I used this holiday season to grow out my beard, and my three-year-old son Gabriel has been pretty impressed. He’s been asking me to hold him, and as he rubs my cheeks he exclaims “like Rocky!”, which is a farm cat he thinks I now resemble. Truth be told, my facial hair does resemble whiskers more than the full, lumberjack beard I was going for, and Gabriel’s been the only one who’s impressed. Everyone else is just assuming I forgot to wash my face.
My attempts at a beard have been pretty humbling, and it doesn’t help that this winter facial hair has become a staple for men over 16. As a full grown man of 29, I’m feeling a bit inadequate. But aside from wounding my ego a little, this failed attempt at facial hair has got me thinking about what really makes a man. Throughout my life as an athlete, a Marine, and a young husband, I’ve heard a lot of messages about manhood. There are a hundred ways to describe these messages but I can pretty simply divide them into the following two camps.
1. What you get.
I’ve heard a lot of messages that say manhood is about what you can get. Whether it’s sex, power, or popularity, guys are told that manhood is about getting what you want when you want it. It’s a persuasive idea, and unfortunately dominant for a lot of young men today.
2. What you give.
Luckily I was exposed to another message as a young man, which told me that manhood is about what you give. Growing up I was blessed with the example of my father who worked every day to care for my mom and family. I had mentors that taught me that a man serves what’s right, even at personal sacrifice. And in the military I learned about the value of serving your country.
In the same way that the heart of love is a desire to give to the other person, a desire to put the other person first, I believe the heart of manhood lies in our generosity as well. I am convinced that manhood truly is about what you give, not what you get. As a young man I saw both messages, but the guys who I wanted to imitate all lived lives of service—and not all of them had beards.