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Masculinity and Vulnerability Are Inseparable

At my business school, every class was a Socratic debate, usually around a Harvard business case study.

Our facilitator (an experienced entrepreneur) would present the class with numerous A or B options for deciding the business’ future, and each member of the class had to take hard stand on each decision based on our analysis of the case.

Should we go after Customer X or Customer Y?

Is the current priority raising money or refining our product?

Which of the three candidates in question should your team hire?

And so on. 

However, because it was a disruptive education program designed to test and produce seasoned entrepreneurs, some of the cases we discussed were more philosophical. These were meant to expose our character and test our values.

We were doing 2-3 cases per day, so a lot of them are a blur. But I remember one particular question very well: Is it better to be warm-hearted or tough-minded?

The class was almost unanimous. 

“Warm-hearted just means weak,” were the exact words of one of my cohort.

“I agree,” said another. “One gets you somewhere, the other actually holds you back.”

“In business you have to be tough,” chimed in a third. “Being warm-hearted has nothing to do with it.”

I left that class furious. 

Of course it was a false dichotomy, like many others we’d been tossed. I didn’t care. It was an outrage to me that people could consider being heartfelt a weakness. I knew that the opposite was true. 

Masculinity is not Ruthlessness

The term “toxic masculinity” is an oxymoron. There is nothing toxic about masculinity.

The problem is that we’ve allowed unhealthy individuals (men and women) to define masculinity. We’ve stood by and watched as vicious people have imposed their will on others, and we’ve confused their heartlessness for strength.

It takes no courage to steamroll people. Bullying others is cowardice, not strength and certainly not masculinity. Anybody can harm someone else to further their own ends, and it takes no character to talk tough and act like you’re not just as insecure and breakable as everyone else.

So many “tough” guys are just insecure people who’ve accumulated women, yes-men, dollars, and deeds to their name so that they can never be challenged. Being challenged would mean risking being seen for who they really are inside. So they hide behind their cultural credentials while making life miserable for themselves and everyone else close to them.

These men are not masculine. They can never express reckless, first-mover love – the highest expression of masculinity – because they can’t let themselves be seen. This means they can’t have intimacy.

Love takes vulnerability. And vulnerability takes courage. 

Just ask the warrior king of ancient Israel.

King David: A Case Study in Masculinity

Aside from Jesus Christ himself, we have no better archetype for masculinity than King David.

A few highlights from his resume. He killed a 9 ft tall giant with hilarious ease. Before that, he beat both a lion and a bear to death. Then he singlehandedly slew hundreds of warriors as a wedding present. And he did all of this as a teenager, before being crowned king, uniting a distressed nation, and taking back its chief strategic outpost (Zion) from decades of enemy occupation. 

It doesn’t get a whole lot manlier than that. David was tough as they come.

Now, one might think that if you read this guy’s journal, you’d find a lot of stoic meditations, badass aphorisms, and insights on how to suck it up and deny yourself. 

And yet, if you read David’s Psalms, you see a very different man. It turns out that David – slayer of tens of thousands and leader of a group of literal superhuman warriors – routinely pulled his heart out of his chest and presented it naked on a platter to his God.

“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak…O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled…I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies.”  -Psalm 6:2, 6-7

Now that is not reformed theology. That is not Sunday church. That’s unrestrained, unadulterated emotional honesty. That’s intimacy with the Most High God.

“Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; For I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You! Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long.” – Psalm 86:1-3

Can you imagine your pastor or any of the men our culture celebrates humbling themselves this way, or approaching God with such boldness? This is what it is to be connected to your heart. 

David didn’t kid himself. He knew he was nothing without God. And unlike most men, he refused to deny his weakness. But he also didn’t bottle his feelings up, and he didn’t approach God with false humility or empty words. He grieved. He cried. He left it all on the field. 

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” -Psalm 42:1-3

Look how hard this guy loved. There is nothing held back in this passage. No saving face, no self-protection, no reservation. 

“Warm-hearted” doesn’t even begin to describe how David operated. His heart was big, unrestrained, and on fire in the good times and the bad.

And let me tell you something. If a fraction of men today were a fraction of the man David was, our world would be dramatically different. The giants we face today would have already been slain.

We wouldn’t have 16 million single moms. 

Porn would be dead, and so would sex trafficking. 

Any talk about masks, lockdowns, or vaccine passports would’ve been shut down 12 months ago, at the latest. 

We need to be more like David. We need what he had.

“I Never Knew You.”

In the greatest sermon of all time, Jesus shared this profound revelation:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  -Matthew 7:21-23

Notice that Jesus’ criteria has nothing to do with one’s resume (which is culture obsesses over) or with what you know (what church and academia obsess over). His criteria is whether or not he knows you.

From this passage, it seems that success in the eyes of the Son of God starts with being real with him. 

Could it be that this was the secret to David’s amazing strength? Could it be that his intimacy with God was what made him such a powerful man?

Is this why David was able to enter the Presence of God long before Jesus tore down the wall between His Spirit and mankind? And could we break even higher ground if we followed his example?

Maybe we should try it and find out.

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