What is a Man?

Templates are important. New experiences are often stressful and tiring, mainly because we are doing the hard work of creating a template. Once the template is created and we run it through a few times we relax. This is true for a new job, for marriage, for parenting, for a new hobby, for traveling to another country, experiencing a loss, etc. Templates are blueprints or frameworks for how to navigate a given situation.

Some templates are more important than others. The journey to manhood is one such example. What is your blueprint? How do you frame the masculine journey? Do you have a template? What does it look like? How would you answer the question: what is a man?

My sense is that most men would use a shotgun to answer this question not a laser. We throw out a bunch of character qualities, traits or actions that have no coherent connection. It is not well thought out, it is not organized. It is not a template. It is random puzzle pieces, often missing the corners—rarely ever put together into a completed image.

Robert Hicks in his book The Masculine Journey suggests that the answer to this question is a moving target. Men are on a journey. Each juncture looks different and is marked by different things. Certain masculine attributes are at the forefront in different developmental stages.

Proverbs 20:29 captures this: “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” We don’t expect gray haired men to be warriors and we don’t expect young warriors to be filled with wisdom and life experience. This biblical distinction points to a dynamic understanding of manhood.

A template for manhood looks at the commonalities, well-worn paths and critical junctures of the masculine journey. Hicks suggests six stages: 1) the created man 2) the sexual man 3) the warrior 4) the wounded man 5) the mature man 6) the sage. One may not agree with his categories, but the idea of common signposts along the masculine journey is instructive.

I appreciate this author’s approach to developing a template for the journey of a man—whether one agrees completely with his framework—the project of a masculine template is important to pursue.

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