In many of my personal encounters in Hollywood, I meet men looking for validation – seeking to satisfy a voice that asks, “Are you a true man?” But looking to answer that question in the entertainment industry is probably not the best place. That explains much of the craziness here. But for a Catholic man seeking to answer that question, where should he be looking?
Theologically speaking, God the Father is the essence of masculinity – you can’t get any more masculine than God the Father, and Jesus Christ is the external manifestation of that masculinity. As the leader of a Christian men’s group for the last 7 years, I’ve learned that theological definitions don’t always cut it. We need concrete examples. An excellent source of leadership on “True Masculinity” comes from Dr. Philip Mango, a highly respected Catholic psychologist who has worked with Mother Teresa among many other accolades.
The first thing Mango points out is that men are psychologically different than women.
Nobody would doubt our biological differences, but psychological differences? The idea is so anathema these days that you can’t even say it out loud. Yet, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that both our neurology and psychologies are very different. We’re physical creatures, and physical differences are bound to influence our minds. We see sexual behavior differences in every other creature on earth, so why not humans too?
It’s only the agenda of radical feminism that seeks to ignore these differences. Pope John Paul II says God created us masculine and feminine on purpose – and there is meaning to that! We shouldn’t ignore it. Understanding our differences helps us understand whom God made us to be, and ultimately our purpose.
There are many ways to examine our psychological differences, but a good starting point is from Analytical Psychology, which has discovered the four masculine archetypes – trans-cultural themes consistently found in stories, myths, art and music throughout the world. Essentially, what God has already written into our hearts.
The first archetype is that of the warrior. Which man hasn’t watched Braveheart longingly, wishing he could paint his face blue and chop up bad guys too? All men want to fight a battle and sacrifice ourselves for the cause righteousness. This might not be a physical battle every day, but I can guarantee that we all battle sin everyday. No wonder St. Paul uses the imagery of a soldier putting on armor (Eph 6:10-17). God put the “fight” into men to say no to sin, and yes to Christ; to protect and defend the good of others.
An excellent example of men doing this in a very concrete way are some friends here that actively protest and pray in front of AdultCon (a pornography trade show) every year. A true man takes the battle to the enemy, and what a great way to do so!
The second archetype is that of king. A king bestows order and blessing upon those around him. He leads, guides, encourages, makes tough decisions, and puts himself last and those under him first. A king is a servant leader who asks “What does this place need?” and just does it. He doesn’t need permission or an invitation.
Bestowing of blessing is so important that it’s one of the few times we hear the actual voice of God the Father “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7). Most men have not heard this from their earthly fathers. This need is so deep that those who don’t hear it will instinctively seek it out the rest of their lives. Thankfully we can receive this from God the Father directly through prayer, and speak it into the lives each other.
Two perversions kingship are rampant: authoritarianism, placing ourselves above all, sadistically taking pleasure in ruling others; or, complete passivity, seeking to just “fit in”, not wanting to rock the boat, ultimately hiding. As men we need rule selflessly for others, and not fall into these two traps.
Men are lovers. No surprise there. But how do we use our sexuality for the good of others? Again, two perversions are common: either we give into sex entirely, becoming addicted to masturbation and pornography; or we completely repress it – not even acknowledging that we are a sexual being. Both are lies and neither man truly possesses his sexuality.
Only when we truly own our sexuality can we make it a gift. We can use it as a gift to strengthen others, instead of taking from them. A true man uses his tenderness and his friendship to see the women around them as sisters and affirm them. It’s OK to give the women we love a hug! It’s OK to tell them that they look beautiful! (In a truly brotherly disinterested way). Women are incredibly sensitive and this means a great deal to them.
Finally, men are called to be wise counselors. When men have spent a lifetime developing wisdom, character and love, they need to share this with those around them. With so many fathers missing from single parent homes, we desperately need strong masculine guidance. These wise older men can be the fathers many of these younger men are missing.
These four archetypes weren’t created by anyone – they were written into our hearts by God. Identifying and understanding them helps us to understand who we were made to be, and how they fit into our Christian faith.
How can we grow in these areas? One of the most important things men can do is to gather and start talking about them. Truly talking from the gut and being vulnerable about how we are failing. This is what we do in my men’s group, and anyone can do among their group of fellowship. From there we can challenge each other to be better men, and to start living who as were created to be.
Mark J. Matthews – our Hollywood Undercover Missionary @HUMissionary
Mark Matthews is a graphic designer and animator working in Hollywood. Listen to his “What’s Good About Hollywood?” column once a month on the SLHour.