Home > Culture, Theology > The Ballfield, the Bedroom and the Billfold

The Ballfield, the Bedroom and the Billfold

The Ballfield

When we were in elementary school our status was determined by the order in which we were picked to play games at recess. It didn’t take long for us to learn that our masculinity was defined by the ballfield.  If you were picked last, you were a loser, a lesser man, if you were picked first you were a man and if you were picked to be captain you were top dog, a man’s man.

How we performed determined whether or not we were respected.  Respect determined whether or not we were valued.  Value determined whether or not we were men. We learned from the ballfield that to be a man is to out-perform our peers.

The Bedroom

By the time we were in high school most of our friends were athletes, so the ballfield, though still an indicator of masculinity, was now the baseline for manhood, the common denominator.  The stakes for becoming a man were higher, the bar was raised.  Now, if you were an athlete you weren’t necessarily a man, just a jock. If you were a starting athlete on your team you were a man.  If you were a starting athlete on your team who made plays and broke records, you were a real man.  With ‘real’ manhood came the attention from the girls.  Suddenly, being a man was determined by both the ballfield and the bedroom.

Being a man was now based on performance and conquest.  It wasn’t enough to win the game, you had to win the girl too.  Being an athlete was good, but getting the girl was great.  Being an athlete made you a man, getting the girl made you a man’s man.  And if you could ‘get some’ from the girl then you were really considered a man.

The Billfold

Now, we’re graduating from college.  Everyone was a former athlete and everyone has a girlfriend, wife or fiance.  Being an athlete is no longer enough; neither is getting the girl.  The goal becomes to either a) make it to the league, get all the girls you want and make buco bucks or b) get a high paying job, get the girls and make buco bucks. 

Suddenly, masculinity is defined by the ballfield, the bedroom and the billfold.  The baseline standard to be a man, so we believe, is to be a high performance athlete or executive.  The middle tier men do one better and get the smoking hot wife.  But the ‘real’ men, the men’s men; he gets the job, the girl and the money.

The Problem

The problem with this mentality is that we never measure up.  We can never perform well enough, get enough girls or make enough money because the guy in the cubicle next to us is doing the exact same thing, only better.  Suddenly, being a man is exhausting work with no respect, no girls and no return.  If we do happen to be the guy who gets the job, the girl and the money we end up gratified for a short period of time, but never eternally satisfied.  We grow insecure and manupilative because we’re worried about our status being jeopordized, our manhood being questioned. We ultimately reach the end of our life only to discover we’ve wasted our lives pursuing a manhood the was fleeting and false.

By believing this lie our culture’s men are beginning to realize that they don’t measure up.  It’s impossible to be a man by these standards so we don’t even try.  Since we fail to meet the impossible expectations of manhood we simply give up.  We revert to playing sports video games in our mom’s basement pretending to perform, get the girl and make the money. 

This has led to insecurity and passivity in our culture’s men.  It has led to a culture of boys who only imagine growing up while being stuck in their underpants until noon on a weekday because they stayed up too late chasing girls and can’t seem to get to class on time by noon.  Worse yet, we wrongly believe that the answer is to do better and try harder, which only leaves us more exhausted and insecure as we continually discover we don’t measure up to this impossible standard and never will.

Relationships and a Cause

At this point, we would do well to accept God’s view of masculinity modeled and made possible in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  While on this earth, Jesus made two significant ‘great’ statements: The Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  In issuing the Great Commandment Jesus instructs us to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul and all of your strength” and to likewise “love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Mark 12:30-31) With this statement Jesus laid the foundation for manhood: Relationships.  Masculinity is, therefore, truly measured by our love for God and our love for people.

Jesus’ second ‘great’ statement was to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”  (Matthew 28:18-20) In issuing this statement Jesus redefined humanity in general, and masculinity in particular, in the context of a cause, specifically the cause of loving other peope to Jesus. 

By What Jesus Has Done

Despair occurs, however, when we attempt to follow Jesus words without relying on his work.  If we try in our own strength to achieve masculine status before God by our own performance we’ve done nothing but exchange our goals without changing our gears, which is why dudes who go to church, but don’t repent of sin and obey Jesus, claim that God hasn’t helped them.  The culture has taught us to achieve status by our performance and that only leads to devestation.  Applying this lie to our faith doesn’t help the matter, it complicates it.

Two Things

First, to truly know our identity  as men we need to understand that masculinity is defined by relationships and a cause, not the ballfield, the bedroom or the billfold.  Jesus set the example by being responsible to God in obedience and responsible to us in taking on our sin.  Jesus sacrificed himself so that you and I would experience forgiveness and the power to live for God.  We too should be responsible in our relationships and sacrifice for the cause.

Second, true masculinity is not achieved by our performance, it is received by faith in Jesus’ work of the cross.  We do not become men by reaching masculine status.  We become men by understanding that Jesus’ life is our example, Jesus’ death is our freedom and Jesus’ resurrection is our power to love God, love people and contribute to the cause of Christ so that more people can know Jesus.  We become men by Jesus’ work in us, not our work for him, by being responsible in our relationships and sacrificing for the cause. That’s masculinity.  You don’t have to be big.  You don’t have to be tough.  You don’t have to be athletic, get a lot of girls or make a lot of money. You just need to be responsible in your relationships and in the cause of Christ.

Question: In what ways can you be responsible in your relationships and sacrifice for the cause of Christ? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Note: Most of this content was adapted and revised based on a section of Joe Ehrmann’s book and coaching philosophy InSide Out Coaching.

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