The men’s meeting I referenced in the last post was, in many ways, typical of such events. Over the years, these seem to fall into a set pattern. Testosterone is the order of the day, even if the conference tells us to eschew excessive displays. There will always be someone from the world of professional athletics. There will be people in uniform, firemen, policemen, military personnel. There will be discussions of strenuous outdoor activity. There will be exhortations to “Be Men!”
In response, I want to break out in the theme song of Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men in Tights:” “We’re men, we’re men in tights! We roam around the forest looking for fights….”
I do not know if I am alone in my feelings of estrangement from this message, but it does seem endemic to the world of men’s ministry. In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldridge spends a paragraph detailing someone struggling with frustrated artistic aspirations and repressed by his family and church. Unfortunately after declaring the poor man to be broken and in need of healing, Eldridge does nothing to explain how that might happen, and instead launches off on another discussion of whitewater rafting and mountain climbing. I wanted to cry.
What’s to be done? Can we give guidance to men that offers something other than testosterone? May I offer some suggestions?
The Latin word for a man (as opposed to a woman) is vir. We derive our word “virile” from it. More importantly here, we also get our word “virtue” from this root. This can suggest that being a man means to possess virtue. This opens up a much broader appeal and scope.
What is virtue? The Greek word for it, arête, can also mean excellence, which gives us a start at understanding it. Excellence in thought, word, and deed. Striving to better ourselves. Endeavoring to do the right thing. Now these things will have to be unpacked—what does it mean, for example, to be excellent in word— but I think we have something that can apply to all men (and all people, if we’re honest).