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What is Masculinity?

One of the books we’ve talked about in the last couple of posts, Why Men Hate Going to Church, is hard to do justice to by quoting a few of the author’s emphases.

Murrow’s chapters are full of irony that, as I read, kept me off balance from beginning to end. He had me arguing with him all the way– while leaving me convinced that he was showing me something I’d been looking for.

On one hand he boldly argues that boys want a mother but need a father, that men love women but follow other men.

He described the dangers of women-led churches, the historic failure of men-led churches, the downside of what happens when men lead like women– while making a strong case for our need of both men and women leaders.

He described the strength of a man while showcasing the strength, courage, and sacrifice of a woman.

He honored the Christ who did for us what we could never do for ourselves, while calling those “saved” (both men and women) to give their own lives to go to the rescue of others.

In the middle of it all he offers a definition of masculinity that seems so wrong, and so right…

While offering counterbalancing factors and disclaimers, Murrow’s approach is that, before looking at the way things should be, we need to be realistic about the way they are. And, from at least a natural, historic point of view Murrow suggests that:

“Masculinity is an informal code imposed on all the men of the tribe. In order to be accepted as a man, one must stand up to danger, bear up under suffering, and sacrifice oneself for the good of others. This code of conduct helps a man overcome his natural instincts (fear, hunger, loneliness, etc.), so he will do what’s best for the tribe not for himself. Masculine traits such as bravery, stoicism, and self-sacrifice don’t come naturally to a man: they are drawn from this cultural well.”

Murrow goes on to reason: “If a man fails to be brave, stoic, or self-sacrificing, he’s branded as a coward. He becomes an outcast. He suffers total rejection. This may seem cruel, but remember, the survival of the tribe depended on men who would fulfill their roles. And this transmitted a powerful lesson to the boys: “be a man, or you will be rejected.” The masculine code is alive today, especially in time of war. Soldiers still get scared, but relatively few desert. They stay and fight, not out of the fear of court-marshal but out of the fear of the shame that would follow them for the rest of their lives.”

To this, my mind and experience counter, but… couldn’t this all be said of a strong woman who in her own way is just as strong—but with a different strength; suffers just as much, but maybe in a different way; needs just as much courage…even though it may look and sound different?

And to this, my heart says, “Yes, women do offer just as much strength, courage, and self-sacrifice for “the tribe”… but usually (with allowances for the equalizing impact of technology) in a different way… or expressed in a different manner… that is as much about being a woman… as the ways of a man are about being a man.

Is there overlap? Do we all fall short of this? Don’t we all feel woefully inadequate as men and women? Seems to me the answer is, yes. This is where we need the forgiveness and wisdom of our Creator/Savior. This is why we need to come to the Christ who offers to fill our natural bodies and minds with the truth and grace of his Spirit. This is where we need to believe that he can do something wonderful with…whatever he has given us… offered back… as a living sacrifice to him…

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25 Responses to “What is Masculinity?”

  1. scout1 says:

    Mart –
    I really liked this post. It is a great summary of what your last post have been about. Thank you. I especially liked when you wrote: “To this, my mind and experience counter, but… couldn’t this all be said of a strong woman who in her own way is just as strong—but with a different strength; suffers just as much, but maybe in a different way; needs just as much courage…even though it may look and sound different?”


    It’s one of those paradoxes -Men and Women are soooo different. Men and Women (human beings and children of God) are sooooo alike!

    Praise God for both. We need both.


  2. scout1 says:

    P.S. This is where I see that God is absolute wisdom and has a wonderful sense of humor. As much as we (men and women) try to be different -we’re alike. As much as we try to be alike -we’re different. Keeps us one and two at the same time. :)

  3. poohpity says:

    It would seem that our societies are who really dictate the definitions of masculinity and femininity. The dictionaries really have the way to go in these areas. They say masculinity is the characteristics or qualities of being male with no further delineation as to what those are because in different societies they are different. The same for the definition of femininity. So where ever you live and whatever your culture one can fill in the blanks as to what that may look like to them.

    I choose to know that whatever gender that I am God can use and I am able with the help of God to do what has been sit before me to do. I also know that I can work along side anyone and look at what they bring to the party to achieve a common goal to bring Glory to God.

    If I tend to have pride in my gender and what it may mean to any society then I do not understand the fullness of what God had intended. If men have to be in the leadership role to satisfy their ego then let them or the opposite with women but please do not oppress my gender to mean LESS THAN because I am not. I believe we are to work together for a common goal in a world already defined by a separation from God and this gender things is like so many areas satan can use to achieve that goal.

  4. oneg2dblu says:

    pooh… thanks, you share some really valid points about society “dictating’ the definitions. My problem is, I do not need or want, “this society,” dictating the definitions to me, when I already have the Word of God dictating a much different message. When I see where things are going, Dececptively Down the Slippery Slope, where individual liberty and freedoms, are now trying to stop or silence everything Jesus, everything Christian, everything Godly. It is a dictate form SATAN! When our leader says, we are no longer a Christian Nation, that is a dictate, brought on by “his societally provocative view,” and if I fall into that definition, or trap, it might become mine as well. Where are the leaders who used to open every speech with godly words, and close every speech with then as well?
    I guess for some, society will always rule!
    But for me and my house…those who are called by HIS name… WE need to humble ourselves and pray, then,
    Our God, and not this society’s definition of him, Will hear from Heaven, and Heal Our Land. God is willing, and we must be rendered silent,for “our land” is in need of a great healing!
    If God is listening to our societal definitions, then, Christians had better be praying! AMEN?

  5. Charis says:

    “being a woman… being a man. Is there overlap?”

    “In order to be accepted as a man, one must stand up to danger, bear up under suffering, and sacrifice oneself for the good of others.”-Murrow

    When a pregnant mother carries a child, she does all that. Meditating upon Eph. 5 instructions to husband, “nourish and cherish your wife as your own body” it occurred to me that it sounded very like what a pregnant mother does “by design”.

    In the garden -BEFORE the Fall- male and female were quite unselfconscious about their differences (they were naked and unashamed). They only became self-conscious and ashamed after the Fall.

  6. oneg2dblu says:

    Ashamed is still better than PROUD, at least they could still feel shame! Shame is the root of repentance, and Pride, is the root of SIN! thanks Charis!

  7. Bob in Cornwall England says:

    I don,t know what is wrong with me but I am totally fed up with this gender jubject.

    Mart, Please can we move on to a topic that unites and not devides us.
    We know we are male and female and live with that fact every day of our lives.
    Please can we talk about Jesus and who we are in Him!


  8. poohpity says:

    I think the reason it was brought up was that the “Fruit of the Spirit” Gal 5:22-23, the blessed “Attitudes” Matt 5:1-10 and the characteristics of “Wisdom” James 3:13-17 show no gender specific traits. No one has the right to say that these things can not be manifested in either male or female. It is our hearts, minds and souls that the Lord cares about while maintaining the reflection in the mirror that totally defines whether we are male or female. The qualities that represent a physical separation that makes us who we are male and female created in God’s image to reflect God.

    There is nothing wrong with you Bob this may hitting a source of pain in your heart somewhere and God may be using it to bring it out somehow, in someway. I also get tired of the same argument over and over about men being the leaders when that is not my experience in life at all but this conversation is helping me to see where I still have areas I need to surrender to the Lord and put behind me. We are God’s children and if we allow Him to live life through us it may turn into something we all will let come to rest sometime in our lives for the future.

  9. Mart De Haan says:

    Bob in CE, as always, I appreciate your honesty, as well as the courage, and strength of spirit that you bring to us. We will get beyond this. :-)

  10. Charis says:

    Gary (2:41),

    The kind of shame that caused Adam and Eve to run away and hide from God and each other is toxic and destructive. Toxic shame keeps people in bondage every bit as much as pride. For example, while we are on the topic of gender, I confess that for many years I used to be ashamed of being born a woman. This toxic shame/humiliation/sense of inferiority was the result of abuse in my childhood and caused a lot of behavior and decisions which were self destructive. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2 Cor 7:10. Toxic shame is a worldly sorrow which produces death. Jesus came to remove the shame and reconcile the relationship and restore the intimacy broken in the Garden of Eden.

  11. Charis says:

    Bob in Cornwall,

    Hope you can bear with the discussion a little longer. I am looking forward to hearing about the second book! Though the topic DOES seem to divide Christians, it shouldn’t. And that is why discussion is warranted.

    As for me, I read Mart’s “Been Thinking About” devotions regularly but I enjoy participating in the discussions the most when we are on topics like this (and marriage). I think its because I have experienced so very much personal healing and deliverance from my own digging in Scripture about these topics that I have a lot of passion to share my findings. :)

  12. Bob in Cornwall England says:


    Just woken up at 2am. and put the BBC news on and just heard about the shootings in Tucson.
    I have been to Pheonix and Tucson in the past and my prayers are for you right now. We hear about these things all the time but when in happenes in your own back yard it is very different.
    I love you! even though we will probably only meet after the rapture. Take care my friend.

    What you said above is also true, I think the topic of “Gender” does hit a source of pain in me. However I change or become like Him at the end of the day I am still a gay man, as you are a woman & mother and Steve is a leader and father. We are so deifferent but each of us have so much to give to each other and God.
    Such bad news coming over the TV about this shooting as I type this.
    Take care!


  13. Bob in Cornwall England says:

    sorry, I put an e in different, Mart we need a live spell checker on here. serious!
    I was using my Lynux computer the other day on this blog and it did live spell check my comments as I was typeing so it is possible.


  14. oneg2dblu says:

    Charis… I am amazed at all the lessons one can take away from the Garden Fall! I never thought about Adam and Eve hiding from each other. But, when they sewed fig leaves to cover themselves, that was also a form of hiding their nakeness form each other.
    I do know they attempted to hide from God, which was another deception, all founded on that first one sin, for no one can hide from God!
    There seems to be “no end” to the amount of toxic, (using your word,) results, that come about through just “one sin,” which always seems to give birth to many others!
    The knowledge of good and evil, is in the awakening of the conscience, shame and pride are both conscience bearing attributes, which if ignored, lead to separation and destruction! So, to me all sin, is toxic in that respect! The wages of sin?
    All unrepented sin is toxic, even to those who feel saved from sin,s harm, for when hiding in their salvation alone, they are found to be seperated from God, as Sin always separates, and repentance always restores our Relationship with God!
    I do know from blogging here, that no matter what one says… there will be another side to be expressed!
    Truth is…none of us have the whole story, for God is always stretching “Our Faith in Him,” to grow us!

  15. poohpity says:

    Bob, You never know I could pop up on your door step in the future when I go on another mission trip. That would be great.

    Yes the shooter shot one of our congressional reps. and killed a nine year old little girl with five others including a judge and wounded nineteen others. She has always held community meetings to let the people she represents know what is going on in Washington and ask for their input. It is a very sad day. The bullet went right through her temple and out the other side but responded to the doctors in the hospital before they put her into a drug induced coma. The media and doctors attributed that to a miracle from above. Yes please pray for all those who’s lives are touched by this horrible act.

  16. poohpity says:

    Repentance can not ever restore a relationship to God it is only restored by what Christ did on the Cross and our belief in that.

  17. Regina says:

    Good Evening All

    Mart, your comment
    “..couldn’t this all be said of a strong woman who in her own way is just as strong—but with a different strength; suffers just as much, but maybe in a different way; needs just as much courage…even though it may look and sound different?”

    brought Harriet Tubman to mind. I know she wasn’t the only woman, in her time or now, who showcased these character traits, but I’m still trying to wrap my mind around her unbelievable courage, bravery, tenacity, strength and willingness to suffer in order to free herself and others from slavery.

    Not hard to believe that God was with her! :)

    We may get snow in Texas tomorrow! The weather here is sometimes unbelievable!

  18. oneg2dblu says:

    pooh… thanks for throttling me down again, but when I remained unrepented, the state I was found in before a had a personal relationship with Christ, I did not have right relations with my God, so, I repented!
    I felt restored, reborn, and alive in Christ for the first time in my life, Christ became real to me. If that does not work for you, so be it. Call me out, anytime that spirit of correction and my being off context, overwhelms you! May it go well for you, if you fall victim to harboring unrenpted sin! I just have a different experience, just like you have a expressed, a different view!
    I trust we are both found in “right relationship” with Christ… I repent from any offense you see in my chosen words. In His Love,Gary

  19. oneg2dblu says:

    Bob in Cornwall… this blog is an open area for expression, and you chose to say, “At the end of the day I’m still ______. That statement is given for all to see, but why, and what purpose does it serve, other than you being totally honest! Which you have already been credited, and supported!
    So, I will be totally honest as well, and share what the Lord has prompted in my spirit.
    God… at the end of the day, says, I AM still God!
    Faith, “at the end of the day, is still faith!”
    At the end of the day, I am still Gary!
    But, “IN CHRIST…”
    I was able to “flee” from my tunic, able to “conquer” my goliath, and possibly able to “walk” on water, while remaining with HIM! At the end of the day, “I thank God I did not go off on my own!” For He gave me Victory, to overcome the world around me! In the Faith I now Possess,I believe that “In Christ,” He allows me to embraced His Word given in, 1 Corinthians 10:13, as a crutch to keep me from stubbling! Yes,sometimes I fail, but He never fails me, when I choose, to be found IN HIM! “In CHRIST, at the end of the day, I have found Victory!”
    I do not know what your ____ represents for you,
    whether it is victory, or defeat. Whether it is shame or pride. Whether it is condemnation, or celebration, but IN CHRIST JESUS, you are MY BROTHER, and victory is always on your side. 1 Peter 3:3-4 Be Blessed! Gary

  20. Captain says:

    Murrow’s definition of masculinity seems to fit well, with the possible exception of the inclusion of self sacrifice. Though I agree it should be included, self-sacrifice is often conditional to men in our society. Often you will see us sacrificing ourselves by going to war, but fall short of self sacrifice when it means giving up the TV baseball game to complete a project started on the back porch of our home. To make things worse, the newer generations appear to be abandoning self-sacrifice as a virtue completely. While not yet extinct in some circles, it doesn’t seem to be taught or emphasized to young men outside of sports teams, military organizations, and Sunday School. I know of instances when a lady might be offended by a selfless and courteous act of opening a door for her by a gentleman, with the lady taking the act as an offense, and thinking it to be less of a courtesy and more a conviction of weakness. Could it be that teachings of gender equality, without recognition of the complimentary differences, has caused us to take on a more “look out for #1” approach to life and self sacrifice?

  21. Charis says:


    OT. You said “The knowledge of good and evil, is in the awakening of the conscience, shame and pride are both conscience bearing attributes,”-Gary

    I don’t see the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (TOKOGAE) as a positive. The “knowledge of good” was just as deadly as the “knowledge of evil”. Either way, its negative- whether the manifestation is pride in my “goodness” or shame for my “failures”. Either way, I am SELF focused. Interesting note: the TOKOGAE apparently had no seed and could not reproduce. (Gen 1:29) What a word picture! Relates IMO to our discussion on the other thread of what’s missing in churches.

    The right choice is the Tree of LIFE!

  22. Charis says:

    Bob in Cornwall,

    Like you, I am a bit of a perfectionist. :)

    My Firefox browser has a spell check feature. It underlines misspelling with a squiggly red line. (Unfortunately, it won’t help w/grammar errors- sigh.)

    While I am over-sensitive to my errors, I suspect they don’t even register to others.

  23. poohpity says:

    Gary, I am not trying to throttle you in any way. I was trying to guide. There is no anger or malice intended in anyway. I hardly know you and you do not know me. You do not know my heart nor do I know yours. The problems between us seem to have started because I believe I have an assurance of my salvation which seemed to upset you in some way. That is what I believe. You do not have to believe that. I am not against you and some of the things you write I enjoy reading. I do not enjoy someone telling me over and over to repent and turn from my sin who is not aware of the sin in my life. I will not respond to the things you write any longer because they upset you so much. Forgive me for causing anger and resentment and I pray for the Lord to bless you in your adventure to know Him better.

  24. oneg2dblu says:

    poohpity… I don’t like being told what to do either, it goes against the very nature that we both need to repent and turn from. Oops! Those are not my words, but come from a much higher authority. No offense taken when our nature is In Christ, and not of ourselves! The issue of what we each believe about our salvation, seems to go never be settled by us! We are no alone in our different positions, for there is much scripture, to back up either side of this issue. God knows our hearts are for Him, and in that I do trust! Gary

  25. poohpity says:

    It does not upset me when I am reading Scripture, or a friend, or more importantly when the Lord points out a sin in my life because I know it is in love and because they care for me. When someone I do not know tells me to repent it is done in a prideful manor, to me, especially when I read so much venom and anger in their words they need to do a little more of self reflection about the sin in their own life that does upset me. The reason why is because Gal 6:1 says [ Doing Good to All ] “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person “gently”. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted”. I give every effort to look within before I point out the sin in anybody else because I know who I am at the foot of the Cross and I am not the Holy Spirit who is the one who convicts a person of sin as to restore them “gently”. It would be nice if you looked at the areas you need to repent and not the areas I need to repent. It is not for YOU to tell me what to do, that is the problem and the solution is for you to look at the sin in your own life not mine.

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