Manhood

Reshaping Manhood: Strength

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Strength is one of the main biological differences between males and females and throughout history, strength has defined great men. Strength obviously differentiates men and women but strength also differentiates among men. Historically, men who were physically stronger often did better in battle, agriculture, and were seen as more desirable by women and there is no known culture in which weaker men were considered more valuable than stronger men.

Strength is the ability to exert force in accordance with ones will and while history favored physical strength, modern society also leans towards mental strength. Based on the same definition, mental strength could be seen as the ability to carry out tasks or goals based on ones will power and self-discipline. Being a good husband, father, leader, and Christian all requires mental strength, will power, and self-discipline. We all know men who lack these traits and have made their marriages, families, careers, or walks with Christ a train wreck because they lacked the mental strength, will power, or self-discipline required in these areas.

Mental strength, just like physical strength, is an aptitude that can be developed and increased through practice. Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, studies achievement. She tracked 2,441 West Point cadets spread across two entering classes. She recorded their high school grades, SAT scores, leadership potential scores, physical aptitude and a number of other variables to determine what develops a great leader. She discovered that it wasn’t grades, IQ, or leadership potential that accurately predicted whether a cadet would be successful. Instead, it was mental grit, perseverance, and self-determination to achieve long–term goals that made the difference.

5 Traits for Mental Strength

Set Goals to Improve. Step one is seeing that you need improvement in whatever area in your life you are lacking. Compare yourself to the best not the mediocre and set achievable goals to improve. According to neuroscientists studying Nay SEAL trainees, they found that trainees who were able to pass the most rigorous tests are the ones who set many goals. Not just any goals but very specific goals with short, mid, and long-term milestones.

Segmentation. Segmentation is the process of blocking out distractions and focusing on accomplishing one task at a time to accomplish something. First, you slowly divide tasks, goals, or objectives in small parts then take on your challenge one small step at a time. You focus on the next immediate objective and accomplish that objective without letting your mind worry about the other tasks or the entire magnitude of your goal.

Visualization and Self-Talk – Performance coaches have long used visualization techniques with Olympic athletes and top performers. One study showed that subjects simply visualizing the successfully completion of a task had almost as much success as those who practiced actually doing the physical task. The process involves vividly visualizing yourself successfully completing a goal, task, or a habit that you want to obtain. Each day, you visualize incorporating all the five senses, what it would be like when you accomplish your goals. Another aspect of visualization is positive self-talk. Top performers “talk” to themselves with positive words to keep their spirits up. They are actively aware of negative or self-defeating thoughts and constantly remind themselves that no matter how tough the situation is…it will always end.

Consistency – Mentally tough athletes, performers, and leaders are also more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts, they don’t miss assignments, and they always have their teammates back. They don’t let short–term distractions, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing their actions towards their goal or vision. In addition, they make a habit of building up the people around them repeatedly and sharing in victories rather than touting their own contributions and wins or claiming sole responsibility.

Emotional Control - Controlling your mental state is another very crucial skill in mental strength. Most people commonly have erratic or knee-jerk reactions to stressful situations or circumstances. They react out of emotion or the fight or flight response rather than in a calm, methodical manner. The other common reaction people have is the opposite, indecision or freezing up, they cannot make timely decisions and therefore do not act at all. These responses are not unique to high stress situations but even to everyday decision-making. Some people react emotionally or cannot make a decision and fall into “analysis paralysis” but we have more control over our reactions than we think. We often can’t control people or what happens in our outside world, but we can control our interpretation of it and our decision making process in light of it. In high stress situations, top performers breathe deeply and make decisive actions based on logic rather than emotion.

Mental strength isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage from an event; this is why retreats and resolutions usually fall short. Mental Strength is more about building daily habits that allow you to stick to a routine, control your emotions, and overcome challenges and distractions on a consistent basis. This could be with your family, your career, or in your spiritual life.

Throughout the Bible, we find numerous stories of men with mental strength. Many did not start out with mental strength but through the course of their lives and with a trust and faith in God, they developed many of the traits for mental strength. Not only did God use these men to build his kingdom but they also now serve as examples for us to emulate.  If mental strength is about building daily habits and consistency, I challenge you to apply these five traits each day this next week while also reading some of your favorite stories of men in the Bible who exhibit these traits or simply repeat the following verse 10 times throughout each day.

[shareable cite="Philippians 4:13"]I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.[/shareable]

The next characteristic is Courage.

Reshaping Manhood: Intro

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Imagine you were called upon to travel to a foreign country, in a harsh climate, and lead the fight against ISIL/ISIS.  You had to pick a team of five men you know and these men would travel with you and help you accomplish this task.  What attributes would you use to evaluate the men you would choose?  What character traits would you value over others?  Which men would you eliminate from your pool because they lacked the strength, courage, mental fortitude, or trust needed to complete this task?

Masculinity is the opposite of femininity yet over the past 30 years; certain segments of our culture to include academia, media, and the social sciences have implied and tried to get men to think and act more feminine.  Masculinity is also not chauvinism, dominance, sexism, or denigrating femininity.  In a Biblical context, men and women are equal but have separate and distinct roles in relationships, the family, and society.  Even in a non-Biblical context, such as same-sex relationships, each partner assumes one role or the other almost as a basic human relational instinct.

However, as previously stated, over the past 30 years there has been confusion and mixed messages over the role of men and often when I have witnessed anger, resentment, passivity, or unhealthy traits in men and marriages, it often stems from these mixed messages or reversed roles in a marriage.

Manhood is a way to be, a path to follow, and a way to walk in life.  Humans are social creatures and prone to tribal/community living.  Therefore, who we are as men has a lot to do with how we see ourselves in relationship to other males.  If we begin viewing and shaping ourselves through the lens of our culture or through the lens of our wives or other women, this is where men can stray from our identities.  It is not that the culture or women are wrong but they often try to change or “improve” men based on what women or our culture wants from men rather than our unique and separate roles and identities.

Therefore, men should be centering our way to be, our path to follow, and our walk in life based on a Biblical context and from the reinforcement of other strong, Biblical men.  Until a hundred years ago, men banded together in small tribes and communities where their distinct roles were taught from a young age and then reinforced by other men throughout their lives.

Again, imagine you and a small group of men have brought your families to an isolated frontier outpost in the Western United States in the mid 1800’s.  Lurking beyond the perimeter of your outpost are predators, hostile and friendly natives, and other food sources.  Given that all you love is within your outpost, which men would you choose to stand beside you and protect your family?  Which men are willing to fight for what you believe in and hold sacred?  Which men can act decisively and remain calm under distress?  Which men will act selflessly and place the group’s wellbeing above his own?  Again, what character, mental, and emotional traits would you value over others?

While you might never be charged with leading other men in the fight against terrorists or living in a remote outpost in the 1800’s, God has charged every man to lead his family, serve in God’s church, and stand for righteousness and justice.  Over the course of these next few posts, I am going to highlight some distinct, universal characteristics of masculinity throughout history and their Biblical context in relation to God’s plan.  I challenge you to reflect on your own life and walk in relation to these characteristics and with the men you currently associate with on a daily basis.  Not only will you be able to decide which men to choose to stand with you but you will also see if you would be chosen by others to stand with them.

The first characteristic is Strength.

Here's What's Wrong with Manhood

I respect my wife and serve her every chance I get, I love my child like I've never loved anyone before, I give my time and money to organizations I believe in, but I'm not much of a man (or so society seems to think). Here's why: I'm not a big sports guy. Motor sports, yes. The typical "ball in play" sports, not so much. I can't tell you how awkward it feels when I'm at work in the morning and people are talking about the game the previous day.

"What do you think about the game, Scott?"

*Awkward silence and crickets*

Me: "I like Formula 1 and Moto GP..."

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This is when the crowd dissipates quicker than people headed to the local pancake house after Sunday service.

I own guns, but it has been years since I went hunting. I didn't grow up doing it. At the time of this writing it has been over 6 years since I climbed a tree stand. I wouldn't even know what to do with a deer, or any other animal for that matter, if I ended up getting a lucky shot. No idea how to clean those things.

So What Gives?

I'm not coming to you as an axe wielding, lumber jack beard sporting manly man. Sure, I have a beard but it's nothing compared to Brian Wilson (a reference that I, sadly, had to Google).

What I am writing to you as, though, is a man who realizes he is broken and who needs to find his masculinity in something greater than what team I follow, how much meat I bagged during last season, or what the latest trend says that a man should be.

That "something" I speak of is the man I use as my model and whom I strive daily to be like.

Christ has modeled for us what it means to be a man. I have yet to see any public figure show the humility and service that Christ has.

"You can't polish a turd."

This is a phrase that I constantly heard during my time in the service. It may sound crass, but it has a good meaning behind it. To relate it to this topic, I want us to realize that you may be able to dress a man up and give him all the riches in the world but it's what's inside that really matters.

If a man isn't right on the inside, no matter how much you polish him up on the outside, you're not going to make him a good leader, mentor, father, etc.

Who Are You Really Trying To Impress?

It seems like the definition of manhood changes as each generation passes. How we've gotten to the era of skinny jeans, I'll never know, but that's another story. Regardless, we should refuse to be defined by what's popular.

Paul addressed this very thing in his letter to the Romans, stating, "And do not be conformed to this world (or age), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove (or approve) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans, 12:2 (NASB).

Let us constantly remember to keep our eyes on Christ and to use Him as our example of true manhood. Newsflash: You're always going to fall short of this! However, if you dedicate yourselves to constantly chasing after God and what pleases Him then I'll tell you that you've already got a leg up over the next guy who is trying to chase the newest trend.

Question to Think About: 

-       Have you ever stopped to think who your real role model is?

 

This was guest post by Scott Friend

Scott J. Friend Get more of Scott's great insights at his site - The Business of Relationships

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