Where have all the real men gone?
Andrea (not her real name—to protect the innocent!) told me about a recent date with a young Catholic fellow she met at Theology on Tap. “We had a great conversation over dinner. We had a lot in common, and we were getting along really well.” As they were leaving the restaurant, her date told Andrea how much he had enjoyed getting to know her, and that he would like to get together again. Then he casually dropped the bomb. “I’m actually trying to discern whether I am called to the priesthood or to the married life. Talking with you really helps me further clarify things…”
“I felt like I was being used as a test subject to stand in for the ‘married vocation’ side of the equation, she said. "It just didn’t seem right to be dating at the same time as prayerfully considering a vocation to the priesthood. I’d be competing with God!”
To be fair, the young man had thought of it rather differently; this was one of the few young women he felt that he could open up with, and reveal his innermost thoughts. In his mind, it was sort of a compliment.
A back-handed one, if you ask Andrea.
This is not an uncommon scenario. In fact, I have heard Andrea’s tale from many other young women! By now, the guys are protesting: You women want it both ways! You complain when we don’t talk and then you complain when we do! You want us to sweep you off your feet, but then you tell us we are Neanderthals! You act like you can handle everything, and then you get mad when we let you take the initiative. You don’t know what you want!
Yes, we do. We want our men to be heroes.
And men need to be heroes.
This is not a romantic pipe dream. Dr. Philip Mango, a licensed psychotherapist for more than thirty years, a guest lecturer at the John Paul II Institute, and founder of Saint Michael’s Institute in New York City, tells us that men are called to be heroes.
“In every walk of life, in war and in peace, men are called by God to be heroes. They want to be activated, to use their natural and supernatural gifts. What is a hero? A man who transcends his own ego, his own fears, and his own selfishness, and makes a sacrifice of himself as a gift to those he's called to protect.”
Heroism can only be developed in a man by other men.
This is where feminism has served us badly over the past several decades; for years we women insisted that we want to do everything a man does, and that we want our men to be “sensitive.” We want to be able to be out in the work force, while our house-husband takes care of the kiddies. Sitcoms fondly portray the gay man who really understands us women—without sexual strings attached. He’s like our best girlfriend, except with a hot body. But there’s fallout. Men followed along with the feminist agenda, just like Adam. The woman you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree (Gen 3:12). He sounds whiny already, doesn’t he?
We have emasculated our men, says Dr. Mango.
“People are afraid of masculinity because they're afraid of a return to an authoritarian, rigid, society that oppresses women – which was never part of authentic masculinity. To avoid upsetting anyone, many men settle for being nice guys, rather than leaders. But ‘nice’ doesn't cut it.”
First, a very simple fix. Women love men who have excellent manners. Manners have gone by the wayside in today’s society. We really do appreciate it when the gentleman initiates the conversation, holds a door open for us, pays the bill, tells us we are beautiful, sends us flowers, notices attentively whether our glass needs refilling, calls us when he says he will call, takes charge of setting up the next date, and so on.
A friend of mine related a very disturbing story in which a man with whom she was having a casual conversation left her sitting alone at the bar–knowing that she would be forced to walk to the car alone, late at night. She tells me, “It happens very frequently that we [ladies] all arrive at parties by ourselves and leave by ourselves. It never occurs to the guys that walking around after dark is not desirable.” You don’t have to be attending an event in an urban crime center to walk the women to their cars. It is a simple case of good manners! Often, what is driving the lack of manners is fear. Men are afraid that active attentiveness–or staying too long at the bar with a single female–may send the “wrong signals” (for example, that he is ready to sign up for marriage prep).
Secondly, a not so simple fix. This is the rediscovery—and activation of—true masculinity. Dr. Mango tells us that there is a crisis of masculinity in our culture today. This may not be not big news to you. We have gay marriages, clerical abuse, divorce, teen pregnancy, gang violence, more than thirty years of gender blurring feminist indoctrination, and an increasingly fatherless America.
What may be news, however, is Dr. Mango’s solution.
The solution is radical. Masculinity doesn’t come ready-made in men. Although the archetypes of masculinity are deeply rooted in the male psychic structure, they need to be activated. Women often say about men, “Why do they always have to prove themselves?” Isn’t that rather juvenile? Dr. Mango explains that, by nature, men must prove themselves. They must perform courageous acts daily in order to develop their masculinity.
“In a man, a consistent lack of physical courage is a problem. Men in their physical identity must embrace heroic self-sacrifice, because it is masculinity's job to protect life and be expendable.”
In the Jungian archetypes, Mango discovers a fundamental truth about the nature of men and women, a truth that resonates deeply within us. Mango focuses on the male archetypes of warrior, king-leader, wise counselor and lover. The warrior selflessly fights for the glory and honor of his country, God, and his friends. He is neither a killer, nor macho, but a noble protector. The king leader creates order and structure so that his people can grow and develop. The lover “understands the physical, sexual, economic, emotional, and psychological needs of the wife.” The wise counselor listens and guides.
Jesus Christ is the perfect fulfillment of all the archetypes. To fully realize one’s masculinity, Mango suggests that men have to resurrect from their subconscious these archetypical masculine roles—and activate them. To go back to Andrea’s situation at the beginning of this article, her date was asking her to be the “wise counselor” and serve as a sounding board while he waited to “find himself.” (But, as Pope John Paul II told us, man only finds himself in the sincere gift of self!) My friend who was left to pay her bill and walk herself to the car alone at night was forced to be “warrior.” It should be the man who is warrior and wise counselor, not the woman. The gentleman who makes all the arrangements for a date and then arrives on time, well dressed, with roses in hand, is the king and lover.
My single friends tell me that men seem to be afraid of commitment. The word commitment strikes fear into men’s hearts. But what exactly do women mean by it? In one sense it is not such an alarming concept. By commitment, we don’t necessarily mean that whenever we go on more than two or three dates, we need to see an engagement ring! But women don’t like it when they feel that they are just being strung along, date after date, while the guy seems perfectly content to maintain the status quo—attending events together, hanging out at the local Theology on Tap, or just chatting over coffee. It never goes beyond that. The woman wonders, “Is this going somewhere? Is he waiting to see if someone more attractive comes along? Is he keeping his options open? What is he thinking?” The guy seems perfectly content, while the woman is wondering.
What seems to be missing here is intimacy. Dr. Mango tells us that intimacy is an essential pre-condition to agape. It is essential to the development of compatibility on a deep level. Intimacy is not simply “being close”—going to Mass together, going dancing or out to eat. Intimacy is when you risk something.
Isn’t this precisely what went wrong in the Garden of Eden? Adam was given the task to care for the Garden, to protect it (Gen 2:15). And where was Adam while Eve was facing the wiles of the serpent? Was he taking a nap? Watching Monday Night Football? He should have been right there, defending and protecting her—even if it cost him his life.
As one young woman told me, “I know I am able to take care of myself. I have confidence in that. But it sure doesn't take away the desire to have someone to take care of me (a protector, someone who makes me feel safe physically and emotionally)…
I would have to say that I am attracted to men who know what they believe, say what they mean, and follow through on what they promise. In short, a man of moral strength and good character.”
What is a real man? Dr. Mango answers: “He's not a bully or a wimp. He transcends his own ego, his own fears, his own selfishness, and sacrifices himself as a gift to those he's called to protect.”
Author's Note: I will gladly accept comments from the guys. Next month I will give equal time to the difficulties facing women as they attempt to discover their authentic femininity. Watch this space!