Toxic Masculinity and Real Masculinity — Eight Godly Virtues That Define What a Real Man Is

Recently the Oxford Dictionary chose “toxic” as their word of the year. The word was once synonymous with pollution found in our water, air, and soil, but this year it has also been applied to masculinity. Despite the feminist war on boys and men, however, there is a right kind of masculinity the Bible firmly supports.

Feminists constantly offer explanations of “toxic masculinity” and its apparent evil brother, “patriarchy.” No sane moral person justifies sexual abuse or bullying or obnoxious, violent behavior. However, I cannot help but think that the rather amorphous definitions of toxic masculinity and patriarchy, which are so casually bantered about, are also an attack on good, strong, confident boys being good, strong, confident men. There have been numerous articles and books written about the feminist war on boys and men. It is clear to me, at least, that modern radical feminism is an attempt to strip men of the basic virtues that civilizations have rightly depended on for centuries.

While some in our current culture are confused about what a real man is, and what a real man does, I am not. As a Christian, I believe I have an instruction manual given by the Creator, and this book lays out very clearly the character traits of a real man, so that his influence in this world will not be toxic, but rather a blessing to all.

Here are 8 character traits I gleaned from the Bible, and these are the traits I taught (and hopefully modeled before) my three sons. My daughter also learned from her parents that this is what a real man is, and hopefully this is what she is looking for in her future husband:

1. Provider.

A real man is a provider. He is THE provider of the family. That is his job. I know that sometimes situations dictate otherwise; the father may lose his job due to an illness or a downturn in the economy, and the wife may have to work. In other homes, due to economic pressures, both parents may have to work. However, none of that erases the biblical mandate that the man is the main provider for the family.

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” As the provider for his family, a real man is hard-working like a farmer (2 Timothy 2:6) and never lazy like the “sluggard” (Proverbs 21:13).

What does a real man provide? He obviously provides food, clothing, and shelter for his loved ones. He also provides security. Look at all the occasions in which the Bible holds up warriors as an ideal (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Men are not to provide just emotional or economic security; but physical security also. A real man protects his people from harm.

2. Leader.

A real man is the head of the home. Yes, I know every feminist will scream bloody murder at this assertion. But what kind of man do they want to live with? A marshmallow they can push around, or a confident man who lovingly leads?

Let me be clear on this: the Bible insists from beginning to end that while the man is the head of the home (e.g. Ephesians 5:23), it never condones any abuse of that situation. Male headship (the “patriarchy” boogeyman of the feminists) is modeled in the New Testament by Jesus Christ. Just as He is the head of the Church, so the husband is the head of the home.

You never see Jesus bullying anyone. He never belittles people or abuses them. His disciples willingly did what He said because they knew He loved them and would sacrifice for them. Male headship (biblical patriarchy, if you will) is modeling the leadership style of Jesus, who respected women, loved children, confronted injustice, helped the needy, and told the truth to all.

As a leader, a real man talks to his wife and wants to know what she thinks. A real man takes risks, but also willingly takes the blame for failure. He never passes it off on to someone else. A real man does not whine or pout. He courageously leads and takes the hits.

When Robert E. Lee saw that Pickett’s charge was a disaster and he lost the Battle of Gettysburg, he said out loud to all his troops, “My fault! My fault! It’s all my fault!” He then wrote his resignation to Jefferson Davis (who refused it). How unlike so many politicians today who never take the blame for their mistakes or criminal activities.

3. Respect.

A real man earns respect. And he loves, honors, and respects his wife. The New Testament was truly a radical piece of literature in the first century because God repeatedly tells men to love their wives, to sacrifice for them, and to honor them (Ephesians 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7).

In Ephesians 5:22, Paul says, “submitting one to another in the fear of the Lord.” To “submit” means to yield, but it never implies the inferiority of the one submitting. Jesus submitted to Mary and Joseph while He walked the earth, but He certainly was not inferior to them. In Ephesians 5:22, the husband and the wife are to submit/yield in a loving relationship to one another. Then Paul goes on to explain how the wife is to yield to her husband, and then how the husband is to yield to his wife.

In my marriage, I yield to my wife’s better judgment in all sorts of matters. While I am out working, she knows what is going on at the home, with the finances, and with the kids. I respect where God has greatly gifted her. She gives me her ideas about what we should do in those certain areas, and almost all the time I submit to her ideas. We make decisions together.

However, on those occasions when I differ with her, because I have built up at least 30 years of trust in her, and because she has no doubt that I love her, she submits/yields to my decision.

4. Compassion.

A real man is kind and compassionate. Again, modeling Jesus is our standard. Wherever He went He showed kindness, patience, and compassion in some of the most difficult situations. He welcomed the most marginalized people of his day and taught them. Unlike other rabbis of the day, Jesus welcomed women into His group of disciples (Luke 8:1-3).

Proverbs tells us that a righteous man’s sympathy and caring extends even to the animal world: “…a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10). Compassion, kindness, gentleness, meekness (self-control) is NOT being a door mat.

Brutish, pushy, arrogant, violent temperament is what the Bible would associate with a false masculinity that can certainly be labeled as “toxic.” On the contrary, St. Paul tells Timothy, “But you O man of God, flee these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness, fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…” (1 Timothy 6:11).

5. Integrity.

A real man tells the truth. The Bible commands us to tell the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15, 25). Truth without love is brutality. Love without truth is sentimentality. Both are no good. But putting the two together is what God wants, and it works.

Real men say what they mean and follow through on every promise. Because of their integrity, you can count on them. If they mess up (and we all do), they honestly confess their sin without any excuses.

When I was a kid I heard from my father, “Son, a man’s word is his bond.” In many cases, all you needed from a man was a handshake and the deal was as good as done. If people were hired for a job, they showed up! On time! Today, I see it is a common practice for men to not only not show up for work, but not even call and give two-weeks notice! (My father would have shot me if I ever did that.)

6. Faith.

A real man has faith in God (Psalm 14:1). He knows that absolute moral truth exists in this universe, and we did not make it up. He knows that someone far greater and older revealed truth to the human race, and all of us will one day give an account to our Creator. A real man walks humbly before God, knowing that the morals and boundaries established by God are not up for grabs. He knows that that we are all on this earth a short time (too short) and what we do now counts forever (Ephesians 5:16).

7. Joy.

A real man is joyful. He doesn’t walk around looking like he’s been baptized in vinegar or weaned on a dill pickle. He knows this world is rough, but he also knows that better days are ahead.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed … therefore we do not lose heart.” He has faith, and that faith brings to him joy. He has a happy, optimistic heart (Proverbs 17:22). His joy is infectious — people want to be around him!

8. Wise.

A real man is wise. He does not need a college degree (that may actually be detrimental!). Instead, a real man is tested by the world, but he becomes a better man, not a bitter man. He learns his lessons, and grows and matures.

A real man is not silly all the time. He takes the world seriously, has ambition and plans for the future, and faces challenges realistically. He wisely draws on the lessons from history, and not on the slogans of pop culture.

A real man does not waste time (or money) “trying to find himself.” He confidently knows who he is, why he’s here, and what his mission is in life. Then he goes about doing it.

Throughout the Bible, wisdom is not the same as intelligence. There are plenty of people with loads of intelligence but they don’t know whether to scratch their watch or wind their behind. Wisdom in the Bible is the ability to put together a life that can withstand pressure and trials. It is the ability to figure out problems and solve them. Real men wisely solve problems, and pass that ability on to others.

If feminists want to criticize this list as archaic or “toxic” — fine by me. But I would bet that most women in America would love to find a man who is at least making a good-faith effort toward fulfilling all of these attributes.