Last night while watching the Duke basketball game on ESPN, I kept seeing the ticker at the bottom of the screen refer again and again to Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah and Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend situation. Things like this usually grab my attention (apparently I am not the only one – the whole nation is riveted by this kind of stuff!). But last night it was a bit heavier. It got me thinking a lot about authentic manhood for these reasons:
1. I have two sons who I want to become men and a daughter who I hope marries a man.
2. I had been reading Dennis Rainey’s new book Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood throughout the day.
3. I had learned earlier some friends of ours divorced, having been married less than a year.
So, here I sat reading and rereading – over and over again – the situations about these ‘men.’ These guys the world had put before us as ‘real men.’ Tough. Strong. Athletic. Handsome. Rich (or about to be). Passionate. Only to now have revealed a significant character flaw.
I don’t want to point fingers at these men. I have never been in their situation and simply cannot say with authenticity I would have done any different were I in their shoes. Lord knows, if all of my dirty laundry were out in public, I would be living in constant embarrassment. But I do want to learn from this. For myself. For my sons. For my future son-in-law. For the men I pastor.
Here’s what I am learning. I am calling them “Strong Manhood Lessons from Armstrong and Manti”:
1. A STRONG MAN changes culture.
I kept seeing this quote from Armstrong to Oprah on the bottom of my screen last night: “I didn’t create the culture, but I didn’t try to stop it either” (or something very similar). In other words, he didn’t start the doping culture in his sport – but he didn’t try to change it either. Real men don’t just stand on their convictions – they move ahead with their convictions, trusting that doing the right thing will help, not hurt, culture.
2. A STRONG MAN tells the truth. Always.
Men, your sins will find you out. Lying is being afraid and cowardly. Covering up the truth to cover your rear end will always come back to bite you. Anybody can lie their way through a mess to avoid pain. A real man, however, tells the truth – even when it hurts.
3. A STRONG MAN has REAL relationships.
Again, I want to be careful here. The point here is not to condemn online relationships. That’s another post for another time. But it does need to be said – especially in this day of social media – that authentic relationships are ‘face to face’ and ‘live’ and ‘in person’ and with ‘REAL’ people with ‘REAL’ emotions and hearts and minds and souls. Whatever went down with Te’o and his ‘girl’ is not the point I want to make here. The point for men is this: real conversation is face to face; real talk is not through texting or email; real emotional relations are ‘in person’ – not via a screen. Man UP, men and face reality – don’t cover up being a coward in the form of a text, an email, or a Facebook message.
4. A STRONG MAN understands REAL toughness.
Proverbs 16:32 says, “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Translation: Whoever rules his spirit is tougher than he who wins triathlons and who nails people on the football field. Doing the latter is not bad, per se. That’s not the point I am making. We can learn a lot from them at how they gave their all in their sport. There’s much to be said for men to learn in that regard. But being a man is not defined by how big your muscles are and how many miles you can ride on your bike. Being a real man is defined by how you show how strong you are when you need to control yourself. According to the Proverb quoted above – ruling your spirit is tougher than being Superman (taking a city). Being tough doesn’t mean seeing how loud you can yell at your kids or your wife, or how hard you can hit something or how much porn you can lose yourself in. Being tough means having the strength to control those tempers and control those urges that contradict what God says is best.
5. A STRONG MAN owns up.
I didn’t watch the Armstrong/Oprah interview and I’m not sure what will come of the Te’o debacle. But I was glad to hear that Armstrong confessed his wrongdoing. He owned up to what he did. He took responsibility for his actions. That’s what a man does (again, I didn’t see the interview – this is just speculation based on the little bit I know).
If you are reading this and know it’s time to step up and be a man, let me let Dennis Rainey encourage you: “It’s never too late to step up, even when that means – especially when that means – facing our own failures and setting things right with the ones we’ve wounded.”
I feel for these men. I really do. I want to learn from this and grow through situations like this.
What else would you add to the list for your own personal development as a man?