What Does it Mean to be a Man?

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Anyone who follows sports at all has heard of the controversy surrounding Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, two offensive linemen for the Miami Dolphins. Jonathan Martin has left the Miami Dolphins due to all of the mistreatment he has received from Incognito and others. The Dolphins have suspended Incognito indefinitely while an investigation looks into what is taking place in the Dolphins locker room and team culture.

If you are like me, you really are tired of hearing about it. Much of the details are yet to be released as to what was going on, so we are pretty much left with daily speculation and minor updates. But nothing will probably be revealed until the investigation is over.

Throughout this ongoing ordeal, I have been quite struck by a repeated sentiment expressed by many players in the NFL over this incident. That Jonathan Martin “should have been a man and confronted the situation.” Instead, it seems like he ran from the situation, leaving many of his teammates confused as they didn’t even know a problem existed.

While I do not doubt there was wrongdoing on Incognito’s part, it has been interesting to see how many people make the statement that Martin should have manned up. This is so for two reasons.

First, there has been no negative reaction to the phrase “man up.” In our “progressive” culture that believes that men and women are completely the same in every respect, I find it interesting that everyone agrees that some sort of “manning up” should have gone on. Now let me be clear, men and women are most certainly equal, but any couple that has been married more than one week, or anyone with young kids can tell you, there are many differences between males and females that are not just biological.

If our culture is going to be consistent, it should be crying foul over Martin needing to man up. It’s not. Why? Because being a “real” man requires men to behave in certain ways and do certain things. It seems that, in the end, our culture will begrudgingly admit that healthy and proper masculinity is a good thing. Even if Incognito is 100% to blame for the whole situation, we all agree that Martin should have at least confronted the issue himself before running from the situation.

Secondly, this leads us to the question of what being a man really means. Again, I believe that the “manly” thing for Martin to have done was to confront the situation. If nothing changed, then go through the necessary channels to bring the circumstance to light. I agree with these NFL players; men should have the courage to take a stand when necessary, not to run and hide while doing nothing.

But here is where I see a gaping problem. Many (certainly not all!) of these players that are making these problems are not “real men.” For being a man includes many more attributes than standing up for what is right, and this is where I diverge from many of these players. When I think of what it means to be a real man, I think of things like character, integrity, courage, and respect.

One of the reported problems surrounding the situation with the Dolphins was that Incognito would hold meetings for the offensive linemen at strip clubs. Apparently, “if they failed to show up, Incognito would fine them in the club’s kangaroo court and mock them for not being part of the group.”*

I’m sorry, but if being a man includes of integrity and respect, you don’t hold meetings in strip clubs. Objectifying women is not something real men do. Neither is hooking up with women. A pastor by the name of Tony Evans says it best, “a man who brags about satisfying 30 women is immature. A real man can satisfy the same woman for 30 years.” The number of men who can do the latter is much smaller than the number of those who can do the former.

When I was growing up, my father had a ceremony for my brothers and I when we turned both 13 and 18 that was sort of a right of passage. We talked about what it meant to be a man and the responsibilities that came with it. Here is the definition that was used. “Real men reject passivity, accept responsibility, lead courageously, and expect the greater reward.”**

Driving fancy cars, going to parties, and having lots of money is not what makes someone a real man. I am not willing to let people cry foul on Martin for not stepping up and being a man all the while falling far short in other areas. How do these other “men” treat women? How do they handle their money? Do they treat others with respect? Are they people we would consider to have high character?

Again, no man is perfect, but we should shoot for consistency. If you are not being faithful to your wife and someone who lives a personal life that is worthy of respect, I do not care much what you think a real man should do.

Finally, I would also add this; real men follow Jesus. I say this not because there are not quality men with high character who do not follow Jesus (there most certainly are), but because we are sinful, selfish, and more prone to laziness that we are willing to admit.

In Christ we see what it takes to be a real man. Jesus shows us what it means to both love and take a stand for truth. He exemplifies what it means to serve others, be humble (God himself came and lived among us and he was humble, how in the world can any of us have any reason not to be?!), live righteously, and be sacrificial. By submitting to Jesus we understand who really has control over our lives, and we all know from life experience there is too much we cannot control to claim we are ultimately in charge.

So what does it mean to be a man? I know there is much more that can be said, but I also know it is so much more than confronting difficult situations (which should be done). Before we can tell other men what it takes to be a man, we must be striving for godly manhood ourselves. Should Jonathan Martin have confronted the situation first before running? Without knowing all the facts of the case, I certainly believe so. Does that mean that those that would have taken a stand are therefore real men? Not if that is the only “manly” thing they know how to do.

Our culture is not designed to produce real men. It takes discipline, guidance from wise men, determination, and many other things. Becoming a man is not something that happens on its own. It is something that is strived for. Being a real man is not easy.

Men, let us pray that God would shape us to live how he has called us to do so.

*From the book Raising a Modern Day Knight. http://www.rmdk.com/

**http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9946248/richie-incognito-held-offensive-line-meetings-strip-club

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