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Monday, September 06, 2010

What Does It Mean To Be A Man? by Lafayette Trawick

What does it truly mean to be a man?  Ok, there's the obvious genetic appendage hangin’ low.  But that makes you a male.  What makes you a man?  It's a simple question, but one that many cannot answer.

Let's start with the mass media definition. (3 types)
1. Homer Simpson type - bumbling, stumbling and generally surrounded by his wife and children.  He's harmless and cute and never taken seriously.
2. Action hero type - Can't seem to put two coherent sentences together, Bulging biceps, foul language, and fast women are his life.
3. Whatever a woman thinks your definition should be?

While most people agree the two above male types do not and should not reflect what it is to be a man, many boys take their masculinity cues from the media.  Why?  Because their biological father is long gone and does not provide an example for his boys to follow.  And when I say gone, I don't just mean physical absence.  Fathers can still be in the household but emotionally absent.

How is a father emotionally absent?  By not making his kids a priority.  Nor his marriage.  Remember that the most alluring mistress is most often not a young hot secretary that works with the father, but the job itself.  We are a nation that engrosses ourselves so much in work to the detriment of our family that many of us can rightly call our jobs our mistresses. We can easily use the excuse that we're trying to provide for our family.  But it's not enough to provide our kids with financial prosperity.  In fact, that's not even in the top 10 list.  What does it profit our kids to gain the world and lose their soul?

So what is true masculinity?  It is also definitely not defined by what a woman thinks a man should be either. If this were so, then men would be lost and only defined by what a woman thinks he should be. NO, If I had to choose just one characteristic, it would be self-sacrifice.  We often think of such acts of self-sacrifice (read heroism or courage) out on the battlefield with a soldier throwing himself on a live grenade to save another, or stepping in front of a tank to push his buddy out of harm's way.  But true self-sacrifice is a way of life, not just one event.

Self-sacrifice in marriage:  Wow, this is a big one.  As men, we need to put aside our (perceived) needs and put our wife's desires ahead of our own.  And that means the little things too.  Like taking out the garbage.  Or cleaning the gutter we promised to take care of a couple months ago, cleaning out your wife's car, vacuuming and detailing it just to show her you love her.  Will it be a big pain?  Yes.  But that's what real men do - sacrifice themselves for those they love.

Self-sacrifice in parenting:   One of the things about my dad I will never forget is his self-sacrifice on my behalf. 
Self-sacrificing as a parent is making your time your kids' time.  It means turning off 60 Minutes or putting away a company spreadsheet and taking your kids to batting practice.  Or piano recital.  Or helping them build a fort out of pillows.  It's putting aside what you want for what they want.  And eventually you find you enjoy hanging out with your kids more than you could ever have imagined.
To sum it up simply, I propose true masculinity is not found in the size of your biceps or the thickness of your wallet but in the depth of your heart.

Where your heart is, there your treasure is also.

Blogging since 2007, LaFayette Trawick is a community activist involved in the mentoring of urban youth and planned partnering with fatherhood and faith-based mentoring initiatives. Specifically, Birthfathers Support Network, Fathers Now, F.E.L.L.A.S, Young Fathers Program (UMDNJ) & REAL DADS. These programs are designed to help fathers meet the obligations of fatherhood and to provide assistance in helping them fulfill their potential by enhancing their ability to meet the financial, educational, social and emotional demands of fatherhood. The goal is to stregthen and foster family development, improve child-parent relationships, reduce child neglect and abuse and promote family planning. For speaking requests and program planning email: