There are countless things that happen on any given day that make me feel inadequate as a man.
Most men i know would say the same thing, if they were being honest.
No matter how hard i work at my job, any time i get a call that my boss needs to talk to me, i feel the butterflies take flight. Despite the fact that there are so very few times i ever have needed to be corrected or reprimanded in my work, and my annual reviews are predominantly positive, my immediate reaction is to fear that somehow i am in trouble.
It’s like the adult equivalent of getting called to the principal’s office. My adult fear is that i will come up short; i will be found lacking; and i will be exposed — yet again — as inadequate.
So many men experience that feeling when their car breaks down, or when their teen needs to be addressed on a sensitive topic, or when they encounter another man who seems to have it all figured out.
It’s a short trip from a general feeling of inadequacy to a full-on crisis in which i am asking myself, “Am i a man?”
“Am i truly a man?”
That question always leads to a rush of self-condemnation and self-loathing, because it’s not really a question, it’s an accusation.
Again, most honest men i know would agree that the constant demands of life, and our own awareness of our weaknesses, creates a tension that strikes at the core of our masculine identity.
Not all men equally. Not all men in all categories of life. But somewhere in our lives we face that uneasy feeling that expresses itself in the haunting question, “Am i man enough to do this?”
For some, it’s the challenge of financial planning. For others it’s the overwhelming feeling that sets in when you are faced with a home improvement task. For yet others, it’s the knot in your stomach that clenches tight when you need to have a significant, personal conversation with someone.
There are endless varieties of ways our masculinity gets shaken. And there are just as many different measuring sticks we hold up to our lives and use to make the determination that we simply don’t measure up.
Whether it’s spoken aloud, or so subtle that we don’t even notice it, the measuring up is all about defining ourselves as men. Many times this whole process operates in the background of our lives and influences our thoughts and emotions like an unseen puppet master.
But indeed, the comparison is constant. Our falling short is also constant, because even if we feel confident and secure in one moment, it’s not long before someone comes along — or something happens — that pulls the rug out from under us.
This rhythm is a vicious cycle. It will remain vicious as long as we measure our masculinity and answer the deep question of our hearts based on the circumstances that surround us.
One of the things i greatly admire about Jesus, as the man He was in the world, is the way in which He had total confidence in who He was. He felt anguish and disappointment; He knew how to celebrate; He never shied away from a confrontation that was necessary, and through it all He was anchored in His identity as the Son of Man.
By contrast, i can feel completely adrift; a fickle man in an exhausting world. i can get lost in the noise and glitter and competition of my surroundings.
When that happens, porn starts to look appealing. It seems to have something i need. It seems to be an answer to my deepest question. It seems to give me assurance: “Of course you’re adequate,” the fantasy says. “You’re more than adequate, you’re The Man.”
How quickly that all fades and leaves pain in its wake. Then when the pain is gone, i am left with the condemnation that i am even more fickle than i thought and there is no strength in me.
Weep for yourself, my man,
You’ll never be what is in your heart
Weep little lion man,
You’re not as brave as you were at the start
(‘Little Lion Man,’ by Mumford & Sons)
But i want something solid. So again, i turn and see Jesus: a man who, when the masses pressed in on Him in Luke 4 and tried to keep Him from leaving their town, had the composure and confidence to say, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
In the rush of people saying “we need you, don’t leave,” Jesus said — basically — “see ya later.”
And of course, that exchange happened after the story earlier in Luke 4 in which all the people in the synagogue, whom scripture says were “furious” with Jesus, tried to throw Him off a cliff.
As the mob forces Jesus to the edge of the cliff, He just turns and walks through the crowd likes it’s no big deal. Stunning.
Jesus had something deep within Him that wasn’t swayed by the circumstances He faced. i want that.
Jesus knew from His father that He had what it took to be the man He was called to be in this world. i want that.
i need that.
Pornography, despite all of its promises, simply cannot give me what my masculine heart needs most deeply.