Second Thoughts: Redefining Masculinity

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 55 seconds.

Several weeks ago, Mr. Jonathan McNair introduced the Christian Living unit on masculinity and femininity. He began his lecture on masculinity by presenting some of the different views of society—rather, he let us present these views to each other. Mr. McNair split us into groups for a little classroom activity. Each group was given an article that promoted a certain perspective on masculinity. After reading the article, we had to explain the author’s position to the class.

“It’s All About Definitions.”

We found some interesting opinions. Sadhguru, an Indian yogi and spiritualist, said, “A complete human being is an equilibrium between the masculine and the feminine.” On the other hand, for some, masculinity is toxic and contentious, something to be avoided altogether—a psychological sickness. The American Psychological Association stated that “traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.” And yet another contingent believes real masculinity is embodied in physical strength, ruggedness, and courage. The website Focus on the Family asserted, “Womanhood is not as laden with inherent moral expectations. Manhood is….”

There are many different views on masculinity—but whose opinion is right? Mr. McNair was making a point through the exercise:

“If we’re going to have any sort of solid foundation on which to base our thoughts, we have to go to the Bible to define masculinity.”

The words masculinity and femininity cannot be found in the Bible. What can be found are commands given specifically to men and commands given specifically to women. Based on this, Mr. McNair provided a working definition of masculinity: “The ability to fulfill the roles and responsibilities that God has specifically designed for a man.” For example, one of the biblical responsibilities Mr. McNair outlined was that men were given the ultimate responsibility to lead in the marriage relationship (Genesis 2:18-24; 1 Corinthians 11:3-12). Another characteristic of masculinity, according to Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, is that a man is not to imitate a woman in dress, appearance, or even mannerisms.

Here is one more view some in society have on masculinity. This is a taste of the perspective my group encountered in our assigned article:

Masculine men are bold. Women are not…. Have you ever heard the phrase, “She is a woman of her word”? Me neither. Women make up their minds through their emotions. Since emotions are fleeting, they constantly change their minds…. Honesty, sincerity, loyalty, and integrity are all honorable masculine traits every man should have (“Top 10 Traits of Masculine Men,” LaneGoodwin.com).

A Matter of Character

While there are traits every man should have, are they solely masculine traits? For example, when Esther stood up and risked her life for her people (Esther 4:16), she was exercising courage—or boldness. Was she being masculine by doing so? No—she was exercising a character trait God intended for men and women. Submissiveness, which some might like to consider a feminine trait, is likewise a matter of Christian character. Both men and women are commanded to submit to authority and government (Romans 13:1-14).

Mr. McNair emphasized a fundamental truth: God intends the exact same character to be developed in both men and women, but exactly how it is developed is to be different for each. Through the different responsibilities God gave men and women—in the family, in the Church, in the community—both grow in the character of God Himself. Godly character is not unique to men or to women, but to true Christians.

True Masculinity

In this Christian Living unit, we learned what masculinity is—and what it isn’t. True masculinity is not a sickness or toxic. And, while it may be contentious, it is our society that makes it that way. Godly masculinity is not measured by physical strength and stature, but rather by a man’s willingness to fulfill the roles God intended for him. And though Jesus Christ came as a man, the opportunity to become like Him is not limited to men—men and women alike are responsible for developing true Christian character.

Even if we were somehow able to untangle the ridiculous web of opinions the world has on masculinity and even if we chose the most reasonable opinion, at the end of the day, we would be left with just that—an opinion. We would be left holding an inaccurate or incomplete pattern of what it means to be a man. But the Bible reveals the only opinion that really matters. God defined masculinity at creation, beginning with His command for Adam to leave his parents and become one with his wife (Genesis 2:24). When we choose to measure a man by his dedication to fulfilling God’s commands for him, we will see the redefining of a man—that is, a return to the true, original definition of masculinity.

Juliette McNair headshot

Juliette McNair is a student at Living Education Charlotte. She works in the Editorial Department transcribing sermons and proofreading transcripts. She also assists Living Education by writing Second Thoughts essays and Forum/Assembly Summaries for the website. Juliette recently graduated from SUNY Cobleskill in Upstate New York with an A.A.S in Horticulture, a B.T in Plant Science, and a minor in English with a writing focus. She loves playing soccer on the beach, getting up early to watch the sunrise, and playing piano with the lights out.