What is a Real Man – Part 2?

What does it mean to be a real man? The previous article provided some excellent insights into this from the Diocese of Memphis NFP Center. There are also many books that try to define masculinity and manhood. Three of the more popular ones are “Wild at Heart, Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul” by John Eldredge; “A Man and His God, Contemporary Male Spirituality” and “The Quest for the Male Soul, In Search of Something More” by Fr. Martin Pable, OFM Cap.

My favorite definition of the characteristics of a real man is in the book, “Raising a Modern-Day Knight, A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood.” The author, Robert Lewis, describes these four characteristics:

  1. A real man rejects passivity.
  2. A real man accepts responsibility.
  3. A real man leads courageously.
  4. A real man expects the greater reward.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

  1. A real man rejects passivity.

In his book, Robert Lewis believes that “men seem to have a natural aggressiveness to initiate, explore, and achieve.” Yet for many men today passivity, especially in their families, in the church, and in the community, is a way of life. Why is this so? Robert Lewis explains it this way:

“Though it varies from man to man, this inbred aggressiveness – both physical and psychological – is not a learned behavior, it is innate. It is part of being a man . . . For some reason, men of every age become passive when it comes to initiating this action in their homes, with their families, and in their community. Why?  . . . Men have been imitating Adam’s example ever since (the Fall of man). Have you ever wondered why the Bible constantly calls men to love their wives, spiritually instruct their children, and responsibly lead their homes? The reason is men have a fallen nature that actually bends away from these responsibilities. It comes with maleness. It comes from Adam . . . Families cry out for men who will do more than ‘tune out’ when they come home from work . . . Real manhood begins with a decision to reject social and spiritual passivity when nothing is the more comfortable and natural option.”

A real man accepts responsibility

A real man accepts his God-given responsibilities, which above all includes being obedient to God’s will and plan for his life. This includes taking responsibility for deepening his faith in Jesus Christ, loving his wife, leading his family, training his children, working diligently in his job, and actively participating in his church and community. Of course, we all know that we can often fall short of fulfilling these responsibilities, but that is why we have to depend on the grace of God, especially through the Sacraments, the power of prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the support of other men. In addition, Catholic Sociologist, Stephen B. Clark, in his book, Man and Women in Christ (pg 639) states that:

“Men assume social responsibility most naturally and effectively when (1) it is clear to them that the primary responsibility for the well-being of others rests on them and others are relying on them, and (2) when they have been trained at an early age by the men in their lives to recognize and assume that responsibility faithfully.”

A real man leads courageously

Men are wired to lead.  They were created to lead.  Robert Lewis believes that many men in our generation are refusing to lead and that they are “passively yielding to the feelings and emotion of the moment instead of aggressively leading with God’s truth. Our homes and communities are in chaos because of it. Leadership demands that men have the courage to master their passions and bridle themselves with the truth . . .The courage to lead with truth rather than surrender to feelings always separates the men from the boys.”  Where do these truths come from? As Catholic men, we know our primary source is the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church. That is why it is important to spend time reading and studying Scriptures and Church teachings. That is why it is important to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other men for support and encouragement.

A real man expects the greater reward

What motivates a man to reject passivity, accept responsibility, and lead courageously? Robert Lewis puts it this way:

“If you think the call to manhood is a call merely to heavy responsibility and dutiful service, then you’ve completely missed the example of the second Adam. Yes, real manhood is at times rigorous; it demands courage and requires sacrifice. Nevertheless, it is primarily a call to life.

Here are some Scriptures that speak of this “greater reward.”

A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

But as it is written: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Train yourself for devotion, for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future. (1 Timothy 4:7)

Although these Scriptures speak of a higher reward in heaven, what greater earthly reward is there than a wife that admires and respects you, children that love the Lord and are well-adjusted and responsible, and numerous experiences of God’s blessings – even if these are mixed with suffering and difficult circumstances.

Conclusion: Jesus Christ is the perfect example of real manhood. He did not accept the challenge of his call, devoid of joy, even though it meant suffering on the cross. He too expected a greater reward. Here’s how Hebrews 12:2-3 describes it:

For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.

So let us faithfully “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1). Then one day we will hear these marvelous words of Jesus spoken to us.

Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy. (Matthew 25:21)

(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at mblumberg@wau.org or mblumberg@aol.org.)


Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men

1. How do the characteristics of a real man described in this article compare with your own understanding of a real man?

2. Which of the characteristics of a real man listed in this article do you agree with? How do you assess yourself against these characteristics? What steps can you take to improve this assessment?

3. Which of the characteristics of a real man listed in this article do you disagree with? Why?

4. How important is it to you to hear these words of Jesus, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21), when you stand before him? Is it important enough to motivate you to live more fully an authentic Christian life as a real man?


Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at mblumberg@wau.org or mblumberg@aol.com.

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  • david127

    It would be nice to read one article – just one – explaining to women how it is they ought to be women, what responsibilities they have to their husbands and children, and how to correct the failures common to wives and mothers. I am sure I do not speak only for myself when I say I am sick and tired of reading articles telling men how to be men, especially when there is a comparative lack of such articles address to women. You would think, really, that women had never fallen from grace.

  • wiley

    You are not alone.

    In Catholic circles it probably has to due with ‘guilt’ over having to tell women they can’t be ordained. It would be too much to have to tell them they were concieved with original sin and that they must follow God’s law, including the moral obligation to be good wives and mothers. – that they are really just as susceptible to sinning as their male counterparts.

    It seems the last Catholic prelates to put forth that women have duties as wives are the Apostles Peter and Paul. Ever since then, it seems, the Scriptural citations on those duties cause embarrassment and a whole lot of soft shoe tap dancing on the part of priests – who fear offending women just as much as husbands do. (the sin of Adam, by the way is that he feared Eve more than he feared God- truly a sin of human respect.) Celibacy was intended to free men from such human respect. Evidentally, it hasn’t.

    Now, it is somewhat irrational to tell husbands they have to lead, when such teachers don’t at the same time tell wives and children that they must follow.

    Then there is the argument that says a wife would willingly follow a husband who loves her as Christ loved the Church. It effectively says that unless a husband is perfect, a wife is not bound to follow. Wives, of course, are quite adept at finding all there is about husbands that make them less than perfect, so they are quite adept at finding the mitigating and extenuating circumstances that relieve them of their obligations to those husbands. All this is done with the apparent sanction of the Church and the Catholic men who write such silly stuff evidently as part of their own penance for their own sinful lives.

    Let’s be clear. Men do come into the world with original sin and along with such, the concupiscences that are not eliminated by baptism. They must indeed follow Christ to be saved and by Christ’s grace conquer those tendencies to sin. They indeed have duties to God, society, others, including their wives and children. But, men don’t need this modernistic psychobabble about how to be good husbands. They need merely to take the gospel to heart. Remember, the first obligation of every person, husbands included, is to save one’s own soul. A husband must endeavor to lead his wives and children to heaven as part of his vocation in order to save his soul. But he has no more power than God does to compel anyone to follow God’s law; and his trying to lead a feminist wife (nearly all American wives) who comes into marriage with the self-indulgent attitude of her own superiority, who thereby shuts out a benevolent and God-fearing husband, is futile. Her intransigence is not his fault, nor is he responsibile and culpable before God for it, particularly since the Church is unwilling to assist him by reminding her of her own sinfulness.

    Someday when the Church recovers from the modern age, it will regain the courage to teach all moral truths, not just the ones that apply to men.

  • Gentlemen, I understand the anger against feminism and what it has done to relationships, but I think you are just plain wrong to paint all Catholic women with a broad brush like you are doing. Have you read any of the writings by Catholic women who are resisting the culture, tackling with a whole heart the duties of wife and mother, being real complements to their husbands? There are plenty of them and we have a good number of them writing for Catholic Exchange.

    I agree with you that Catholic preaching has a lot of holes. Not just in being balanced about both men and women being sinners, but also that poor people are sinners too and can be guilty of being lazy and viscious and might be poor becuase of it.

    It is also important to recognize that there is such a thing as authentic feminism according to Pope John Paul II. There really was such a thing as the attitude that it is a man’s world and that women were second class citizens. I detest all the media caricatures of man that are out there today that make them look like bumbling fools who need to the intelligent wife to fix the messes they make. But that is nothing but the reverse of the stereotype that women lived with for generations. Both are wrong. Women are not superior to men; but men are not superior to women.

  • Maurice Blumberg

    To david127 and wiley,

    I get your point about the need to have a balance of articles, books, and teachings on being a Christian man and on being a Christian women. I must admit I agree with Mary Kochan that there is a fair amount of existing writngs on being a Catholic/Christian woman, wife, and mother.

    The key thing to recognize in our discussions is that the real enemy we are fighting is not the lack of articles on Christian womanhood. Our real enemy is the Evil One, and the darkness, confusion, and division he is sowing regarding both Christian manhood and womanhood and roles and responsibilities. This spiritual battle we are in requires unity, not divisiveness. One of Evil One’s strategies is to have us arguing and fighting one another in a battle of the sexes, so we are not united in fighting him and all his deceptions. It’s a trap we can easily fall into.

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