.Masculinity.

.Masculinity.

 

Read the follow up article: Masculinity Part 2

Did you ever kill anyone?”

10 minutes ago I was greeted by screaming friends and family that looked eerily similar to an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition minus the tanned guy with perfectly groomed hair and highlights.

Back to the question:

“So did you ever kill anyone?”

 

To be honest, I had done a lot in 11 years in the military. I had kicked in doors in Afghanistan and raided homes. My base got mortared 67 times in 9 months. I had been in numerous ambushes and firefights. At one point, I had a bounty on my head for $20,000 courtesy of the Taliban. In response, I grew a beard, wore civilian clothes and carried a rifle. You probably know the picture….the guy with the baseball cap on, a thick beard and an Afghan scarf looking like he stepped out of the Medal of Honor video game? Yup, I looked like him. Eventually my luck ran out and I got wounded pretty badly one month before returning home. Pieces of shrapnel in my back, a shattered wrist, and a concussion, but I came to expect that working in the United States military.

 

In Iraq I kicked in more doors, took shotgun pellets to the face (courtesy of a trigger happy Marine), watched IEDs explode in front of my vehicle, watched people shoot at my vehicle, watched people shoot at me, watched people shoot my friends, attended funerals, cried, laughed, got depressed, screamed, ranted, fought, got dirty, got dirtier, didn’t shower for 3 weeks, burned my own feces, cried some more, got PTSD, then I went home.

 

The question still loomed:

“Did. You. Kill anyone?”

 

And people would always ask at really inappropriate times.

Birthdays.

Funerals.

Weddings.

Family reunions.

And I still hate the question…

 

It’s like someone sticking a microphone in my face and saying “Quick!  Tell me how you felt after your girlfriend/fiancée/wife left you?” It’s not the question that bothers me so much as the emotion that goes along with it. How, exactly, am I supposed to feel? More importantly, how is the average male supposed to act when asked?

 

Suck it up. Show no emotion. Don’t cry……crying is for girls. You’re a machine. An elite killer. Breathe. Don’t jerk the trigger. Just the slightest pull because you’re a…….

 

A man.

 

 

Somewhere in our culture it’s getting drilled into young men’s minds that going to war and taking a life makes you more of a man. It’s macho. Sexy. Guys want to be you and girls want to be with you.

 

Which brings me to my basic introduction of manhood in the 21st century:

1.  Fast cars, abs, benching  = chicks.  Painting, the arts, and dance are for men with feminine qualities.

2.  Sports are more important than academics because it makes you cool.  No one likes nerds.  Nerds have calculators. And goldfish. No girlfriends.

3.  Objectify women. Turn them into sex kittens to fulfill your fantasies and when they don’t meet that standard, break up with them.

4.  A quick addition to #3.  Date eight women at a time so you can keep your options open.  Why tie yourself down? Don’t date their friends though. Drama.

5. It’s all about you, and if it isn’t, that’s societies fault. Buy more. Consume more. Be happy and in love only with YOU.

 

That last one, Number 5? It’s a common term known as narcissism, and the problem with masculinity today is that we are breathing narcissistic death into our young men with every word, TV show, advertisement, lyric….you name it. And we’re in this really weird situation where we expect men to behave like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round, but instead of getting Lancelot, we celebrate manhood in a whole different way that encourages narcissism rather than destroying it and buy into the lie that it’ll make us happy.

 

Let me be very transparent for a moment and tell you how I bought into the lie.

 

I can’t tell you how many women I’ve slept with because I got freaked out by the number one day and stopped counting, but all my friends told me the more women I was with, the more awesome I was and I believed them. I got hooked on pornography for a solid 10 years and got into some pretty shady fetishes and even now that I’m married I have to keep software on my computer that sends a report to my wife of every website I visit. I was a total jerk to women and would laugh at them when they told me about their “feelings” and how I had “used them.” I cared about no one but me and only how I could get ahead in life. My life was about me. It was everything I had seen on TV, everything my friends had told me.

 

I was an American male’s dream. I was supposed to be happy, right? RIGHT?

 

So if we’re living these lives of so-called masculinity, having all the sex we want, treating women however we want, making it all about us then why does the average male feel so empty and alone?  

 

It’s because that’s NOT what makes you a man or will ever fulfill you as a man.

 

Selflessness, self-sacrifice, passion and zeal to protect God’s daughters, creativity, ingenuity, integrity, brutal honesty, compassion, these are some of the marks of manhood, but it seems no one really wants to teach that. Sure, we can all name movies with some of those traits, but look at everything else were being taught through movies, TV shows, and commercials. Selflessness? Nope, narcissism. And for the life of me I’ve never heard someone walk into the Sistine Chapel and describe Michelangelo’s masterpiece as “something made by a  pansy,” yet somehow some of the traits I just listed off would get labeled as such.

 

God has created us to live these lives of epic adventure and creativity…to have battles to fight, to be generous rather than greedy, to value honesty rather than beautiful lies, to pursue our passions rather than settle, to chase after a woman, romance her and fight for her honor…..to sacrifice so that we can be servants instead of slaves to society. The problem is were so content living the life of a cultured dog that in the same way the dog thinks it’s accomplished a major task by fetching a bone for it’s master or chasing a fire truck it can’t catch, we are completely content mastering Call of Duty and pursuing a woman when it’s convenient for us.

 

This is why I love the Apostle Paul and how blunt he is towards men. In his closing letter to the Corinthian Church, he stops mid-sentence and says this:

 

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.”

 

That’s always an ego shot. Any time you hear, “Why don’t you act like a man?,” it’s just a little shot to a man’s self esteem (I’m sure ladies are taking note). The phrase I want to focus on though is this one, “Be watchful”.

 

Why?

 

Because every man knows where he’s weak.

 

EVERY.

MAN.

KNOWS.

 

We know if we play too many video games and slack at responsibilities. We know if we got porn issues. We know if we got anger issues. We know if we treat our girl like garbage. We know if we’re jealous. So Paul says be watchful of that and act like a man. Be strong! Doesn’t it make sense to work at the areas in our lives where we’re weak? If I have a Porsche but I continually pour water in the gas tank doesn’t that, in the grand scheme of things, seem a little dumb?Wouldn’t it make sense to make the effort to get gas even if the path to get the gas is really hard?

 

“Let all that you do be done in love.”

 

I remember after I got home from Afghanistan and finally saw my grandfather. My grandfather was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne during WWII. He missed the D-Day jump because he caught pneumonia and was hospitalized. He personally met General George Patton and was his scotch supplier during the war. I had always looked up to my grandfather and thus went to war with the 82nd Airborne as well.

 

We sat down on his porch during a beautiful Colorado afternoon and watched the cotton trees in his backyard make it look like it was snowing even though it was summer.

 

“Now you’re a man…….”

 

I nodded, not entirely sure what I was supposed to say, but then I caught his eyes. His eyes weren’t proud of me. It was something else. Maybe pained or compassionate.

 

My grandfather knew I was a man not because of a rifle or a battle or the fact I had been shot.  His eyes told a different story.

 

His eyes said:

 

“Now you’re a man because you know what sacrifice means. You know what it’s like to care so much for the men to your left and right that you’d do anything for them, including give your life so they make it home. You know what it’s like to care about something more than yourself. You know what it’s like to serve without expecting anything in return. Every action you made was in love for another person. This is why you’re a man now”

 

It felt weird. Foreign. It didn’t feel right. I knew there were men out there who had given more. Arms. Legs. Life.

 

Today I know there’s only one person that perfectly embodies any of what my grandfather’s eyes spoke to me. His name is Jesus. The only one who’s walked in complete love and sacrificed everything for us. You want to know what it looks like to be a man? Look to the life of Jesus. I mean, you want to talk about self-sacrifice and all the valiant themes that men love so much, then the life of Jesus should set the bar for all men to follow.

 

 

And listen, don’t hear me say, “do this stuff and act this way and you’re a man,” because the truth is all of us are failing this at some level. That’s why the cross is such a beautiful thing. I don’t think there’s anybody reading this that’s like, “Follow me, boys.” I don’t think there are. If there are, I sure wouldn’t follow them. Proud and arrogant, I wouldn’t follow that guy. I’d follow the guy that’s like, “I’m trying. Here’s how I’m trying.” That’s the guy I want to get around.  Flaws, screw-ups and all. To be more to the point, isn’t that the type of guys Jesus hung around?  Screw-ups, sinners, and weirdos that were at least trying?

 

And then, here’s my hope for any ladies reading this. My hope is that God would put in your heart a deep and consistent desire for a man, not a male. They get born that way. It doesn’t make them a man. Finding a man like this is gonna be like climbing a ladder to the moon, but don’t settle for anything less. Please don’t settle for less than the way you deserve to be treated. And please, please don’t settle for less than what’s demanded of the men by God.

 

May we be ferocious, God-fearing men that raise up a new generation and not another weak-willed one.

 

 

Ben Sledge, college pastor for Gateway Church in Austin, TX

Communicator, writer, speaker, and a college pastor for Gateway Church in Austin, TX. Veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Most passionate about Jesus, his wife, art, tattoos, and Texas BBQ (in that order).
  • http://www.johndrewthis.tumblr.com/ John

    Wow, that was an amazing read, so inspiring and motivating. A ‘must read’ for all! Thank you so much for sharing – God Bless!

  • BenTichenor

    let s get more ‘guest editorials’ from this guy! this was very good

  • Rey_rivera7

    My brother is still serving in the 82nd airborne. That’s pretty sweet! I’m from Weslaco TX so we aren’t very far from each other. I’d like to visit your church sometime. I really needed to read something like this. Thanks man, God Bless!

  • Zachary

    This was exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you so much for posting this. God bless.

  • XxIbanezGuitardedxX

    that was awesome. i really needed this right now. thank you so much for sharing your story

  • DJ

    Wow this was so good! 

  • Matt

    This was sent to me by my neighbor and good friend.  We have been running a bible study in our neighborhood for about 2 years now and this testimonial drives home one of the most discussed topics…how to be a good Christian man today in the face of everything that society is throwing at us.  God bless you and your journey…keep reaching for those of us that need encouragement to stay on the right path!!!

  • Kathleen

    Ben,  great job on the article.   To God be the glory for the change in your life.  To God be the glory for every male who becomes a man by whatever means the Lord  allows in life. Some will become men  the hard way as you experienced and some by less  difficult means.  There are some guys that step up to the godly manhood plate right outta the box and make godly decisions from the get go.  No matter,  all must come  by the cross, as you pointed out, and through the love and example of Christ.   Sometimes I feel this is one of the only hope for our country; that there is a shift  from what we have to Christian fathers raising godly boys for the kingdom.  It is my prayer for my son in law, who is a man quietly living out godly principles to his three young sons.   Peace.

  • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

    Thank you all for your kind and humbling comments….they have blessed and inspired me more than you could possibly know, and all glory goes to the King.  Please feel free to contact me at ben_sledge@gatewaychurch.com if you’d like to talk more about struggles, challenges, addictions, or just masculinity and the trials that lie in that.  I promise I’ll email you back :)

  • http://www.listentomissritz.wordpress.com/ Ritz

    Bub, 
    I am so proud of you and this post. You are still the example I point to when someone wants to know how a bother acts. I can’t imagine the boy you used to be, because the man you are has always inspired and protected me. I love you and Em and the work y’all are doing and just: thank you for writing this. And thank you for having had the experiences and learned the lessons to be able to. 

  • Heartsupporter.

    Ben is JACKED! Look at that guy, Great speech also.

  • Andy Billheimer

    Very inspiring!! Thanks for writing this!! 

  • Dan

    This article is awesome. So much truth. Thanks for writing it

  • jill

    Proud to call you my brother in law!  VERY GOOD and most importantly such great truth.

  • Debbie

    When I married my husband many people did not see us as a fit.  I would be asked, “Why Troy?”  This blog answers that question.  My husband is Benjamin’s father, a God-fearing man.  As his mother I am very proud of the man of God you are becoming, Benjamin!  Thanks for putting into words the answer to the question I have been asked many times!

  • Jhell

    It’s scary!

  • http://warriordave.com/ Dave Lukas

    Great post! I really connected with your description of our traditional definition of masculinity and how wrong and out of touch it is. Thank you!

  • http://jnakasone.tumblr.com/ Jeremy

    this flies in the face of this “new Masculinity” movement that says a “real man” is someone who sucks it up and doesn’t admit weakness but is overcomes it, making him “strong.”  The issue isn’t that men aren’t strong but how such “strength” is exhibited.  The mark of a man’s strength is admitting our needs and weaknesses…our need for God, our need for love, our need for grace, our need to be “needed.”  The Love of God exhibited through the life of Christ is our model.  Jesus didn’t “suck it up,” he admitted defeat for the sake of others on the cross!

  • Carissa

    Thank you for writing this! It is so true. My husband is a MAN, a godly man and he’s a nerd/geek which means for the most part, about 90% of the men’s ministry focuses of our church don’t reach him because they are always pushing sports and “manly” activities my husband isn’t interested in. I just wish more churches would seek to minister all types of men.

  • Justin Taylor

    This is incredible. Thank you!

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      Thanks for reading and your support!

  • Alexandra

    I will never understand how “men” in out society don’t see the filth of their actions. What part of their humanity have they lost that causes them to believe that women are toys? Why don’t they inherently realize that the world is not, in fact, intended to serve them? I don’t know if I will ever fully grasp why it takes such an awakening for men like Ben to understand.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/gerald.darling Gerald Darling

    THIS ARTICLE IS SOOOO…UGH!!!! Dude, God is using you brother, this is such a powerful truth about masculinity that needs to be shouted from the mountains. As a young man, and a young man from Miami at that, I feel as if the generation of men that I grew up with from my area, and myself, are constantly getting bombarded by a false sense of masculinity that is poisoning our minds. SEX, MONEY, DRUGS, YOLO. That’s all we are supposed to live for. I’ve been blessed to have a personal relationship with Christ, granted I have struggles, and I am not trying to look at the woodspeck in someone else’s eye when there is a plank in my own…this is just a truth that needs to be boldly spoken and lived out in example to the male youth of our nation. Keep doing what you are doing for the Kingdom of God, Brother.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      So glad this article resonated with you brother and deeply humbles and blesses me. That YOLO mentality drives me insane haha. I actually just wrote a follow-up to this blog you can read here: http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/masculinity-part-2/

  • James

    This is very awesome & empowering man. Growing up in a single parent household, (My father passed away before i was born) so with that in mind growing up i never really learned all of the things that “men” should know, the standard qualities that men should have in life. I would be made fun of for not how to change the oil on the car or i didn’t know how to tie hooks on fishing poles. Just small things like that but as i got older i started to realize that all of the things in life that society considers “manly” Is just something that the media builds up men to be.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      Agreed brother. It’s amazing the pressure they put on what they say is manly and is really nothing more than machismo. There’s so much more to being a “man”. If you haven’t got the chance I wrote a follow up to this about some more thoughts on being a man: http://www.heartsupport.com/blogs/masculinity-part-2/

  • Dick Faggotson

    I hate Russian mentality because it takes the aforementioned masculine narcissism to an extreme level multiplied by compulsory military service that I will by all means try to escape.This embodies two things I hate in this world: militarism and radicalism.That’s why I support Zeitgeist movement: rebuilding the world where no wars will be waged.
    And all that multiplies by my very non-masculine personality and looks – actually thinking about things and trying to achieve something and being thin as an iPhone 6.I find and exciting challenge in this, to be fair