The world seems to think the measure of a man is in athletic ability, sexual conquest, and economic success.
I recently went through a physical exam at a MEPS facility to be eligible for a scholarship from the Air Force. Kids from all across the Western states came to pass the entrance physical exam, most for basic enlistment in all of the branches (kind of like in the movie Pearl Harbor). Here I was, a dental student mixed in with all of them. They make you feel like a piece of meat. It was an all day affair and by the end in one way or another they had insulted everyone’s “manhood.”
In America especially, boys grow up with a false definition of what it means to be a man and by the time they reach their “manly goals” they realize the latter of life they have been climbing has been leaning against the wrong building.
In his book, Season of Life, the author Jeffrey Marx quotes his longtime friend and football great for the Colts Joe Ehrmann as defining masculine success in two ways. I believe he’s spot on.
“Masculinity, first and foremost, ought to be defined in terms of relationships…It ought to be taught in terms of capacity to love and be loved. If you look over your life at the end of it…life would’ be measured in terms of success based on what you’ve acquired or achieved or what you own. The only thing that is really going to matter is the relationships that you had. It’s gonna come down to this: What kind of father were you? What kind of husband were you? What kind of coach or teammate were you? What kind of son were you? What kind of brother were you? What kind of friend were you? Success comes in terms of relationships.
He goes on to say that the second criterion for masculinity, and the only other one is that we all have to have some kind of cause, some kind of purpose in life that’s bigger than our own individual hopes, dreams and wants and desires. We have to be able to look back on life from our deathbed and know that somehow the weld was a better place because we lived, we loved, we were other-centered and other-focused.
Does this sound familiar at all? In the church this is precisely what they try to teach us as Priesthood holders. We need to put our relationships first and have a life full of service. It amazes me how those not of our faith, if they seek answers, will find them. The spirit is universal in its effects on the hearts of mankind. Joe Ehrman was able to come to this conclusion after many years serving as an inner city preacher. He dedicates his life to teaching boys what it means to be men. This is exactly what the Priesthood is all about. I am lucky to have grown up with real men as my examples (my Dad and my Grandpa, other church leaders, my Uncles, etc). It is my duty to carry on as a man in faithful Priesthood service.
I believe that I have finally come to realize that I want to accept the responsibilities of a man. We all must have our own personal conversion to manhood as did Paul, 1 Cor 13:11, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Moving to Arizona has been the best thing for me. My school schedule is rigorous but there aren’t as many distractions. My priorities are realigning and I am starting to see through a clear glass what life is really all about. I get up early and go to bed early…there are even some Friday and Saturday nights that I spend studying! My time has come to put away childish things for good. Of course I will still have my same fun-loving personality but now just in a different context.
On Saturdays sometimes I travel to North phoenix to play pick up basketball with some inner city black guys at a small Lutheran church. The basketball is alright but mostly I go for the perspective it gives me. No where else but in the basketball spectra would the worlds of professional school students and inner city collide in such an informal setting. We joke and laugh together, we play hard and then towards the end of the morning the Pastor who organizes it gives a message and says a prayer. His last message was on Galatians 5, the fruits of the spirit vs the fruits of the flesh. I use to teach that same exact message on my mission! Again the spirit is universal. The stories of some of the guys I meet down there are incredible. My heart goes out to their situations. They are faithful fathers trying to break the societal norm and raise a loving family in poverty. This life is not easy for them or for me. Nothing good in life ever was easy. Their experiences and mine all should lead us to the same destination: to become real men. Even though I am in professional school does not make me better than these men.
The men of all men was the Savior Jesus Christ. If we strive to emulate him and his life we will be on our way to real manhood.