Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Death of Masculinity (Part 2)

I'm finally continuing my post from a month ago about the missing masculinity in the modern male. (Wow, that was a lot of ms.)

What I am about to describe is not the rule, but it is common, and it seems to be getting more common. This is of great concern for a lot of women I have talked to.

When I was a bishop, a number of women would come in for interviews and were quite frank about their feelings (hurray for honesty). Almost all of them were respectful of their husbands and of men, but they could not hide their disappointment.

The second most common thing I heard from wives or young women of dating age was that the men in their lives were not taking charge. They were not taking a leadership role. They were sitting back and not stepping forward. They were not demonstrating true masculinity. These women felt forced to take on a broader leadership role in addition to their other roles. And they didn't like it.

(Pssssst. Women really, really, really are attracted to genuine masculinity.)

Many of their husbands or boyfriends were absorbed in computer games or television or their laptops or worse. These men weren't leading the family in prayer or in scripture study and other sacred duties. They seemed to their wives to be in a constant state of escape, letting family life pass them by as they huddled close to their electronica. They also didn't feel like their husbands or boyfriends were pursuing them. They got along most of the time but they were living parallel lives. Emotional interaction was missing, except when arguments broke out.

Unmarried women of marriageable age had similar complaints. Young men, it seemed to them, were happy with just hanging out. They were not being chased by them, though they wanted to be. Girls and women like to be pursued by men who are attractive to them, but these men seemed self-satisfied, preoccupied with personal pleasures and pursuits, and not striving for a higher plane. (Thing of the term self-centertainment and that sort of encapsulates it.) Even though they may attend church or may have served as missionaries, they wore worldly attire and hair and had worldly, selfish or arrogant attitudes.

I can't tell you how disappointed and disheartened young women are because of this trend of a chosen generation of young men unchoosing themselves. I am somewhat disheartened too, but I emphasize that this is not the rule, blessedly.

Men would complain about their wives negativity and complaining and I would tell these me that much of that would be reduced if they would become true, Christ-like leaders, if they would express their innate masculinity. (Nevertheless, I always encouraged women to not try to change your men through bitter and harsh words. This might relieve some frustration for a moment or two but too often brings about the opposite effect than what they want. Women have much more powerful tools at their disposal, namely their true femininity, the subtle force that is at the core of nearly all positive male motivation. But I digress.)

So what do we do about this? I'll tell you what I am doing: I am repenting.

I am easy going. But a little too easy going. I have let a lot of opportunities pass me by due to my easy-goingness. I have learned my lessons the hard way. I have disappointed myself, my wife and my children too often because I was not stepping up to my masculine role.

As parents we can do a better job of showing (not just telling) young men what it means to be truly masculine, in the purest, best sense. You don't have to be perfect at it. You just have to be making a very honest and open effort and be willing to correct your actions when you discover you have gotten off the path.

True masculinity in my view is to be genuinely Christ-like. It is to be bold yet humble. Full of adventure yet loyal to home and family. Having self-control but willing to let go of and express emotions at the appropriate time. Being reliable and true. Willing to sacrifice anything and everything for loved ones, yet wise enough to be kind to yourself.

I'll close with this observation. A man who does not acknowledge and express his masculinity will go a little crazy. He needs an outlet and a challenge and an adventure to pursue. Daily. Without this, he will seek to satisfy his cravings through video games and pornography and other stultifying pleasures. Wise is the woman who understands this need and supports it.

Here is a personal experience. My last year at BYU, I took 42 credits (fall and winter semesters). I was on task and I got good grades. I was on a mission to finish school and to move on to providing a good income for my family. It was hard work. It took a lot of effort. And my wife was fully behind me. When I finished my last final that April, I felt like I could fly. But a few weeks later, I was depressed. Why? Because I didn't have a huge goal to pursue. I learned a lesson from that: I always need to have a huge goal. It has taken me years to grasp this, but now I get it. (That's huge goal things was part of masculinity.)

Woman who control their fears and support and encourage their men to build their "field of dreams" often find the men they love much better able to express their true masculinity.

(See Part 1, Part 3, Part 4.)

7 comments:

Mel H said...

I appreciate that you have great concern for this issues and the individuals you've counseled. You have obviously put some thought into how to best resolve the issues.

However, while it's hardly surprising that women don't want their partners "absorbed in computer games or television," not all women want men to be "in charge," either. Rather, they seek an equal partnership where both spouses "take charge" of the work of the family. They enjoy both pursuing and being pursued. "Even though they may attend church or may have served as missionaries, they [recognize that they, like men, are susceptible to] worldly attire and hair and... worldly, selfish or arrogant attitudes."

These women support their husbands and appreciate the support they receive in return, for they also "need an outlet and a challenge and an adventure to pursue. Daily."

Finally, these women know that their most important goal is "to be genuinely Christ-like." They are "bold yet humble. Full of adventure yet loyal to home and family. Having self-control but willing to let go of and express emotions at the appropriate time. Being reliable and true. Willing to sacrifice anything and everything for loved ones, yet wise enough to be kind to yourself."

In other words, while I applaud your desire to help men and women and families, I fail to see how most of these statements, particularly the one purporting to describe "true masculinity," do not equally apply to women.

Rich Alger said...

"I am easy going. But a little too easy going." That is a fault of mine as well. It is easy for me to slip into coasting. Accept the mediocrity.

I have to say though that assertiveness is not necessarily a masculine trait. My wife for one has it in spades. Perhaps that is one reason we fit together though.

I thought about asking one of my sons to read your two essays and talk about this topic. Then I thought what my daughters or wife might think of it. Perhaps they might agree with the stereotype that seems to be developing around many men that they are lazy and self-centertained.

Perhaps this topic would serve better as "The death of assertiveness" and address it both in men and women.

That said I love your insights. Perhaps the stereotype is there because of some of the tendencies and emasculation of boys and men.

Anonymous said...

I think I am one of the men you are writing about, so let me tell you how things look from my side.
First of all, I'm not a dysfunctional person. I have graduated from college. I have a career and a current job. I own my home. I keep myself in good physical shape. I never watch TV or play video games. When I'm not working I engage in challenging pursuits. I take calculated risks but don't do stupid things that produce no benefit.

However, I am not a confident person. I have the engineer's habit of seeing all the things that can go wrong. Also, I work hard but I don't like to be 'ON' all the time. I have to stop regularly and think things over. Because of these traits I don't have 'presence' and am not the kind of man that very many women find attractive. Therefore, I am about as likely to catch a woman I want as I am to catch a world record fish. The only difference is that I would actually enjoy the fishing.

There is also the matter of expectations. Your posts conveyed the sense of frustration that some women express when the men in their lives don't meet their expectations. Well, I don't want to spend the rest of my life trying unsuccessfully to fulfill another person's expectations. I have a hard enough time meeting the expectations that I have set for myself.

I know men who seem to meet your definition of masculinity. They are always striving and they achieve much. I admire them, but I do not want to be them. I could not live the way they do for many years and stay sane.

JM

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is a masculine or feminine issue. It is called having "Fire in the Belly" and is an attribute of winners. The Celestial Kingdom will be full of those who are humble, meek, AND full of Fire in the Belly.

This attribute seems to have been wiped out over the past 30 years due to a number of reasons.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons some of these men spend hours in front of a computer screen is because they are trying to escape their nagging wives whom they can never please. And why do their wives nag? Partly because their husbands spend hours in front of a computer. And the cycle continues. The blame (and the solution) goes both ways; it isn't just the men's fault.

As a bishop, you would have naturally heard more women complain about their husbands because women are more likely to air their grievances about the men in their lives. It isn't socially acceptable for men to open up about their frustrations with their marriages.

I'm a woman, by the way--a single woman who happens to be frustrated with the lack of ambition and drive that many men have. But the causes of the problems between the sexes are complex, and I don't think it's fair to lay all of the blame at the feet of men.

Rich Alger said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3oIiH7BLmg

I saw this video yesterday. At one point it talks about hedonism. And why the Internet generation may be so more inclined towards it because of all the time they spend with entertainment.

Then I saw this video. It talks about what motivates us. Especially those that are working using creativity or brain work.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

Anon (Aug 8), I do think that our relationships can get into a unhealthy collusion. It is good for all of us to be accountable for our part of being unhealthy.

Zen said...

Thank you, Anonymous (last one).

It is a matter of hearing the women and not the men. If a woman complains, she sounds like a victim. If a man complains, he sounds like a loser.

In the singles, I see a lot of dysfunction, but there is a lack of masculinity in men, and a deficiency of femininity in women.

But if it must be corrected somewhere, it should probably begin with the men. (The feminists ought to love that.)