Today’s article explores the idea that the way to resolve conflicting concepts of manhood is to reach higher – to gain a spiritual understanding of man as created in the image and likeness of God.
Amid continuing revelations of sexual harassment and assault, there has been much discussion about masculinity. An article in The Christian Science Monitor late last year reported that, according to Michael Kimmel, founder of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities at Stony Brook University in New York, men are grappling with conflicting concepts of what it means to be a man (“In the #MeToo era, what does it mean to be a ‘real man’?” Dec. 26, 2017).
When he asked male cadets at West Point to define a “good man,” they listed such virtues as honor, integrity, duty, sacrifice, and willingness to stand up for the weak. Then he asked them to describe a “real man,” and the answers were quite different: to be tough and powerful, win at all costs, play through pain, and focus on getting rich and pursuing pleasure.
Professor Kimmel helps men sort out the differences between these two versions of manhood and put their focus on being the good man. This gave me a clue as to the need not only to expand our sense of what it means to be a good man, but also to totally redefine what a real man is.
Pondering the professor’s questions myself, I considered the idea that the way to resolve conflicting concepts of manhood is to reach higher – to gain a spiritual understanding of man as created in the image and likeness of God.
Christian Science teaches that God is the sole creator of the universe, including generic man – both male and female – and that man reflects God’s goodness. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, asks, “What is man?” Her three-page answer includes this statement: “Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique. He is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas....” It also contains references to “the real man.” She says, for example, that “Truth and Love reign in the real man, showing that man in God’s image is unfallen and eternal” (see pp. 475-477).
Love – a synonym for God – maintains its unfailing, tender care of man and all creation. Divine Love is expressed in spiritual power, love, health, and holiness. And Truth – another synonym for God – is expressed in wisdom, purity, and spiritual understanding. This spiritual likeness of Truth and Love is the real man, the true, spiritual identity of each man and woman.
This means we are all innately capable of thinking and acting from a higher sense of manhood than the material concepts of man embedded in current culture and regularly depicted in the media. The character of the man who understands and lives his real, spiritual selfhood includes humility, empathy, kindness, and forgiveness. Far from weakening his masculinity, these qualities strengthen and expand his expression of manhood, harmonizing his interactions with others.
Demonstrating the activity of pure good inherent in each of us involves letting divine Truth and Love fill consciousness and guide one’s thoughts and actions. The nature and thought of the real, spiritual man are expressed humanly as we are receptive to divine inspiration. As our perception of what we truly are as God’s reflection becomes clear, our inclinations to dominate, harass, or abuse others are annihilated. We are helped in this progress when we realize that God’s sons and daughters are complementary, not competitive or predatory. They enhance and enrich each other.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way,” the Bible says (Psalms 37:23). This is the starting point for discovering and demonstrating true manhood. It has the power of God, Truth and Love, behind it. And in truth, the good man is the real man – spiritual, strong, loving, complete, and content.
Adapted from an article published in the Sept. 3, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.