Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Death of Masculinity (Part 3)

I don't mean to draw stereotypes. Every person is unique and will have a unique combination of qualities and weaknesses. I do not want to judge nor condemn anyone, "for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17.) But I do see trends. After working closely with hundreds of men, women and their families, I could not help but see trends. I don't really understand where these trends come from, but I would like to understand, and I would appreciate your insights. They help me—and other readers of this blog—a lot.

In response to comments on my last post, I would like to add that, yes, of course, all Christ-like qualities apply to both men and women. I see both men and women have the ability to be excellent leaders. I see men and women as absolute equals. I am sorry if I implied something different than this by not coming out and saying it directly.

Men and women can and should be heirs of confidence. This is an area I have needed to grow in. My lack of confidence in the past has led to many sorrows. I have also learned that there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Men and women need confidence and the strength that comes from it. But the confidence I need is in different areas than the confidence my wife has. 

I have seen women be just as assertive as men, but I have also seen men be more aggressive and violent than women. Women are capable of aggression and violence, but they are not as inclined to it as men. To illustrate, the incarceration rate of men in prisons in the United States is 15 times that of women (1,316,495 to 92,785 in 2003).  That has to tell us something.

Just the other night I was reading with my grandson about women pirates such as Anne Bonny and Mary Read. I am sure that women like danger and adventure just like men, but these were the only two women convicted of piracy during the 18th century.

So there are distinct differences in the way men and women are wired. We share needs and desires and tendencies, but we express them differently. The balance of testosterone and estrogen that God put into our bodies has an effect on us. I think I am right in saying that while the challenges and temptations that men and women face are not 100 percent unique, they are unique in some ways.

Because of this, I am calling more attention to men because that is where I see the greatest need for improvement. And I am starting with myself.

Women likewise have need for improvement, but after spending five years talking to hundreds of men, women and couples, privately and publicly, I see very distinct patterns and trends. This also comes after counseling with other bishops, especially after conferring with bishops of singles wards.

Here is where I see some other fundamental differences.   

Yes, both men and women can be selfish, but in my experience, women, especially those who have children under their care, are much less inclined to be selfish than men.

Another example is that in my years as bishop, I spoke to many men, young and old, about viewing pornographic images, but I never had occasion to speak to a single woman about this issue, except in relation to a husband or a child. Men tend to get caught up in visual pornography and women can get ensnared by reading pornography in the form of romantic fiction, but still, that was never an issue that came up in a single interview with a woman—I am talking about hundreds of interviews with women. I am not saying that visual or written pornography is not or can't be an issue with women, but I have never personally seen it.

I know women who like video games, but I see a tendency among men, especially young men and boys, to get absorbed in them, and, unfortunately, in violent ones. I think this relates to the citation above about the incarceration rates of men over women. Testosterone, unchecked, can lead us men into sorrow and trouble.

Likewise, both men and women can exercise unrighteous dominion, but I see more of a tendency of this error in men than in women. Both men and women need to lead out in righteousness, but I must acknowledge the prophetic counsel in the Proclamation on the Family that men are called by God to preside over, provide for and protect their wives and children. This is a huge responsibility which we men too often don't take seriously enough, and the trends I see are undermining this.

Men also can be very narrowly focused, where women often have a broader focus. Do you know one of the reasons why? Women have 40 percent or more connections between the hemispheres of their brains than men! Their left and right hemispheres can talk back and forth more glibly than men. I believe this is one of the reasons why women can be so much more perceptive of others' feelings and motives, especially in dealing with children.

Also in my experience, I feel that women are more readily inclined to remain faithful, though in recent years I have seen more and more women being led astray into illicit affairs, I am very sad to say.

There are always exceptions and unique cases, but, generally speaking, there are some fundamental physical and emotional differences in men and women. Also, I focus on men because that is where I see a great need.

Are women better than men? No. Are women more important than men? No. Are men more capable of righteousness or leadership than women? No. Are there differences in men and women? Yes. Are their needs and challenges different? Yes, not completely, but yes.

One of the greatest issues I see is the loss of footing men are experiencing in modern culture. And I think because of that, we have a tendency to back into a cave of confused self-gratification rather than using our God-given gift of masculinity to stand up boldly, be counted among the sons of God, lead our families in righteousness, and follow Christ with all our hearts.

That is the challenge I am taking up: to become, over time, the father, husband, breadwinner and leader God put me on the earth to be. No wrong exits. No excuses. I want to be the man God wants me to be.

(See Part 1, Part 2, Part 4.)

4 comments:

  1. Mike, I am the "Anonymous" that commented on your Masculinity Post (Part 1). I have started at least a dozen or so comments but they have all ended up in my word program being a few pages long! Hmmm. . .I don't think that will work for just posting a comment!

    I can say that I agree with you and see the trends, and unfortunately, experience it a little in my own marriage. I'm out on a limb with you.

    N.

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  2. Mike;

    This topic is more relevant now more than ever.

    Our current media driven culture seems to belittle, marginalize and be outright hostile to traditional male patterns of behavior. Boys quickly pick up on this, and many times are left with little more than inward looking pursuits like social media, video games, etc.

    I can't think of an effective way to counter this, as most LDS male "celebrities" (especially popular youth speakers) seem to be the ultimate "easy going" types you mentioned.

    Public Education has been thoroughly feminized in this country. The generally more quiet and controlled female behavior patterns have become the standard for both genders. I can understand many boys and young men getting fed up with this unnatural situation over time, which explains declining male enrollment rates in higher education.

    Divorce and Illegitimacy rates are now such that a very large percentage of boys have no male role models of any type in the home or actively engaged in their lives. This is increasingly true in the church, as well.

    Anti-male behavior is seen as "harmless fun." I saw a teenage girl recently wearing a t-shirt that said "Better than a Boy." Males are constantly portrayed as buffoons and simpletons on television sit-coms, movies, etc. Once again, boys pick up on this with little to counteract it.

    So many young men play it safe, and just "hang out" with female friends.
    Apparently many women want take charge guys with traditional masculine traits.

    What are these ladies doing to encourage the development and nurturing of these traits?

    This situation is much more complex, and deeper than "guys are too lazy to change," or "he just wants me to be his Mom."

    I am interested in Comments folks may have on these issues.

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  3. I agree that masculinity is marginalized and has nearly become a bad word associated with negative things. In regards to unrighteous dominion, however; my experience sees many women acting in this regard. They are not angry, physically controlling and abusive like many men who do this, but they are emotionally controlling, and minimalize mens abilities and strengths. So it works both ways for men and women who want to raise themselves above the other gender. I enjoyed your comments--thanks.

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  4. I do agree that there is something happening in our society that results in many men to disengage. Is it because there are so many more jobs that do not require physical strength? Is it because there are many more men that were raised without a father?

    I agree that one answer is for us to step up and model masculinity. I know I need to more.

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