A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Men: Part III

Well, you’ve made it this far, so you might as well keep going. If you’ve got some catching up to do, check out part one here and part two here. Ready? Ok, so we’ve taken a brief look at the male body and also at the male brain, as well as some of the hormones that men have. At this stage of the game, we’re going to take a look at masculine development from childhood into adulthood. We’re building here, so keep in mind all of the things we’ve previously discussed and keep applying those ideas to everything that comes hereafter. In my opinion, this is where things start to get really interesting, so buckle up and let’s go!

When any baby is born, the person with whom the wee lad or lass has the most contact with from even before birth is mom. Mom is the one who feeds the baby, soothes and cuddles, changes the diapers (although you dads need to get some poopy hands too!), and generally nurtures and nourishes the baby. As a girl gets older, this association with mom and femininity is strong and leads to later development. When it comes to discovering all things masculine, the baby boy has some searching to do.

A separation from mom begins as early as two years old, a process that will last until adulthood, as the boy wonders who he is and why he is made that way. Here is the absolutely critical concept that you must remember: femininity is inherent and passed on between mother and daughter, while masculinity is something that is bestowed and taught to a boy by his father and other men. A woman can never, ever make her son a man. She can encourage and affirm, but that will always fall far short from the loving guidance and initiation from his father. Sadly, as the concept of fatherhood becomes an increasingly historical factoid in our society, this initiation into manhood is often left vacant, as young men roam about not even knowing how to actually be a man.

As each boy grows, there is a question that burns, gnaws at him, even if he can’t quite vocalize it. This question, if unanswered, will haunt him the rest of his life as he tries, often in vain, to find the answer. The question is: do I have what it takes? Do I have what it takes to be a man? Am I strong enough? Am I smart enough? What is manhood? Yes, those are a lot of questions, but they all derive from the first. It is only the boy’s father who can truly answer that question, through steady guidance throughout the boy’s life as he grows into a young man. The tragedy of men today is that there are very few fathers and other men who are willing to take these young boys and show them the meaning of masculinity; to initiate them.

When a young man reaches the teenage years, there can be some tension between him and his mother. This is completely normal and is the result of him separating himself from the comforts of mom and seeking the dangerous adventure that is manhood. I am not advocating that any teen disrespect and disobey his mother, but you moms need to recognize his need to undergo this separation from you and let him go. He will calm down once he gets past the teen years.

Every boy has in him the desire and urge to be a warrior, a leader, someone who will fight the bad guys and defend the innocent, and win the heart of the woman he loves. They need to test their strength against other boys as they subconsciously develop in these archetypes that are inherent to their inner being. Fueled by ample testosterone, young men will seek adventure, looking for their place in the grand scheme of things. It’s not always quite as dramatic as that, but this undercurrent flows deep in the masculine persona.

Along with a deep, burning question that absolutely must be answered, men are plagued with a couple of fears. I’m not talking about being afraid of spiders or something surface deep, I’m talking about the fears we may not even realize, but effect our actions from the recesses of our hearts. The first fear that men experience is fear of failure. On some level, most men wonder if they will ever amount to anything, if they will fail their families like their fathers did, if they will end up a pathetic loser. Some men become paralyzed by this fear, wallowing in inaction, unable to commit. Others become so driven not to fail that they are never satisfied, always seeking more, working more hours. Sometimes this drive comes from the past, desperately seeking the approval of a father who was never there.

The other fear that resonates on some level with a lot of men is the fear of being discovered as a fraud, a fake, not a “real” man. This is why so many guys act like such ridiculous posers, hanging tacky jewelry all over their body, puffing their chests and crowing like roosters. It’s why men put on the air of bravado. They are afraid that if they don’t, they won’t be seen as or taken seriously as a man. It is a terrible shame that their entire idea of manhood is seriously skewed.

I think the last thing that needs to be discussed in the topic of masculine development is the way in which boys and men experience God. All men are very physical. We like to work with our bodies, whether that means mowing the lawn or carrying heavy furniture. We cannot experience God without some element of the physical. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

The other way we guys experience God is through beauty. We men are visually oriented and are absolutely captivated by beauty. It makes sense. Men and women are both made in the image of God. God made women beautiful and then made men captivated by beauty. Since women are made in the direct image and likeness of God, men are captivated by the beauty of God Himself. Men sometimes distort the beauty of women into something twisted, but let me tell you about how men are actually made to react to beauty…

The sight of a beautiful woman takes our breath away, makes our knees weak, and makes us do absolutely stupid things. Our whole body responds, yes sometimes sexually, but it’s more than that. We are captivated by the beauty of God as He reveals Himself to us through women. Our yearning and desire to become one with a woman, flesh of one flesh, is our ultimate desire to lose ourselves in the beauty and loving embrace of God our Heavenly Father.

Let’s get back to the physical part and mix beauty in with it. Some of the most intense spiritual encounters with God I have ever experienced have occurred by myself or with other men as we took a hike along a trail at a park and got to the top of the mountain. Physical activity bonds men together more than conversation, and getting to the top of the mountain and seeing the beauty of God’s creation is the pinnacle of bliss! Men experience God in an intimate way through the beauty of His creation: in nature.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series so far. I’m really enjoying writing it. I will give you a lot of resources at the end of it all so you can further your own research. I’m barely touching the tip of the iceberg with all of this. There is so much more to the amazing design God has for men and women and I hope you are inspired to keep learning about it. We have to look at the whole package: the physical, the psychological, and the spiritual. God made all three, so in order to understand God’s plan, we have to cast aside all preconceptions and examine things the way they actually are, not the way we want them to be. We will wrap things up in the next and final post in this series. Until then…

4 thoughts on “A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Men: Part III”

  1. Avatar
    Sheila Connolly

    Perhaps you’ve said this elsewhere, but what exactly are your qualifications to being an expert about men? There are some things you say that I have noticed about men, but others that are simply not true about a large subset of men. Is there some research you’re drawing from here, or are you just assuming all men are like you?

    1. Avatar
      Chris Ricketts

      Sheila, what I have said repeatedly throughout the series is that I am NOT an expert. I drew everything from the resources I listed at the end. Dr Mango is a Catholic psychotherapist who talks about this very thing. He is also a good friend of mine.

      What I also said in the beginning of the series is that what I say obviously doesn’t apply to ALL men. To what subset are you referring to?

      I don’t mind criticism about anything I write, and I also enjoy intense discussions and debates. But you asked me questions and made assumptions on things I had already commented on multiple times throughout the series. If you have a critique, please make sure that it is something specific and not something I have already addressed multiple times.

      1. Avatar
        Sheila Connolly

        My apologies, I read this article in isolation before finding the other parts of the series.

        The trouble with talking about gender is that almost anything you can say about men and women is going to wind up NOT being universal. And if it’s not universal, I’m not sure how useful it is. After all, isn’t it worse to make untrue assumptions about someone than it is to admit you don’t know what’s going on in their head?

        There were several things you said that had me nodding my head, because I at least know some guys like that. Other things (block towers as phallic symbols? houses as uteri? what the heck?) left me baffled. Has anyone done a study on what kind of things boys and girls build? My parents got me a lego house set, so I made lots and lots of houses. They got my brother a spaceship set so he made spaceships. No towers. It seems that example is just thrown out there like we all know that girls and boys build different things out of blocks, but there is no evidence that they actually do.

        And we all know not all men are very physically strong, and even some who are, like my husband, aren’t very “physical” in the sense of liking to do physical things. My husband bonds with his friends by talking with them for hours. Me, I like to hike. So what exactly is the utility of trying to explain men and women to each other with descriptions that only fit some?

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