We measure distances by feet, which come in groups of twelve inches. We measure horses by hands, because measuring a horse by feet would be ridiculous, I guess. We measure the power of our cars by horses, but not hands. We measure trains by how many cars they pull, and those cars can have horses, but not hands or feet, that would be weird.
Another measurement struck me today. This one even more arbitrary, and much more poignant. I was getting in my car after a board meeting. I started the engine, put it in drive, and eased on the gas and slowly started out of the parking spot. Too slowly. In fact, my car seemed to struggle a bit too much, and there was a grinding noise…
Right, the emergency brake, I should probably undo that.
It was a simple mistake, one that I don’t make often, but I wouldn’t say it’s rare either. The ridiculous part is that whenever I do that, I feel foolish, I feel inadequate…
I feel unmanly.
It’s all kinds of stupid, it makes no sense, but for some reason, remembering to undo the e-brake in my car is a measurement of manhood for me.
Gosh, it looks ever more stupid written out.
Braxton, as you get older, you’ll soon discover that there is an expectation that men should be measured. People, mostly other men, will have standards that they’ve raised, or that they’ve been raised to raise, that measure what makes a man “manly”. And let me tell you, the vast majority of them are far more ridiculous than the Imperial Measurement System.
Men are measured by horsepower; they’re measured by strength; they’re measured by how well they fight; by feet, hands, and inches.
And all of it is utter nonsense.
And yet it’s so easy to believe. I still have to remind myself what a fool I’m being for feeling emasculated by the e-brake, or by my weight, or by my income, or any other number of things that have somehow been etched into my mind for whatever reason.
Son, you need to know that being a man has nothing to do with ridiculous measurements. In fact, “manhood” is really just an unfortunate description for what men who seek it are really looking for.
Everyone, not just men, wants to be told that they are doing well. People need to hear that they are accepted, admired, and loved. We become so desperate to hear that that we begin to create ways to be validated.
My car is the fastest; I am validated.
I can lift the most weight; I am validated.
I remember to take my e-brake off; I am validated.
If these sound ridiculous to you, it’s because they are. And yet, here are some other things I’ve heard spouted from men seeking validation.
“You think 40 degrees is cold? Sissy.”
“Men need to know how to work on cars, that’s just how it is.”
“You don’t like sports? What kind of man are you?”
How do these measure manhood? How do they quantify..I don’t know, manhood units? The truth is, they don’t, in any way shape or form, but they do allow the speaker to feel like they have accomplished something.
I bet someday you’ll hear these things. I bet someday you’ll think some of these things. But I want you to realize that none of these carry any actual validation. Well, any useful validation.
Real validation builds confidence without building pride. It makes you want to be better and help others be better. It comes without comparison.
Real validation lets you know that you’re doing well, whether or not you’re doing better than.
Find validation in yourself, son. Find it in Christ. And leave behind any weak, insufficient measurements of manhood.
You are all the man you will ever need to be. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I love you, son.
1 Corinthians 1:4
Christian, husband, father, and pastor. Also a proud and dedicated nerd. One of the dads at TheDadLetters.com and author of TheLivesIHaveLived.wordpress.com.