This article will address what it means to be a real man. I will be touching on three themes: worldview, biblical view, and therapeutic view.

My wife just asked me “How are you doing” I replied, “I am living a life of quiet desperation.” This is a well-known quote from Henry David Thoreau. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Growing up in the United States I learned that “real men” were supposed to be tough-minded, self-sufficient, strong, smart, rich, and desired by women. Real men don’t lose a fight or sporting events. The old West portrayed men as not needing much for themselves, but they would die for justice and truth. Good guys were never bad and always did good. In the end, bad guys always lose.

As I grew up I did not know how to do any of this but knew that it was expected of me. Like most men, I suppose I have attained some success in many of these areas, but deep down every man knows they will never really attain the status of a “real man” (assuming that description is true). Life is full of needs – needs for food, water, shelter, clothing, transportation.

The culture requires us to work and provide, to be useful, to make wise decisions, and to eventually amass enough wealth to retire. To be a real man meant that I would have all I needed so I wouldn’t have to work, and I let others do the work for me because I could afford their help. Real men control their environment.

Of course, this is a fantasy that never reflects the real world. We cannot achieve the nirvana of being a real man because we simply do not have that kind of control or ability.

As I grew up, I also discovered a worldview that has had (and still has) a powerful effect on men, called Feminism.

Feminism paints a generally negative picture of men, depicting men as selfish, sexually charged, uncaring, and stoic. Men use male privilege to obtain high-status work and to amass wealth without commensurate effort. Men are accused of desiring control at the expense of others. If men are angry, they are “abusive.” Mistakes are seen as intentional.

I could go on but suffice it to say that the picture is bleak for those who want to be seen as good men, providers, lovers, protectors. Many men lose their sense of identity if they buy into a feminist view. Men often feel beaten down and shamed if they express themselves strongly and confidently.

So what does the Bible say about these worldviews?

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

What does a real man look like?

Scripture is the place to learn what a real man should be and do.

A real man controls his emotions and passions.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Single or married, men are not to pursue immoral passions. The goal is for them to live in good relationships and not pursue sexual outside of marriage. Men do not abuse women or children. Men are protectors, a good man treats his wife with love, respect, and dignity. He does not dwell on what is evil, he does not indulge in pornography. In other words, real men do not define themselves by what is below the waist.

Real men follow God with a heart of compassion and lead with the confidence of knowing who and what they are. Real men think clearly and have a clear conscience.

A real man provides for his family.

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8

When a man doesn’t provide for his family, he rightly feels a sense of shame and his self-worth sinks. Healthy shame is a shame that recognizes that all men sin. A man who doesn’t provide creates insecurity in his wife and children. Real men provide for emotional and spiritual needs as well. A good father trains his children and prepares them for life, helping them to become responsible adults who know how to face this world and its culture.

A real man protects his family.

It seems pretty simple to say that they will protect their family from physical harm, but men also need to protect loved ones from other kinds of harm. Proverbs 4:10–15 describes a father who protects his son by passing on wisdom, helping him build godly character.

A real man serves and leads his family.

“Serve and lead” seems like a contradiction, but they are inseparable according to Scripture. Although Ephesians 5:23 teaches us that “the husband is the head of the wife,” it quickly puts to rest any notions that this leadership allows for selfish male dominance. He finishes by qualifying “as Christ also is the head of the church,” and goes on to say that husbands should love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (verse 25).

This paints a picture of leadership contrary to how the world views it. A man is called to be a servant-leader – to take responsibility for his wife and children and to put their needs ahead of his own. He is called to demonstrate selfless, sacrificial love – the type of love we see in God toward his children.

A real man follows God’s design for true masculinity.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

The core of a man’s life should be his relationship with God. The man who walks humbly with God is motivated and empowered to step up and assume the difficult responsibilities that come his way.

A real man is available and able to respond with compassion.

A man of courage man is never off duty.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God…Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – 1 John 4: 7, 11-12

Men must deal with things that stop them from being Godly men who love their wives. Some things men deal with come out of childhood. It can be deeply ingrained learning that becomes in essence a Personality Disorder.

These are hidden things that greatly influence how we act. This is sometimes called the “shadow self.” Hidden things tell us what we should be. To use Christian terminology, it is the areas that sin is still controlling. So, here’s the problem: The shadow can operate on its own without our full awareness. It’s as if our conscious self goes on autopilot while the unconscious assumes control.

I am a counselor and a pastor. If we understand and agree with a biblical view then why don’t we live it? That is where therapeutic care comes in. What does it mean to have a therapeutic view of real men? Here are some areas that I believe need to be addressed in general with men so they can be mentally and spiritually healthy.

All men struggle with character issues.

They are not perfect, but they are also not all bad. Therapeutically I want to help men be better men. One of the reasons for therapy is that we want to be better.

Men need to learn how to take charge of their emotions.

Too many men regard emotions as unimportant. I try to help men recognize that emotions are often what fuels their behaviors. Therapy can help you take charge of your emotions and give you the power to decide what you need in your life.

Angry men need to take charge of their anger.

I tell men I get angry virtually every day, but I don’t get in trouble with it because I mostly take charge of my anger. No one makes us angry; we decide to get angry or rather we decide to act out in anger. Therapy can help us recognize when and how we get angry.

Men need to learn how vital a marriage relationship is in their life.

Self-sufficiency is not useful. I believe that therapeutically men need to make sure their wives feel safe cared for, desired, and protected. Scripture teaches that a good wife is a good thing. Therapy can help us honor our connections to others, especially our wives.

Real men are stewards of what God has given them.

Men must learn that control of others is destructive. If money can control things, it can also control us. A healthy perspective is that money is to provide for real needs. Therapeutically speaking, men must stop thinking they are in charge and become humble stewards of the resources God has granted.

Real men express their emotions.

Being a man who is simultaneously self-assured, unapologetically loving, and emotionally expressive is something many men need to learn better. Emotional expression is what we work in in therapy.

Real men are accountable.

There is a real need for men to connect with other men and be held accountable. People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect. Group therapy can help men connect to other men so that they have support and be held accountable.

Real men work to change.

There is a need for men to know that change is possible. This most likely will look like a conversion moment. Therapy can help us see something we did not see. Therapy works at helping us see a new way of being. A change like I once was blind but now I see.

Real men acknowledge their cognitive distortions.

All men have what I call thinking errors. In therapy, we try to recognize what those errors look like and then we eliminate them and replace them with healthy thinking.

This is a short list of some of the therapeutic outcomes that need addressing in general. However, we are not two-dimensional people. There is no magic formula, each man has unique experiences, their partner has real needs, and all wives are not the same. If you are experiencing daily struggles with your identity as a man and it is disrupting your relationships, I invite you to give us a call and let us help you through these tough and confusing issues.

“Standing on the Rocks”, Courtesy of Cam Adams,, CC0 License; “What Did They Take From You?”, Courtesy of Tim Mossholder,, CC0 License; “Fishermen”, Courtesy of manos Stavrakakis,, CC0 License; “Think About Things Differently”, Courtesy of Ivan Bertolazzi,, CC0 License


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