What does authentic manhood actually look like? It’s common for guys (myself included) to find themselves chasing the “manhood mirages” of fame, sexual conquests, or financial riches, in a desperate attempt to prove their “manhood status” to others. These things are often pursued out of insecurity and -even if achieved- reveal themselves to be empty shells.
Without a clear example of authentic manhood we can fall into an identity crisis. I remember myself and my friends being led astray by the pop culture definition of manhood. I used to be extremely insecure and desperate to “prove my manhood” to others -especially to those men who supposedly fit Playboy’s definition of manhood-. Throughout my teenage years I tried to portray myself to others as the manly football player(I was the kicker…but hey I was also the 5th string wide receiver. So if 4 other people got hurt the coach knew who to call) I also played up the fact that I was the captain of the high school hockey team who set a record for the most penalty minutes in school history. I emphasized these activities while attempting to hide the fact that I joined the choir and was a member of the Boy Scouts because my friend -the culture- told me those activities were not “manly”. But I remember a teenage moment that unveiled the beauty of authentic manhood to me.
When I was a sophomore in high school I went over my friend’s house one weekend night. This particular friend was a positive influence on me. He came from a devout catholic family and had many siblings. His parents even owned a Jesus van (A twelve passenger van, the type of vehicle Jesus would have owned to drive the twelve disciples around). Because of my friend’s many siblings, there were often many different people over his house. During the night my friend and I noticed a cute girl in his backyard, so we approached her to talk. As the conversation unfolded, the girl shared the fact that she was in a relationship with a guy who was pressuring her to give her virginity to him.
Upon hearing this girl’s startling confession, I realized I had two options. I could put my tail between my legs and walk away without saying anything or I could risk the ridicule and defend this girl’s dignity. So I chose action instead of passivity. My friend and I tore into that guy by telling the girl what a scumbag he was. He didn’t love her he was just using and manipulating her! The girl’s face was literally beaming with joy in response to the fact that a guy would actually stand up for her dignity.
That was a moment in my life when I realized a key component of authentic manhood. Protecting. One essential characteristic of an authentic man is that he recognizes the value of woman and protects her. St. John Paul II said, “God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.” Men have to protect women’s dignity because every girl is someone’s daughter, sister, wife, or future wife. I had no clue that I would meet that same girl from my friend’s backyard later in my life. I met her 9 years later on the altar. I was protecting my future wife that night!
I saw a sign on a worksite that said, “Think. The life you save may be your own.” I changed that sign for the guys to say “Protect. The wife you save may be your own.” Men are hardwired to protect others, but we often fall short. Nothing can emasculate a man quite like passivity can. Do not be passive men! Adam was passive when he let Eve eat the forbidden fruit. Jesus Christ -who is the new Adam- resisted passivity all the way to the cross.
Now before you paint me out to be a saint, let me tell you the rest of the story. Defending a woman from being disrespected by another man turned out to be the easy part. The most difficult person to protect my wife from was myself. Because of our fallen nature we have an inclination toward sin. It’s easy for men to forget about himself as a potential user, but we should ensure that we be the first person we protect the woman from.
Men, what do you do when someone fails to recognize the value and dignity of a woman? Are you passive or active? Every girl, whether she is physically present or an image on a computer screen is our sister in Christ. She has tremendous value whether she realizes it or not. Are you an authentic man that protects?
 Pope John Paul II General Audience of Wednesday, 24 November 1982