In popular media, men are often portrayed as dense, selfish, arrogant, sexually immoral and at least potentially violent. A man who acts the way society thinks he should, particularly toward women, is often referred to as a "real man" or a "man's man."
Sadly, this popular image of "real" manliness is based on misinformation and bad assumptions. God, the designer of human beings, sees things differently than society does.
"Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature … For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Looking at the heart is a concept lost on much of modern culture. It's much easier to use only what we see as the basis for our opinions and actions.
What does the Bible actually say about being a real man? If we look closely, we can find three keys to true masculinity to help us understand how men should treat women and others in general.
Real men respect
To respect something is to consider it "worthy of high regard." This is exactly the attitude that God says men should have toward women. That means all women, by the way, not just those we consider physically attractive.
Jesus Christ is the perfect example of this behavior. His followers taught that husbands ought to love their wives "just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her"—and that husbands should "love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself" (Ephesians 5:25, 28). True love is based on fundamental respect.
Wives, in turn, are told to respect their husbands. Clearly, this is meant to be a mutual respect, a reaction to the respect her husband is already showing her.
Ultimately, though, God wants us to treat everyone with an outgoing, unselfish concern and deep respect for their well-being.
Real men protect
To protect is to shield someone from exposure, injury or destruction. A man who respects others will act to protect not just himself but others as well from various forms of exposure and injury.
Consider the biblical story of Ruth. A young Moabite woman, she was the daughter-in-law of Elimelech and Naomi, an Israelite couple who fled to Moab (in the area of modern-day Jordan) to escape a terrible famine in Israel. In the course of time Elimelech and his two sons died. Naomi and her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, were left alone with no support system.
Naomi decided to return to her homeland, and Ruth courageously went with her, even though she would be leaving her native Moab to live as a foreigner in Israel. Her future was incredibly uncertain, and she was extremely vulnerable. Enter Boaz.
Boaz was a wealthy and noble man of high social standing. He was just the kind of man who could have ignored two struggling widows, especially one who was a foreigner. But Boaz was a man of godly character who exercised his duty to protect those who were at risk. He personally saw to it that their basic needs were met. He kept watch over Ruth as she worked to help support her mother-in-law. As the near relative of her deceased husband, Boaz chose to marry Ruth and assume the provision and protection for her and aging Naomi.
Life provides many, many opportunities to serve others by protecting them or their interests. Ultimately, God wants us to demonstrate His character by being willing to protect anyone—especially the most defenseless among us.
Real men take responsibility
Many today would rather talk about their "rights" than their obligations and duties, but there has never been a greater need for men who are willing to take responsibility for their actions.
Real men do not take a woman's most precious gifts (her heart, mind and body) without having committed through marriage to keep them forever. Engaging in physical intimacy with a woman before marriage is stealing. It is taking something that is not yours, which is an irresponsible failure to respect or protect the woman—and it is a sin, a violation of God's law.
A real man doesn't use excuses about being caught up in the passion of the moment and not being able to resist temptation. That story doesn't carry much weight with God. It is possible to resist!
A man who takes responsibility for his actions has the wisdom to anticipate compromising situations and think proactively about how to avoid them. Translation: vertical thinking men avoid being alone in intimate circumstances with a woman before marriage! The book of Proverbs puts it this way, "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished" (27:12).
Becoming a real man
There are many situations in life where we can do the right thing only by taking responsibility for our own actions. Ultimately, God wants us to demonstrate His character by being willing to take responsibility for everything we do, protect those in need and deeply respect women.
Never miss an opportunity to practice these three key concepts of true manliness. You can avoid the trap of false masculinity and its negative consequences by shouldering your responsibility to protect and respect so that in the end you will truly, in God's eyes, be a real man.