While speaking to a group of high school students on a mission trip in Costa Rica, I posed this question to the group: “According to American Society, what defines a REAL MAN?”
Immediately, hands shot up and the students (both guys and girls) started shouting answers like “a nice car”, “a big house”, “a boat”, “muscles”, “money”, “a good job”, “fame”, and of course “a guy who hooks up with lots of girls”. Though these students were part of a group that was building houses for poor people in at third world country, their answers didn’t surprise me one bit. What they described was the typical message that the media communicates to all of us. The tragedy here is that most of us won’t stand up to say anything contrary to this message… And maybe that’s because we ourselves don’t know any different.
Thus, I asked the students about something they were familiar with: Super Heroes.
They immediately spouted off names like Spiderman, Batman, and Superman. They were animated and passionate about these characters! So asked them what these characters had in common and there we began our list of Super Hero characteristics: 1) a costume / uniform (cape optional) 2) a secret identity 3) some sort of special powers 4) an evil arch nemesis 5) a love interest and of course 6) a desire to save the world, even if it costs him his life.
As we compared our two lists, it became painfully evident that society’s idea of a Real Man is quite contrary to that of a Super Hero. Society says a Real Man is self-centered and focused on what the world has to offer him. Super Heroes, on the other hand, aren’t looking for fame (thus the secret identity) and fortune. All Super Heroes want to do is fight against evil for the greater good of the public (and “get the girl” in the end).
Question: How crazy is it that when Men in our culture step up and put others first, we elevate them to “Super Hero” status? Are self-sacraficing men like this that rare? What are we teaching our boys to grow up and be? What are we teaching our girls to expect from men? I’ve already asked these questions… You’re not going to like the answer.
According to the characteristics defined by our society, Tiger Woods is the absolute definition of a REAL MAN. He fulfills every one of the requirements we as Americans have laid out for him… A nice car, big house, mega yacht, good job, muscles, money, fame, and of course “a guy who hooks up with lots of girls”. But, before we make this a Tiger Woods bash-session, let us first take a look at ourselves – Each of us endorses this stereotype of a Real Man. If not actively, then we endorse it passively every time we don’t disagree with whomever is promoting it! This stereotype isn’t any one persons’ fault… We all need to take responsibility. Men didn’t come up with these ideas on their own. We had plenty of input from the females in our lives. (And not saying anything to correct our behavior or skewed ideas counts as approval / endorsement, ladies.)
But, rather than focusing on who is to blame (like politicians do), I would rather focus on what we can do to change this perverted stereotype of what a Real Man is. And I believe the first step is to select a new poster boy for the movement. Where Tiger Woods fulfills the worlds definition of a Real Man, I believe that someone from the Super Hero realm should represent our ideal of a Real Man…
[Jesus of Nazareth, enters stage right.]
I know that many of you are thinking “Seriously?” Stay with me here… Jesus Christ, on the exterior, might not appear to be what we have come to expect of a Super Hero, but in fact, He is the ORIGINAL SUPER HERO! Don’t believe me? Let’s put Him to the test:
1) a costume / uniform (cape optional) :: Check. Robe & Sandals
2) a secret identity :: Check. The Creator of the Universe posing as a Carpenter.
3) some sort of special powers :: Check. Walking on Water, Healing the Sick, Driving Out Demons, Turning Water into Wine.
4) an evil arch nemesis :: Check. Satan. Double Check.
5) a love interest :: Check. We are all His love interest.
and of course
6) a desire to save the world, even if it costs him his life.
Check, Check, and Check! Did you know that the word “excruciating” comes from the word “crucifixion” or “crucify”?!?!
Jesus Christ died on the cross for His friends. From the beginning of time, the Ultimate Act of Love has been “taking a fall” that you didn’t deserve in order to save the one who was guilty. As kids, the worst thing you could do was snitch. Even if it meant you getting in trouble for something you didn’t do. Jesus isn’t the guilty one here. We are. Yet, He took the punishment.
That’s what Real Men do for their loved ones.
And as if this weren’t enough, He rose from the dead on the 3rd Day! Jesus Christ is the definition of both a Super Hero and a REAL MAN! So rather than idolize pop stars and professional athletes, why don’t we start looking up to someone who we actually stands for something admirable?
The men in our society have to change their perspective from “self-centered” to “outward-focused”. And the women in our society have to follow that lead.