I recently came across a tweet that Matt Walsh retweeted, by twitter user @itsashlyperez: “Men need a revolution. A man who says it’s ok to be ‘feminine.’ To cry, worry, have fears, hopes, dreams. To want hugs, and love, not f***s. Men need feminism just as much as women do. Who will stand up for these broken, hurt and lonely men trapped by society” (censorship added)? Walsh rewteeted this, saying, “The last thing men need is feminism.”
And he’s right.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gender equality. That is true feminism, as well as appreciating and loving women for their beautiful uniqueness that their gender brings to society and the family, especially as God created them. However, the feminism the Left perpetuates is not equal rights between the sexes (since they already exist), but one where women are superior to men—that women should be treated better than men on the basis of their gender (i.e. the definition of sexism). Part of this “feminist” dialogue is that men need to be more feminine.
But men are men. Men need to be more masculine, not feminine.
Showing emotions and hugging and loving people is not feminine; it’s called being human. Real masculinity is to do all those things in a healthful manner. There is nothing feminine about them. It’s simply being human. God did not create women as the only human beings who have emotions. Men have emotions, too. If we’re going to generalise like Perez has, I can agree that there are men who are emotionally stunted as a result of society postulating that it’s weak for men to show emotions. But the answer is not to feminise men. The answer is to teach men who are hurting that it’s okay to share your emotions with others in a healthful manner. The answer is also to teach men to be men. Men don’t need to be like women; men just need to be men. And that includes the appropriate display of emotions with others.
Perez rightly brings up the problem men face that it’s wrong to show emotions, which is definitely an issue that needs correction. However, Perez also errs by suggesting that it’s feminine to show emotions. To suggest that emotions are feminine and men need to “get in touch with their feminine side” is to suggest that emotions are not natural to men, which moreover suggests there is something inherently wrong with men. So, instead of saying it’s wrong for men to show emotions, Perez has gone on the other extreme to imply that emotions are not a natural characteristic of men and belong only to women. This is a good example of toxic feminism—a handicap to true feminism that demonises men for just being men (i.e. sexism, misandry).
Men most certainly have emotions. Again, if we’re going to generalise, it is possibly true that women show and share their emotions more readily than men, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with men. Some men might truly believe it’s weak and wrong to show emotions, but generally—speaking as a man myself—I think men are designed not to be as readily emotional as women. And there’s nothing wrong with this.
Lest you misunderstand me, I will repeat that men naturally feel emotions like any other human being, but where they differ from women, I think, is that we don’t share them as readily. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, there is also the danger that men almost never share their emotions or even try to suppress them. That is not true masculinity, which is what society has been promulgating for a long time. True masculinity is to be a human male as God has designed men to be.
What is Masculinity?
Several years ago, a book was given to me, called Future Men by Douglas Wilson. In this book, Wilson discusses what true biblical masculinity is, and his audience is to men raising their boys to be men. Wilson describes two ways in which we depart from biblical masculinity into false masculinity, which he calls effeminacy and counterfeit masculinity. So, we’re going to look at what these two false masculinities are and then what true, biblical masculinity is.
Effeminate masculinity is the type of false masculinity feminists like Perez are calling for. One false distinction that true feminists fight against is what Wilson calls “outdoors” and “indoors” (21). That is, the common view on the distinction between men and women for many ages has been that women stay in the home as housewives and cook dinner when the man gets home, and the man is the one who goes out to do all the work and bring income. This is a false masculinity that true feminists understandably fight against. Women are not only good for being housewives and mothers. These are wonderful vocations women have, but women are also quite capable in the workforce. When I was at basic training, for example, the Drill Sergeant everyone feared the most was a short, African American woman.
Moving on, effeminate masculinity is as it sounds—calling men to be like women. It is taking the prior, erroneous “outdoor-indoor” and reversing it, which is what toxic feminism is doing. Instead of men being outside people and women being inside people, toxic feminists call for the reversal: making men inside people and women outside people.
Now, there are good examples of stay-at-home fathers depending on the circumstances (such as a woman who’s in the Marines and deploys a lot, and the father has to stay at home to discipline and raise the children). Where this goes wrong, however, is when we say the woman’s role is to stay in the home and the man’s role is to stay outside the home no matter the circumstances, and it is also wrong to reverse this. Obviously, this is an issue concerning gender roles. In this regard, I have two questions:
- Why not have both? That is, why not have both men and women be outside and inside people?
- Why not leave the decision on roles in the home to the couples? Why not respect each family enough to allow them the freedom to make their decisions rather than making the decisions for them? If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mother—and I know many who do—why not respect her decision to do as she wishes?
What toxic feminists like Perez are doing is attempting to do that same reversal with emotions. Women have been conventionally understood as being more emotional than men. Women have been critiqued and praised for this distinction from various sides. In the same manner, men have been conventionally understood as being less emotional than women, which has also be critiqued and praised. The toxic feminist answer is to feminise men to be like women. Men need to “get in touch with their feminine side” and share their emotions.
As I explained above already, there are problems with this. To reiterate: the answer is not to feminise men but to teach them how they can appropriately share their emotions with others as men. To do so is not “feminine”; it is a human thing to do.
The second false masculinity is counterfeit masculinity. This is what we know as the “macho-man.” The view is that men are to be “macho”—that is, physically robust, beer drinking, sports loving men. Think of any show that portrays a group of men competing in a secret fight club. They’re sweaty, muscular, big, robust, vulgar, drunk—and the viewer thinks, “Now that’s a man.” Sorry to break it to you, but that’s not true masculinity. I’m not physically robust, I don’t like beer, I don’t like to fight, and I don’t like sports. By this definition of masculinity, I must not be a man.
So, we know what masculinity is not. Men are not effeminate—that is, they are not women—and men are not “macho-men,” pretending to be something they’re not, an image promulgated by society. So, what is true, biblical masculinity?
True, Biblical Masculinity
Looking at the Bible, Wilson describes men as “lords, husbandmen, saviors, sages, and glory-bearers” (14). Let’s briefly go through each of Wilson’s definitions.
Using Genesis 1:26-28, as lords, “man was created to exercise dominion in the earth” (14). Biblically, men were created to take care of creation. This can mean many things, such as caring for animals, not littering, caring for other human beings, teaching his children how to do these things, and various other aspects. In this sense, we can see that men really are “outside” people. It is a true reflection on men that they are to go out, work, and take care of their family. But that’s not all they do.
As husbandmen, “man was created, not only to discover and conquer new worlds, but also to make those worlds flourish” (15). Wilson’s definition of husbandmen is too narrow, however. He keeps it within the confines of creation—that man “subdues” creation and “settles down,” which we see when God placed the first man into the garden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15). Using the word “husbandmen,” I’m surprised he leaves out the man’s role as husband. To be fair, Wilson does discuss the man’s relationship with other women in the home in chapter 10, but even there he doesn’t say much. So, I will do the work for him.
Scripture defines man as the husband of one wife (Genesis 2:14), a father who raises his children in the discipline of the Lord (Proverbs 13:24; 23:13; 29:17; Ephesians 6:4), and a husband who treats his wife with the love and dignity of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33). In this sense, then, we can also see how men are “inside” people—that he also remains in the home to raise his children and spend time with his family just as his wife does.
As saviours, “men also have a deep desire to deliver or save” (15). This is to be distinguished from the Messiah complex. Wilson is not saying a man with a Messiah complex is permissible—that is the extreme. Yet men have this innate desire to save and to protect people, especially women. It is no surprise that the majority of people who serve in the military are men. One can say it is because of the characteristics attributed to the counterfeit masculinity type, but that is not true. Having served in the military, not only am I by no means “macho,” but I served with a lot of men who were not “macho” either. Generally, I think, all of us men who served in the military did it from our innate desire to save and protect people.
When a man opens a door for a woman, or pulls out a chair for a woman, or is even protective of her (within proper limits, of course), toxic feminists are offended. By doing such things—by being gentlemen—toxic feminists claim men are treating them inferior as if women can’t open doors and pull out chairs for themselves or even protect themselves. That’s absurd. Men do that because, well, they love women, and they want to serve and protect them. So, toxic feminists, if a man opens a door for you, don’t be rude and yell at him. Simply say, “Thank you.” Allow him to be a servant.
As sages, “the sage is a man who is great in wisdom, and wisdom in Scripture is personified as a great lady” (16). Wilson notes that men are exhorted to look to her (wisdom) in Proverbs 1-9. Scripture personifies wisdom as a woman, and men are to be studious in the wisdom of the Lord through the reading of the Scriptures and other books, as well as experience. I always say, “A smart man knows what to say; a wise man knows whether or not he should say it.” So, when your girlfriend or wife asks you if her pants make her butt look big, if you’re wise you know not to say anything and to change the subject.
All jokes aside, as a man gains wisdom, he gains discernment in the Word and learns through experience how to apply the wisdom of the Scriptures to various situations, whether it be disciplining his children, relating to his wife, relating to other women in appropriate manners, doing his job well, and all other things in life.
Lastly, as glory-bearers, “men are the glory of God” (17). By this, I don’t think Wilson means men are the physical embodiment of God’s glory, but that they are created in the image of God, and therefore ought to be representatives of God’s glory. He quotes from 1 Corinthians 11:7, “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.” Of course, we have to ask ourselves, “What does this mean?”
As good exegetes, we have to consider context, both textual and historical-cultural. In the immediate context, Paul is discussing the matter of head coverings in the context of public worship. Biblically, man is the head of the household. Veils were signs of subjection in the first century. So, for the man to appear in public worship as veiled and the woman as unveiled was equally wrong. In our 21st century cultural bias, we think this is disrespectful of women and tyrannical of men. But we need to take off our 21st century lenses and put on 1st century lenses.
Previously, “Under Jewish law woman was vastly inferior to man” (Barclay, 98). Under Jewish law, women were viewed as the property of her husband, and the husband had the legal right to dispose of her as if she were trash. In Jewish synagogues, women were not allowed to worship with men and were segregated in their own area. To claim that women were equal to men in any way was blasphemy. Also in this Corinthian context was the licentiousness of Corinth. Corinth was known for its disgusting, sexual immorality. So, responding to this cultural context pastorally, Paul probably found it wise to err on the side of caution to have women dress modestly (head coverings) in order to make it clear to the men of Corinth that they were off limits.
So, the veils in this context were not only signs of subjection to the head of the household, but also signs of protection. The Orientals had a similar practice as the East. Barclay quotes from Sir William Ramsay, “In Oriental lands the veil is the power and honour and dignity of the woman. With the veil on her head she can go anywhere in security and profound respect” (98). In these times, if a woman was found without a veil, she would be treated horribly, which was socially acceptable at this time. Paul, however, completely reverses this in the Christian Church.
As is common in Paul’s writings, he writes on woman’s subordination to man, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God… For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (vv. 3, 8-9). Paul is arguing from the order of creation. Even though woman is subordinate to man, both answer to Christ, who is the head of all things. So, what man does ought to directly glorify God, and what woman does ought to directly glorify her husband, which will in turn glorify God since a) she, too, is created in God’s image, and b) Christ is also her head just as He is the head of man. So, the man is not to treat women however he wishes, but as Christ treats the Church.
Yet Paul continues, taking a surprising turn, emphasising man and woman’s partnership—in other words, their equality. Remember the aforementioned blasphemy of equating men with women under Jewish customs. Now, Paul is saying man and woman are equal to each other. “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God” (vv. 11-12). This is a huge change of mind for Paul, who was once a Pharisee. Both Jews and pagans in Rome treated women property. Christians in the first century drastically changed this by allowing women to worship with them as well as being protective of them in an immoral society. As Barclay says, “If there be subordination, it is in order that the partnership may be more fruitful and more lovely for both” (99).
So, true, biblical masculinity is men who are lords, husbandmen, saviours, sages, and glory-bearers. As lords, men go out to take care of creation, living out their vocations in order to take care of their family. As husbandmen, men “settle down” in creation to help it flourish and live as respectful and honourable husbands to their wives and fathers to their children. As saviours, men have an innate desire to save and to protect people, and this desire ought to be properly nurtured so that he will be able to protect his family and his neighbour. As sages, men are studious in the Word of God to receive the Lord’s wisdom so that he may live wisely with others according to God’s will. As glory-bearers, men are created in God’s image to live as representatives of Christ on the earth to bring glory to Him. With biblical masculinity now clearly defined, what does it mean for a man to properly display his emotions?
What Are Emotions?
First of all, what are emotions? This has been an ancient debate among philosophers, psychologists, and scientists for millennia. Are emotions supernatural, or are they purely cognitive? Dr. Paul Thagard, Canadian philosopher and cognitive scientist, briefly explains two primary scientific ways to define emotions.
The first is cognitive appraisal theory, which defines emotions as “judgments about the extent that the current situation meets your goals. Happiness is the evaluation that your goals are being satisfied… Similarly, sadness is the evaluation that your goals are not being satisfied, and anger is the judgment aimed at whatever is blocking the accomplishment of your goals.” In other words, our emotions are reactions to outer stimuli. When I’m hungry and I successfully get a double cheese burger and some French fries at McDonald’s, I’m happy and satisfied because I accomplished my goal. But if I’m on my way to lunch and my car suddenly breaks down, I get angry because not only can I not get lunch, but now I have to worry about having a functional vehicle to get to and from work as well as the repair costs.
The second is a view on emotions that perceives them as physiological changes, such as “heart rate, breathing rate, perspiration, and hormone levels.” In this view, happiness is a physiological reaction, “not a judgment, and other emotions such as sadness and anger are mental reactions to different kinds of physiological stages.” So, using the car breaking down example, the event causes my heart rate to increase, which causes me to be angry. “The problem with this account,” Thagard says, “is that bodily states do not seem to be nearly as finely tuned as the many different kinds of emotional states. Yet there is undoubtedly some connection between emotions and physiological changes.”
So, emotions can either be the result of some mental judgement to outer stimuli, or the result of a physiological change in our bodies, or both. Both of these theories are useful in understanding emotions psychologically, but naturally as secular theories, they do not explain emotions spiritually. So, how ought we to view emotions biblically?
A biblical theology on emotions is a topic I could write a whole blog series on, but I’m not going to dive into it much. I’m only going to mention a few things. If you want to read more on a biblical theology of emotions, I recommend the following article by Dr. Sam R. Williams. It’s a long read worth reading, but I will give my two cents.
The first thing we have to acknowledge is that we are fallen creatures. As fallen creatures, we are bound to pervert God’s good creation. This includes our emotions. This does not mean emotions are inherently bad. I believe it would be erroneous to say emotions are a result of the Fall. I believe God originally created us with emotions. After all, God is an emotional Being. He expresses anger, joy, sadness, and jealousy (“I am a jealous God”). It is only natural, I think, that God as an emotional Being would create us with emotions. The only difference is, as post-fall beings, our emotions can be sinful and disruptive, whether externally or internally.
For example, consider Paul’s saying when he paraphrases a psalm, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). “Be angry,” Paul says. It’s okay to be angry—there are plenty of things that justly cause us anger. Such as when our child is bullied, or a mass shooting occurs, or you stub your toe on the kitchen table, etc. However, Paul urges, do not allow anger to give opportunity to sin and, therefore, the Devil. There are healthy ways in which we can express our anger just as there are healthy ways to express joy, sorrow, and even jealousy.
Let me explain healthy jealousy before I move on. In a romantic relationship, some jealousy can be good. For example, if a girl’s boyfriend is spending time with his friends, she can get a little jealous because she wants to spend time with him. This jealousy is healthy insofar as she recognises that her boyfriend needs time with his buddies and it is also healthy when that jealousy fuels her love for her boyfriend, increasing her desire to be with him. Where this jealousy becomes unhealthy is when she becomes destructive in the relationship, claiming her boyfriend “spends no time with her,” or won’t allow him to have any female friends, etc. I hope you can see the difference.
So, we have to be careful with our emotions lest they cause us to sin, but emotions are not bad in and of themselves. This returns me to my original point: emotions are not feminine. Men and women are both created in the image of God, which means they are both created with emotions. We saw in the previous section how men and women differentiate from each other in the order of creation and also how they are similarly equal. Politically, men and women are certainly equal, but biologically and spiritually, men and women are not equal—that is, men and women function in fundamentally different and unique ways because they were created in fundamentally different and unique ways.
Earlier, I mentioned the (true) generalisation that women typically share their emotions more readily than men, and men do not share their emotions as readily. For men, this has a lot to do with how we were created. In the last section, we looked at what true, biblical masculinity is. A true, masculine man is a man who works the land, takes care of his family, grows in the wisdom of the Lord, protects people, and is a representative of God’s glory.
How much of a role do you think emotions play in these? Man is a very dutiful creature. He is very much concerned with his duty to others. Emotions don’t really play much of a role in our duties—we simply do what ought to be done regardless of our emotions. It is no wonder, then, why men are not quick to sharing their emotions because we are not designed to think that way right off the bat. Women, mostly, are. And there is nothing wrong with either of these two differences.
The other thing to consider is that false stigma that has taught men for virtually centuries that it is a sign of weakness to show emotions. This is something I’m going to cover in the last section, and as a segue into that, I want to do a case study.
A Case Study
The person in this case study is yours truly. Anyone who knows me really well would probably describe me as someone who is stoic. I don’t like to show my emotions. My stoicism has been a result of both the false stigma mentioned above as well as a series of bad (and neutral) experiences.
Growing up, I was bullied a lot. I was bullied from kindergarten all the way to 10th grade ranging from reasons of racism, to the way I dress, and to no reason at all. I don’t know how this works, but as a result of the bullying (both physical and verbal), I eventually became emotionally stunted, which I still kind of am. This doesn’t mean I don’t express joy or anything—I laugh plenty. But when it comes to much deeper emotions, the last thing I want to do is talk about them, let alone let them show on my face.
The only benefit this had was that it prepared me for the Army. Basic training and the rest of the Army was easy for me to get through because I was already used to suppressing my emotions (this is the neutral experience). However, because of the Army, I suppressed my emotions even more. If you were to meet me today, you might be able to tell that I served because I always stand upright with a stern look on my face, not ready to express my emotions. One friend has described me as “tense” when standing next to me in worship. When I’m worshipping God, I’m feeling a lot of emotions, but I’m not comfortable showing what those emotions are because of my experiences. (I’m not justifying; I’m merely explaining.)
This doesn’t mean that I didn’t know how or that I cannot express my deep emotions. I was engaged twice in my life, both of whom I opened up to quite emotionally. I told them both of my dark past and I was very emotional with them. I was, after all, in love with them. So, why wouldn’t I be emotional? I was especially emotional with my first fiancé. She was raped and had a baby as a result. So, I was very emotional with her as I helped her through her suffering and loved her daughter as if she were my own.
Unfortunately, both ex-fiancés left me for other men. So, coupled with my emotional suppression as a result of bullying, I reasoned that showing my emotions was a sign of weakness. Being bullied all throughout my childhood, I had to learn how to look tough so as not to appear as an easy target. I also taught myself not to feel anything when I was physically and verbally abused. Now, after opening up my whole heart to these women I fell in love with at different points in my life, I reasoned, “Why open up my heart when people are just going to take it and stab me in the heart?” So, I built a wall around my heart, and it began to crumble only recently.
In my pastoral formation at seminary, I’m currently learning on a personal basis how to be ready to share my emotions with others. Ever since those two betrayals from my ex-fiancés, I’ve been afraid to share the deepest part of me not only with women (including significant others), but with others as well, such as friends and family. In my experience, every time I’ve felt something real, it’s been matched with something overwhelmingly painful. So, to protect myself, I built a wall. I still felt emotions—and quite deeply, too—but I’ve kept it all inside, terrified of sharing my real self with people because what I expect in return is betrayal and pain. Keep this case study in mind as I move on to my last section.
Let Men Be Men
By this, I do not mean the saying, “Boys will be boys” to justify the stupid, destructive actions of men. What I mean by this is what I have described as true masculinity above—just let men be men. Trying to feminise men is not allowing them to be men. If you want to talk with a woman about your feelings, then talk with a woman! Don’t try to force a man to be like a woman because, well, he’s not a woman and he never will be. Of course, you can still talk with a man about your feelings, especially us introverts since we feel quite a lot. However, trying to make a man behave and act like a woman emotionally is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. A man is a man, and each man displays his emotions according to his unique personality and temperament. There might be ways in which a man may improve as he shares his emotions, but to do so is not feminine in any way; it’s simply being human.
That’s something I forgot to mention in my section on emotions—a man expressing his emotions according to his temperament (and this is true for women, too). Take my temperament, for example. I’m stoic and serious all the time, mostly likely because of my military career. There are times when I express obvious joy, such as playing video games, watching anime with friends, talking theology and literature with friends, and many other things. As far as the deeper stuff goes—with a man who is stoic like me—you have to give men the space they need to share their emotions. A lot of us don’t want to throw our emotions out into the open, and there can be many reasons for that. For me, it’s because I’m protecting myself, and it’s also because that’s just not my personality.
So, ladies, respect men enough to allow them the space and the freedom to share their emotions with you as they feel comfortable. Some of us, like me, might want to be completely alone with you before we open up something deep about ourselves. Sharing our emotions don’t come as easily as it might for you for various reasons, whether it’s because of our upbringing, some bad experiences, or, quite frankly, we don’t trust you enough yet. There are some things I’m very open about sharing, such as my ex-fiancé experiences because I’ve long moved passed them emotionally. Other things, not so much. And like most men, I need the time and the space to trust someone before I’m ready to share something deep with someone.
Sure, men need a revolution. But that revolution is not to feminise them. The revolution is to destroy the old, false stigma that it’s weak for men to show emotions and teach them 1) who they are as men created in God’s image, 2) emotions are not a sign of weakness, and 3) even when we are weak, it is okay to be weak.
Men, emotions are not a sign of weakness. If it were, then we would all be weak since we’re all human. Then again, our flesh is weak and we need the very power of God to sustain us. But emotions are not inherently weak. Even crying. Yet crying is both weakness and strength. Let me explain.
Crying—or sadness—is weakness because at that moment, we are weak. We are grieving, or stressed, or just downright depressed. We are weak, and we know it, and we need someone to uplift us. And this is okay. It is okay to be weak at times. It is counterfeit masculinity that men are strong all the time.
We’re not. We’re human.
At times, we are going to be weak. When my ex-fiancés left me, I became weak, and I had no one to lean on. I was deployed both times, so I was completely alone. All I could do both times was cry alone, and I felt utterly powerless. I needed someone to lean on. Unfortunately, because of the circumstances, I had no one. Perhaps that is why I ended up building a wall around my heart.
It is okay to be weak and lean on someone every now and then. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Yet it is in this moment of weakness that we become strong. It takes strength to trust someone enough to let you lean on them. It takes a lot of strength to trust someone period. It’s not easy to trust someone, especially when you are weak. So, when you are weak and lean on someone, you are being strong enough to trust them as they lend you their strength.
Again, let men be men. Let’s celebrate men for who they are. We may not express our emotions as readily, but that’s okay. We need more time and space to feel comfortable doing so. Respect us enough to develop the time and space to do so. It does not respect and honour us when we’re told that we have to “be feminine” in order to feel and express emotions, because it ignores who are are and the raw emotions we’re feeling as masculine men.
And men, let us be sure to encourage and uplift one another, especially in moments of weakness. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Barclay, William. The Letters to the Corinthians, revised edition. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975.
Thagard, Paul. “What Are Emotions?” Psychology Today. April 15, 2010. Accessed April 12, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hot-thought/201004/what-are-emotions
Wilson, Douglas. Future Men. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001.