For centuries a man's masculinity has been strongly tied to what he does most often as leader of his family and career choice. While what a man does is important, a true understanding of masculinity requires we first know what it actually is.
LONG ISLAND, NY (Catholic Online) - Oscar Wilde once said "The true perfection of man lies, not in what a man has, but in what a man is." Just what is a man then? Blessed John Paul II gave us a thoughtful piece about the spirituality of femininity which ultimately became known as The Feminine Genius. It helped me to appreciate and understand the spiritual beauty of woman.
I was disappointed, however, to find that there was no specific treatment of the "Masculine Genius!" Some effort has been given to address the subject by others, but it is hard to compare these efforts to the depth revealed in the late Pope's work.
It is anyone's guess as to why the late Pope did not specifically talk about a "Masculine Genius." He certainly addresses the topic in other sources such as his extraordinary work referred to as the "Theology of the Body". His apostolic exhortation on St. Joseph entitled "Guardian of the Redeemer" also gives us insights into the subject. However, there is no direct writing of the late Pope dealing with the "masculine genius".
My theory for the omission is that the Pope was banking on Christ's entire life and passion as a direct example of masculinity, rightly understood. The entire New Testament is based on Jesus Christ who most certainly represents the "Masculine Genius" in His sacred humanity.
However, there is still a great benefit and moral imperative, to shine light on the specifics of a "Masculine Genius." For centuries a man's masculinity has been strongly tied to what he does most often as leader of his family and career choice. While what a man does is important, a true understanding of masculinity requires we first know what it actually is.
The importance of clearly defining and understanding the "Masculine Genius" cannot be understated. The media and even some politicians have used the public forum to define masculinity by some of its worst stereotypes. Defining masculinity by its worst stereotypes instills doubt in a man's identity and affects his ability to be an effective leader.
Even more troubling is that we also inadvertently encourage a self-fulfilling prophecy.Back in May, one NY Times columnist wrote an article about the recent Secret Service prostitution scandal. One sentiment that infuriated me in the article was the notion that "boys will be boys."
For starters, boys DO NOT hire prostitutes and neither do real men. Throwing out clichés like "boys will be boys" sends the message "this is what boys do." It is a counterproductive message that degrades men (and women) by setting the bar for authentic masculinity unacceptably low.
We should have instead used the scandal as a teaching moment to say "this is NOT what real men or women do and it brings shame to every individual involved." If clichés are going to be used then it's high time we call out our modern society for trumpeting "how low can you go."
An epidemic of negativity towards masculinity creates a vacuum in our culture. Just recently Susanne Venker declared there is a "war on men" based on men's disinterest in marriage. The points Susanne Venker made could have been much better stated, but the sentiments of the men she interviewed are exactly why a spiritual consideration of masculinity is critical.
Due to ever changing expression of gender roles, as men we can no longer define ourselves so rigidly by what we do. Careers, awards, fame, and fortune are all material things. They do not define human being. These things only describe what a human being chooses to do with their life and how successful we are at doing it. Men need a spiritual revolution to ground us in something that cannot be taken away, an understanding of the spiritual side of our masculinity.
Lastly, there are pundits out there that argue that femininity and masculinity are just social constructs to force conformity. They sell the unfortunate line that in order for a truly equal society we must do away with all gender specificity. The truth is men and women are different but equal in value! Science has proven this repeatedly by the observation of differences in male and female brains. These differences in the brain have an effect on behavior.
We need both female and male brains. They complement each other. The pundits can argue all they want about what a person says about their gender identity. At the end of the day, however, the male and female brains are defined by nature and behave differently. It is by working together, however, that we realize the beauty of both in each other and ourselves!
Joseph Rogers is a 26 year old Catholic man from Long Island, NY studying Material Science. Philosophy, history, and theology to feed his curiosity about understanding the human person. Christ is his greatest inspiration and strength in learning how to better serve those around him. His Catholic faith is important to him and has opened many doors in his life.
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