Growing up in the United States, I learned that a “real man” was supposed to be tough, self-sufficient, strong, smart, rich, and desired by women. “Real men” don’t lose fights or sporting events. The Old West portrayed men as not needing much for themselves, but willing to die for justice and truth. Good guys were never bad and bad guys, in the end, always lost.
On the other end of the spectrum, our present-day culture portrays a very different view of men. Men are often viewed as selfish, sexually charged, uncaring, stoic, and controlling. At the same time, they are often expected to work and provide, to be useful, to make wise decisions and to eventually amass enough wealth to retire. I find that many men lose their personal sense of identity if they buy into either of these world views.
A “Real Man” According to Scripture
Scripture is the place to learn what a man should be and do. So, what does the Bible say it is to be a “real man?”
- A real man controls his passions and emotions.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Single or married, men are not to pursue immoral passions or sexual exploits. Real men do not dwell on what is evil. Real men follow God with a heart of compassion and lead with confidence of knowing who and what they are. Real men think clearly and have a conscience that is clear.
- A real man provides for, protects, and serves his family.
1 Timothy 5:8 says, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Real men provide for the family on multiple levels, including emotional and spiritual needs.
Men are called to be servant-leaders, to take responsibility for putting the needs of their wives and children above their own needs. They are called to demonstrate selfless, sacrificial love—the type of love we see in God toward his children.
Men do not abuse women or children; men are protectors. It seems pretty simple to say real men protect their families from physical harm, but men also need to protect loved ones from other kinds of harm. Proverbs 4:10–15 describes a father who protects his son by passing on wisdom, helping him build godly character. A good father trains his children, prepares them for life, and helps them become responsible adults who will know how to cope with this world and its culture.
- A real man follows God’s design for him.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The core of a man’s life should be his relationship with God. The man who walks humbly with God is motivated and empowered to step up and assume the difficult responsibilities that come his way. Leonard Sweet said, “Your life is not your own; it belongs to God. To ‘be yourself’ is to be and do what God wants you to be and do, knowing that God created you for a mission and knows you and your mission better than you do.”
- A real man shows compassion.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God…since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – 1 John 4:7, 11-12
If we understand and agree with the biblical view of what a real man is, then why don’t we live it? That is where therapeutic care comes in. Here are some areas that I believe need to be addressed therapeutically in men who want to be mentally and spiritually healthy:
- Become aware of character issues.
All men struggle with character issues. They are not perfect, but they are also not all bad. Therapeutically, I want to help them be better men. One of the reasons for therapy is to become a better version of themselves.
- Recognize thinking errors.
All men have what I call thinking errors. In therapy, we try to recognize what those errors look like and then we eliminate them and replace them with healthy thinking.
- Understand the role of emotions.
Too many men dismiss emotions as unimportant. I try to help them recognize that emotions are what fuel their behaviors.
- Control their anger and impulses.
We decide either to act out in anger or to handle our anger in healthy ways. Therapy can help us recognize when and how we get angry and teach us the tools to deal with that anger.
- Learn why a marriage relationship is vital.
I help men realize the importance of treating their wives in a way that makes them feel safe, cared for, desired, and protected.
- Be stewards of what God has given them.
If money can control things, it can also control us. It may also be tempting to use it to control other people. A healthy perspective is that money exists to provide for real needs.
- Connect with other men and hold each other accountable.
Group therapy can help men connect to other men so that they have the support and accountability that encourages growth.
- Know that change is possible.
Sometimes this realization comes as a “conversion moment.” Therapy can help us see something we cannot not see on our own. Therapy helps us see a new way of being.
This is a short list of some of the therapeutic outcomes I work towards with clients in my practice and in the men’s group I lead called The Core. However, we are not two-dimensional people. There is no magic formula; each man has unique experiences and their partners have unique needs.
If you are grappling with anything mentioned in this article and it is leading to disruption in your relationships, let us help you through these tough and confusing issues! Please give our office a call at (206) 219-0145 for more information or contact our Client Care Team.