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What Does It Mean to Be a Man?

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What Does It Mean to Be a Man?

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We’ve all probably seen movies where a drill sergeant is trying to whip some new recruits into shape. They run for miles, do pushups and other seemingly impossible tasks, which they inevitably fail at. The tough old sergeant then screams at them, “You all are some of the most weak-sauced excuses for the male species I’ve ever seen! Are you a man or not?!”

Is that what being a man is about? Being stronger, faster and tougher than others? Or maybe it’s more about being the funniest, smartest or wealthiest. Maybe you’re so handsome and dress so well, you could be a model for the cover of a fashion magazine—someone the world envies. While there’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, handsome, strong or funny, is that what it means to be a man?

Peter Pan Syndrome

“I don’t wanna grow up!” That in essence is what’s known as “Peter Pan syndrome.” Boys refusing to accept the responsibilities of adulthood and clinging on to the things of youth. You know the clichés: not wanting to take out the garbage because of being afraid of the dark; making crude, off color bathroom jokes; doing poorly on a test from playing videogames too much instead of studying. In some cases, young men find themselves unable to live on their own because they don’t have a decent source of income.

The Bible paints a picture of manhood that’s at once masculine and tender-hearted; courageous and wise; bold and courteous; self-assured and teachable; independent and responsible for others; strong and gentle. If every man strove for a biblical idea of masculinity, we’d see stronger families, secure children and more productive companies.

Here are some ways to strive for biblical manhood in your own life.


The apostle Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24, emphasis added). In general terms, this points to taking pride in your work. Whether you sweep floors or are the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation, work like Jesus Christ was your boss.

In verse 25 he continues, “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.” In other words, don’t make excuses for things not going well, or a job not being completed; rather, take responsibility to get it done. If the garbage didn’t get taken out to the curb because no one reminded you until it was dark, it’s not their fault because they didn’t remind you sooner. It’s a part of your weekly chores. Don’t make excuses, just find a way to do what it is you’re supposed to do.

As a younger teen, you can show responsibility by following through on your responsibilities at home; taking your schoolwork seriously and doing the best job you can do; helping out your parents however you can; taking an interest in the older people at church to learn their history; volunteering to serve at church in ways you know you’re able.

Older teen years are a time when there are more growth opportunities: Working hard in school to help you get admission to college; being a safe driver; working to save money for school or a car. Whatever it is, do it as if to the Lord, and take responsibility for your future!

Maintain balance

While being a man requires taking on the responsibilities of manhood, there is a caveat to consider. Some begin to develop a mindset of “succeed at all costs.” While this might help you earn “fat stacks,” it doesn’t necessarily result in being a very good person.

Being a man doesn’t mean asserting yourself over others in a controlling way to get the best job or gain popularity. It requires humility, tenderness and having compassion for others as well.

Consider the way Jesus Christ lived His life. Among human beings, He is the most dominant figure of all time! Yet, He didn’t act in a domineering way, promoting Himself over others. In fact, it was quite the opposite. “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus Christ could have demanded others bow before Him. Yet, we don’t see this. In fact, rarely do we ever read that He allowed others to worship Him. While some may view compassion as a form of weakness, especially in men, the life Jesus lived shows otherwise.

Changes with time

What it means to be a man changes a bit over time, especially if you get married and have children. The Bible states that a husband is to be the leader of his family (Ephesians 5:23). However, there are right and wrong ways to be a leader. Remember the drill sergeant at the beginning of the article? While that might be appropriate in preparing for war, is that the type of demeanor a husband should have toward his wife? Of course not!

Colossians 3:19 (New Living Translation) says this, “Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.” It’s a simple but profound reminder: Always show love and respect for your wife! Or, as the case might be for you, a young woman who could someday be your wife.

Once children come along, there is a new responsibility that comes with it. Deuteronomy 6:6 reminds us, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” It’s a simple reminder that once again, being the head of the household comes with responsibilities. Not only should we treat others with love and respect, we have a responsibility to teach the children we bring into this world about God’s love, laws and way of life (To read more about a family who put this into practice, see “The Value of a Christian Upbringing” on page 12).

A Helper on the journey

The responsibilities of Christian manhood can sound daunting. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily need to do this on your own. There is help available to you besides parents and friends. That help is from God and is available through the Holy Spirit. For more on that, check out the article “What’s It Like to Get Baptized?” from the Fall 2021 issue of Compass Check (just search that title on UCG.org to find it).

Be a man!

The next time you see a commercial or hear someone tell you how to be a man, consider it carefully. Is what they are promoting what God promotes for manhood? Or is it just a way to sell you something, or try and teach you to dominate others? If so, they probably don’t know as much about being a man as they claim.

God created people—men and women—for a purpose. He is building a family in His image. As young men, you play a key part in God’s plan. By taking on the responsibilities of adulthood and tempering your drive with compassion, you will be the kind of man God wants in His family!  CC