Seven Men: And The Secret Of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas is a fantastic read. I shared a quick blurb about this book with you July’s Monthly Mash Up. I failed to make mention of the fine points Metaxas makes regarding masculinity in my writing of that post. I hope to rectify this this oversight here.
Today’s culture is devoid of strong male role models. Worse still, our culture has become hostile to the idea. It is to this spirit of the age Metaxas pens his introduction. Consequently, it presents important comments regarding manhood. Thoughts worth reflecting upon.
Metaxas opens where all men born after 1939’s Stagecoach begin: John Wayne. His career left a massive imprint upon American society. An imprint that continues to impact nearly 40 years after his death.
And you’ll forgive me if I begin with John Wayne. ‘The Duke’ is obviously not one of the seven men in this book, but many men of my generation have thought of him as something of an icon of manhood and manliness. We still do. But why? What is it about him? Is it the toughness and the swagger? Is it just that he comes across as big and strong and that most men aspire to those qualities? Well, that all has something to do with it, but I actually think his iconic status is because he usually played roles in which his size and strength were used to protect the weak. He was the good guy. He was always strong and tough but never a bully. Somehow watching him on the silver screen said more to generations of men (and women) about what made a man great than endless discussions on the subject. Sometimes a living picture really is worth a thousand words. And what we think of John Wayne is a clue to the secret of the greatness of the men in this book.
Metaxas is scratching the surface of an answer to two questions, 1.) What is a man? and, 2.) What makes a man great? His answers provide a framework to build your life on. Strength is given to men who protect and serve others. It avoids the pitfalls of over aggression and passivity. Unfortunately, these pitfalls are all our culture sees. It camps out on the negative and fails to see the timeless examples in masculinity men like John Wayne provide.
You can talk about right and wrong and good and bad all day long, but ultimately people need to see it. Seeing and studying the actual lives of people is simply the best way to communicate ideas about how to behave and how not to behave. We need heroes and role models.
Metaxas makes a good point regarding the need for role models. You need someone to look to. Someone to pattern your life after. Someone to compare your actions to in a positive way. In short, you need a target to shoot for.
…at the heart of what it is to be a man is that idea of being selfless, of putting your greatest strength at God’s disposal, and of sometimes surrendering something that is yours for a larger purpose–of giving what is yours in the service of others.
This is the target you were meant to aim at. Using your gifts for the glory of God, His purposes, and the service of others. Biographies open a window for you to see these things in others. They help you put flesh on abstract ideas and concepts. They give you something to emulate.