Friday, October 9, 2009

A Fatal Misconception

Thinking rightly about such important topics like God, life, death, purpose, meaning, eternity...and the list could something I seek to do on this site and in my own life. Doing this usually requires a careful examination of incorrect ways of thinking about things or causes of misconceptions. One such misconception that pervades our culture today is our mistaken ideal of manhood and womanhood. This misconception is fatal because it is fundamental to how we live and love as humans.

Earlier this evening I heard a talk from a man named Joe Erhmann in which he identified three lies about manhood and womanhood. The lies he identifies are helpful in seeking a proper understanding of the roles of men and women. Here is what he says.

3 Lies about manhood:

1 - Men are told that their worth as men is decided by their physical strength, power, and athletic prowess.
2 - Men are told that sexual conquest proves their manhood.
3 - Men are told that satisfaction as men comes in their money and careers.

3 Lies about womanhood:

1 - Women are told that if they are worthy they will be rescued by prince charming
2 - Women are made to believe that if they have the right body size and type they will be loved.
3 - Women are told that attractiveness or beauty matters more than intelligence or fulfillment.

His main exhortation to refute and repair the damage of these lies in the lives of men and women who have bought into our culture's definition of what it means to be a man or a women is simple. He says we must understand what it means to love and to be loved. Cultivating the capacity to give and receive love is essential in life because relationships are what provide meaning and purpose.

Mr. Ehrmann's points are helpful, but now we must ask what is a proper understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman? In his book Whats the Difference? John Piper gives a compelling visions of manhood and womanhood. He writes of manhood:

At the heart of mature manhood is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships.

He writes of womanhood:

At the heart of mature womanhood is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman's differing relationship.

These definitions present a picture of men and women who complement each other in their roles. And it is about roles. Men and women are different but complementary. In another book, John Ensor writes that, "The issue is not about equality--equality is a given. Nor is about superiority and inferiority. It is about men being stronger than women and women being stronger than men in different and complementary ways. Our complementarity is rooted in nature."

Knowing our nature as a man or women and the corresponding roles we were designed to play is fundamental to living and loving as humans. The malaise our culture finds itself in comes from the lies Mr. Ehrmann discussed but more importantly, and perhaps originally, it comes from a rejection of true manhood and womanhood. This has been our fatal misconception, and I do mean fatal, for it has been the source of much death, violence and destruction in the lives of many.