Developing True Masculinity and Femininity
There was a time not too many years ago where one of the big trends in Christian circles was asking the question what it meant to be a real man or a real woman. The fever pitch seemed to hit with Promise Keepers conferences and John Eldrege’s Wild at Heart. I haven’t heard as much about the matter lately, though it still does crop up now and then. I caught two references to it just last week.
I was never drawn too terribly strongly to the issue, but it did roll around in my mind now and then, and I read things here and there. After all was said and done, however, I came to realize that looking at masculinity and femininity as things to be repaired or fixed was too compartmentalized. The temptation, as evidenced by a lot of what I read, was to make choices that would lead you back to your proper shape, to will yourself back to health. This assumed, however, that right knowledge and the will were all that were necessary for this process and that the vision of the right shape was already known or what was being presented. The further temptation of hyper-distortions followed quickly. The rugged, adventurous man and the strong/demure woman to be rescued or companion the man tended to show up rather often, though they always came off as caricatures rather than models.
After a fair amount of study on gender from biblical, theological, and psychological grounds, I still find it rather difficult to define what a true man or a true woman is. I don’t know what the models are supposed to look like, particularly when everything is so culturally embedded. The ideal man or woman in the US is quite different from the ideal in Japan or Saudi Arabia, and it varies within those culture from person to person. How do you nail down what is right without coming off as arrogant or foolish?
The one thing that I have come to conclude about developing true masculinity or femininity is this: grow. In general, the more one heals and grows in one’s person overall, the more a right gender character will arise out of it. The reason masculinity or femininity has become distorted in the first place is due to the sin that we have committed as well as the sins that we carry from others having committed them against us.
Our gender distortion is a symptom of our overall distortion. They’re not separate. To deal with only the gender distortion is splitting off a part of ourselves to be fixed, but that splitting may end up creating a different kind of distortion. This isn’t to say that in the process of dealing with the wounds and sins of our souls that focusing on issues of masculinity or femininity won’t be a good for a while, but it can’t be done well in isolation. As we deal with the roots, all the produce will heal and ripen.
So I guess I don’t worry to much about being a true man. I just try more to deal with being the true person that I already am. The rest should fall out of that.