Masculinity and the Growth of a Man

TAGS: man of character, boys, marriage advice, discipline means, masculinity, marriage, men, responsibility, Mark Dugdale, testosterone

We live in an increasingly confused culture when it comes to gender. Last year, Facebook provided users the option of choosing one of fifty-eight or so custom gender options. Meanwhile, society appears hell bent on turning men into either brutes or sissies. This issue rises to a high level of importance for me personally because I anticipate one day walking each of my three daughters down an aisle. I’m scared to death of giving them to a boy who can shave instead of to a man.

There is a difference. Sure, my girls are still in their teens, but that day is coming and I see swarms of boys seeking their attention. I look at these teenage boys with disdain, only to realize in many ways that 22 years ago, I was one of those teenage boys. So how do you go from boy to man?

More than Biological

Possessing a penis doesn’t make you a man. It biologically makes you male, but it doesn’t make you a man and there’s a big difference. If it isn’t physical then there must be something else.

Actions and behaviors matter. That’s why when I see a guy act like a man, regardless of his age, I’m quick to point it out to my daughters. Why? As my friend Brian McCormack says, “sometimes your demonstration is better than your declaration.” Furthermore, boys make lousy husbands; if you don’t believe me just ask a woman who is married to one.

Testosterone might lead to a deeper voice, a hairy chest and larger muscles, but once again, this makes you male, not a man. Most guys lifting big numbers in the gym aren’t even doing it to impress girls. They’re trying to impress guys. As a pro bodybuilder I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been asked, "How much can you bench?" And not once did it come from a girl. Honestly, society as a whole and women in particular would reap significant benefits if a shift occurred in which a greater number of boys cared more about acting and behaving like men than increasing their bench press. What does that look like?

Inclined to Produce

Men are inclined to produce, while boys are inclined to consume. Invariably physical work is part of producing and this concept isn’t my own. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  This “man” in the aforementioned verse was Adam, as described in the creation account in the first book of the bible. Now, before you bounce from this article thinking I went all Christian on you, hear me out.

Let’s drop the bible from the discussion and look simply at statistics and society. Males who refuse to work are dangerous because they often bring poverty upon their family. Lazy men are a drag on society and I don’t need a bible verse to prove it. Just look at the poorest neighborhoods and you’ll find a disproportionate number of unemployed men.

I’m certainly not saying only men possess the aptitude of a CEO or even need to be primary bread-winners in families. I’m simply saying that a male who refuses to work and produce something meaningful creates all sorts of problems primarily because it means someone else needs to shoulder his load. Men living life with a strong inclination to produce and provide invariably benefits society as a whole, whereas boys bent on consumption — not so much.

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Inclined to Responsibility

Screw man-caves. Whatever dude came up with the idea of a man-cave was a coward. Trust me, I get the enticement of escaping; I live with four ladies who menstruate. Boys avoid responsibility while men engage it and willingly take upon more than their share. Many a night I lost sleep trying to untangle the web of teenage girl emotions with my intellect that I might give them an answer that will “fix” the problems they’re facing. Sometimes men don’t need to fix anything, they simply need to be a shoulder to cry on or a willing ear in which to listen. You can’t walk a daughter through her teens if you avoid her while holed up in your man-cave or pumping iron in your garage. Yeah, sometimes setting a PR looks easier than engaging with a teenage girl, but men take responsibility.

Boys don’t look for ways in which to take responsibility, rather they are avoiders of it. Boys make messes and leave them for others to clean up, usually their moms or other men. They barely shoulder the responsibility for themselves let alone taking on the added responsibility of others. Yep, this is one more reason why they suck as husbands and fathers.

If this is you, then it’s time to get your eyes off the porn site and put away the video games. If you want to one day be considered a man of character who takes responsibility, then start today. Practicing being a boy until you’re married doesn’t set you up well with the character needed to lead and love a family well. Boys plan for the weekend and men plan for the next couple decades.

Disciplined (Self Control)

It appears a shift occurred in regards to the masculine qualities esteemed by society since my grandparents lived. Changes in regards to gender inequality were arguably good, but I perceive the loss of one quality as bad. It seems in years past great men were marked by their self-mastery or at least self-discipline was held in high regard. In my generation, society seems to cheer unrestraint as masculine. Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, General Petraeus and even the bodybuilding icon Arnold Schwarzenegger lacked the self-discipline to keep their hands off other women. Seriously, Dan Bilzerian is an utter joke, but he’s dubbed the King of Instagram? Clearly a crazed, confused, culture of boys is cheering on these sexual conquests, but men ought to exhibit more fidelity. It’s part of being disciplined and self-controlled. It’s a quality I find lacking in boys because they’re selfish consumers who want the benefits of manhood without the responsibility attached to it.

Competing on the professional level of bodybuilding requires a significant amount of discipline both in terms of training and diet. I always get discouraged seeing some of the sports finest athletes rise to the pinnacle with laser-focused discipline only to piss away their marriage due to a lack of discipline and self-control. Discipline permeates all areas of a man’s life, not parts and pieces. Men don’t become proficient at something without practice, thus the reason it’s important to develop habits worthy of manhood while you’re young. If you’re young, today is the day. Don’t wait for tomorrow.  Find a man worthy of emulation and get around him often. If you’re older and gained some wisdom along the way — live, learn and pass on.

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