“Iron sharpens iron and as Iron sharpens iron so does one man for another” (Proverbs 27:17).
This is a much overused quote from Sacred Scripture that men’s ministries, like The King’s Men, have been proclaiming as a mantra for years. The words may seem a bit trite, but they capture the core essence of most authentically masculine Christian ministries that are attempting to galvanize other men to their cause and mission. That said, the words may not ring true for all men. These words may not even trigger any pause or challenge a man to further ponder over. Men being exhorted to surround themselves with other like minded men in an effort to grow in virtue or their manhood is, for some men today, a completely foreign concept.
Cultural manliness resembles not iron, but has taken on a milk toast form that could hardly pass for anything similar to this heavy metal. At best, he is aluminum foil–easily crumpled, manipulated and in a word, soft.
Men are soft today plain and simple. A friend of mine once said that the invention of the hot shower was the genesis of men becoming soft. Interesting thought to digest, but whether or not a man’s preference for a hot or cold shower is the reason, it is definitely worth noting that the 21st century man is not cut from the same piece of cloth as his forefathers, even from just a generation ago. Of course, I am generalizing, but many men today are limited in their capacity to live a life of virtue and sacrifice for others.
Scholar John Horvat qualified this situation in his great book, “Return to Order”, as “Frenetic Intemperance”. He defines this as “a restless and reckless spirit inside modern economy that foments a drive [in man] to throw off legitimate restraints and gratify disordered passions.” He says that frenetic intemperance “can be likened to that of a faulty accelerator or regulator that takes an otherwise well-functioning machine and throws it out of balance.”
Who is to blame for this?
I submit that Hollywood plays a huge role in these developments and of course, the multi-billion dollar porn industry must claim a large portion of this cultural phenomenon. I believe the true reality lies in the fact men have largely failed other men. Men have failed in the last 30-40 years to properly mentor and initiate other men into manhood. Men have lost the sense of their roles in the human family and in society. I believe the majority of men have become lazy today. Men have been trained as young boys with gadgets of instant gratification (cell phones, internet, video games) and have been fed a steady diet of fast foods. I believe there is little to no understanding of the purpose of delaying gratification. I have observed this to be true with the millennials work ethic in particular. Many young men are suffering from a severe case of entitlement. Lest we forget, God created man from the dirt (Genesis 2:7). He was meant from the very beginning to toil and work in God’s garden whereas women were created out of relationship (Genesis 2:21-23). Men are called to duty and labor for the common good. How does a man come to learn these things? He must be taught them.
So the question that some men will say when approached about getting involved in men’s ministry: “why do I need other men in my life?” is really a product of men failing to build value in brotherhood, mentoring and rites of passage. Fathers have a very unique ability to pass these timeless and formative values onto their children provided they are demonstrating the importance of such in their own lives. But if men see no value in having other men in their life, then it is no wonder that the great Proverb 27:17 speaks so silently into their hearts. However, God’s words remain true whether rejected or embraced. We must continually strive to help men see the importance of men sharpening other men. We must join men’s groups. We must walk-the-walk each day of our lives as fathers, husbands, brothers and sons of the Most High God. If we do that, we become, as Ghandi said, the change that we want to see in the world. And perhaps, by the end of our earthly walk, we will see, perhaps just a glimmer, of the restoration of men in society.