On June 18th we celebrate Father’s Day. Unfortunately for many, it is a day when painful memories of childhood abuse resurface. Years ago, in a US prison for men, the inmates were given a choice of three cards: a Mother’s Day card; a Father’s Day card and a blank card. 85% of the inmates choose a Mother’s Day card, 10% a blank card and 5% a Father’s Day card. Unfortunately, the stats were similar for women inmates. The stats seem to indicate that we have a problem with the disappearance of manhood.
Years ago T S Elliot highlighted the problem in his poem The Hollow Men.
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas
Our dried voices when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dried grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralyzed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us – if at all – not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
An Anthology of Verse Toronto Oxford University Press, 1964
Famed anthropologist, Margaret Mead stated: “Man’s role us uncertain, undefined, and perhaps unnecessary. By a great effort man has hit upon a method of compensating himself for his basic inferiority.”
Gilder in his book Naked Nomads, says the single man in general “is disposed to criminality, drugs, and violence. He is irresponsible about his debts, alcoholic, accident prone, and venereally diseased. Unless he can marry, he is often destined to a Hobbesian life – solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
If men want to come out of the shadows and have a voice that is more than a whisper, there are three idols that must be removed.
The idolization of success. Sports, entertainment, business, the arts, and a variety of other disciplines present our culture with multiple heroes. In one sense, those heroes are the idols we import into our lives. The character of the person is often over-shadowed by their achievement. While we recognize the discipline that is needed to “reach the podium” or win the championship, it is important to realize that a person’s inner life is really the measure of who they are.
The idolization of strength. Back in Greek mythology, Zeus placed judgment on the lessor god, Atlas and assigned him the task of holding the earth in space. This feat of strength became the inspiration for an Italian “weakling” to develop a system of body- building that would catapult him to world fame. Until his death in 1972, Charles Atlas, alias Angelo Siciliano of Italy, was the model of human strength. He was the icon of male strength. The real strength of a man is measured in his ability to acknowledge wrong and show kindness.
The idolization of sex. Alfred Kinsey took sexuality from under the cloak of Victorian secrecy and made it common. Hugh Hefner appeared as the male liberator. He said, “I don’t want my editors marrying anyone and getting a lot of foolish notions in their heads about “togetherness” home, family and all that jazz.” Writer Myron Brenton called Playboy the “Bible of the beleaguered male.” Tragically we want passion without care, privilege without commitment, and pleasure without chastity.
Real men are successful — but that success is not measured in position, power, or possession. It is measured in our ability to make others successful.
Real men are strong — they are men of principle who are like a steel peg in frozen ground. They will not bend, twist, or tamper with truth to accommodate their behavior. They use their strength to protect others from damaging philosophies.
Real men are sexual — They know that intimacy thrives within a framework of trust and transparency and is reserved for a relationship of covenant love.
Take your place as a real man and I’ll see you at the top.