In modern society, being a man is often conflated with physical and intellectual prowess. The ability to attract women, the ability to beat other men to a pulp, and the ability to defeat opponents in contests of strength or skill or chance – these are all treated as expressions of true manhood.
These abilities are all positive goods. The ability to defend oneself against other males, to outwit opponents, and to attract women are all things that males should strive to cultivate.
But they are not the essence of manhood. And the confusion of these positive goods with true manhood is symptomatic of a dearth of manhood in modern society.
For the essence of manhood is self-gift. Man was made to give himself to others, to give his time, effort, abilities, and even his body to serve others and the kingdom of Christ. True manhood is about service of others, not about power.
Manhood, in its truest sense, is most truly expressed when one is able to resist one’s disordered desires, so as to more effectively sacrifice himself for others. Christ, through His total sacrifice of Himself on the cross for others, is the truest man ever to live.
Thus, true manhood manifests itself in ways which are largely scorned or taken for granted, especially in an increasingly feminized society.
It takes more strength to restrain oneself when every part of one’s body is screaming to be sated (i.e., through food, or through sex, or through TV watching), than to simply give into desire. It takes more strength to hold one’s anger in check and bear injuries patiently and with love, than to lash out at a taunting foe. It takes more courage to stand for a principle that the world denies and mocks, than to simply give in on important issues when expedient.
But it is these basic principles of manhood that modern society denies and mocks. Manhood is instead seen as an expression of power, of exerting physical or intellectual or sexual control over another. True manhood is therefore treated as empowerment of oneself and self-aggrandizement, at the expense of the good of others.
And as a result, men who abandon their posts and seek only their own gratification increasingly grow more common in modern society, as the spirit of self-sacrifice which is the essence of manhood is denigrated in favor of a conception of manhood based on power.