I remember the year was 1993; I was engulfed in the whole east coast rap genre, and there was a rapper by the name of MC Lyte, and she had a song called "Ruffneck." The music centered around her attraction to what we would call today a "thug" or a "gangsta. She emphasized how disrespect to authority, drug and alcohol usage, illegal activities, and overall bad behavior was what caught and kept her attention. For many other men like me, this song, and others like it, created a culture that we attempted to emulate due to our belief that this is the image of what is accepted as a "man's man." So what did I do? I bought the oversized jeans with the oversized T-Shirt to match, the Timberland boots, the safety vest, and topped it off with the bandana tied around my head, all in an attempt to fit an image of what I believed would portray me as a man. That was my outside image; internally, I felt an extreme feeling of fear and uncomfortably that I was trying to avoid. First, at the time, I weighed about 135lbs soaking wet, the pants were too big, the boots were heavy and bulky, and I couldn't get the bandanna to stay on my head the proper way, but yet I persisted because I had to fit into this image. You see, this is my story, what's yours. Your account of being completely uncomfortable, attempting to fit into an image that you know doesn't fit who you are. What has it cost you, walking in someone else's shoes?
In Samuel chapter 17, future King David volunteered to go and stand up for Israel and face Goliath. King Saul, concerned for David's safety, told David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight him. For you are [only] a young man, and he has been a warrior since his youth." For King Saul, David didn't fit the image of what a warrior should look like.
However, the future King had his response, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and attacked it and rescued the lamb from its mouth; and when it rose up against me, I seized it by its whiskers and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted and defied the armies of the living God.” Even with this, King Saul reluctantly agreed to allow David to face Goliath.
However, Saul once again tried to fit David into an image that he felt would protect him and make him look more like a soldier “Then Saul dressed David in his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and put a coat of mail (armor) on him.” David, realizing who he was and armed with the understanding, made a bold decision not to allow himself to be placed into an image that he knew he couldn't maintain.
David decided I have to be who God has created me to be and use the tools that God has provided. “Then David fastened his sword over his armor and tried to walk, [but he could not,] because he was not used to them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, because I am not used to them.” So David took them off. Then he took his [shepherd’s] staff in his hand and chose for himself five [smooth stones out of the stream bed, and put them in his shepherd’s bag which he had, that is, in his shepherd’s pouch. With his sling in his hand, he approached the Philistine.”
Let this be your story, men. Be comfortable with turning away from an image that is counterproductive to who you are in God. This culture crafted image of manhood can be broken, but it must start with you. You must discover who you are in God and be the man he created you to be and not allow yourself to be placed into an image you were never meant to be.
Join me next time as we continue our discussion on toxic masculinity.