circumstances, we men also have to deal with unhealthy and unrealistic views of what constitutes a man! Distorted ideas of "real men" from the media (in both Reel and in Real life) leave us in a state of confusion. It seems the media presents only three acceptable scenarios for us to model ourselves after when in fact, there is much diversity in our roles and function and personality from a Biblical standpoint.

The media scenarios seem to be found in Option One- nontraditional families: gang life, prison life, or teen family “groupings” where mature adult men are not present. Option Two is the "Bumbling Dad". This one has been around for awhile. From Ozzie Nelson is the 1960s on to the terrific Tim Allen (the voice of Buzz Lightyear) as the well meaning father of “Home Improvement", men are presented as absorbed by sports and cars and alcohol, oblivious to other aspects of life. Currently, the American television show "Two and a Half Men" with Charlie Sheen throws in a curve: a trio of men from one family bond together as they try to figure out life without women.

Lastly, Option Three is the Superstar Man. The media and the public love these athletes, rock stars, and movie and reality television stars. Their exploits have become fodder for watercooler discussion and sell many newspapers and magazines, but unfortunately they are for the most part, poor role models for the real world most of us inhabit.

All said, absentee men and media misrepresentation of what constitutes a man makes things tough. It gets worse. The process is complicated even more by our lack of cultural traditions- ie. Ceremony and Task Completion. This leaves young men in an entirely different place than our ancestors of old. Could this be why gang initiation powerfully draws our young men?

Let me toss you a few questions to consider:
• When Did You Realize You Were A Man?
• What Steps Seemed Most Significant in your Quest for Manhood?
• And maybe most importantly, Who Told You That You Were A Man?

Ponder the answers to these questions and watch for additional posts on this subject matter. For the sake of your future and for those of you with children, for their sake, let's together consider who we are and where we are headed. We will impact our world. The question is "How will we impact our world?"

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