Masculinity has become complicated. At least, it has become difficult to be confident about what it means to be a man—to be a man as God has designed men to be. The culture has plenty to say about masculinity that is toxic, but far less to say about masculinity that is good and honoring. We hear more about women becoming men than men simply being men. And many wonder: What are men meant to be and what are men supposed to do?
Into the fray steps Brant Hansen with a wonderful new book titled The Men We Need: God’s Purpose for the Manly Man, the Avid Indoorsman, or Any Man Willing to Show Up. “This book is about a big vision for manhood,” he says. “We’ve lacked that vision, and all of us—men, women, and children—are hurting because of it. The vision is this: We men are at our best when we are ‘keepers of the garden.’ This means we are protectors and defenders and cultivators. We are at our best when we champion the weak and vulnerable. We are at our best when we use whatever strength we have to safeguard the innocent and provide a place for people to thrive. This is the job Adam was given: keeper of the garden.”
I need to say right away that this is not one of those books—those trite and cheesy books for men that focuses on a clichéd version of masculinity bound to a particular culture and a bygone century. Hansen isn’t advocating a form of masculinity that depends on swinging hammers, wrestling bears, or distributing swords. In fact, he says he’s not even capable of writing that book because “I don’t even hunt. I play the accordion. … I’m an avid indoorsman. I own puppets.”
The heart of masculinity, he says, is taking responsibility—responsibility for those things God has made men particularly responsible for. “God gave Adam the job of looking after the garden and the things within. He was to guard it, tend it, and help it flourish. He was responsible for it. I believe looking after our own ‘gardens’ remains our masculine purpose, and we all implicitly know it. Our culture is in chaos regarding what masculinity really is, so it’s dangerous to suggest there’s a distinct, wonderful thing called masculinity. … Masculinity is about taking responsibility.” Hence, true masculinity is not displayed in flexing muscles or fixing stuff or achieving sexual conquests. Rather, true masculinity is displayed in being humble, responsible, dedicated keepers of the gardens God has given us.
Once Hansen lays a foundation for masculinity, he leads readers through “Six Decisions that Will Set You Apart.” They are:
- Forsake the fake and relish the real. His focus here is rejecting pornography and video games and other fake forms of virtuous longings. “The hurting world and our hurting communities need us to solve real-world problems, protect real-world people, and fight real-world injustice. Actually, let me rephrase that a bit. The hurting world and your hurting community need you to solve real-world problems, protect real-world people, and fight real-world injustice. Please don’t waste your God-given desire for adventure and accomplishment by being a fake hero fighting fake injustices in fake worlds.”
- Protect the vulnerable. Here he says that “The people in your neighborhood, at your school, or at your workplace should be safer because you’re there. Even if they don’t know it.” This means men must be willing to protect others and must be steadfastly unwilling to become a threat to others.
- Be ambitious about the right things. “You will struggle with feeling meaningless when you choose to invest your time and energy in meaningless things,” he says. Hence, we must use our God-given ambition to pursue causes that actually matter.
- Make women and children feel safe, not threatened. Here he calls upon men to invest themselves in helping the people around them grow and thrive. “I’m trying to be this kind of man, a man who makes his wife feel secure and protected. I know my wife is every bit my equal. I know she’s highly intelligent and strong and creative and funny. I know she can survive with or without me. But it’s my goal to see her thrive and flourish. I believe in her so strongly, I’m excited about what she can yet become.”
- Choose today who you will become tomorrow. Quite simply, who we will be tomorrow is a direct result of what we pay attention to today. For this reason we must take great care when it comes to those things that earn our attention.
- Take responsibility for your own spiritual life. This final chapter is dedicated to forming a real, open, honest relationship with the Lord—a loyalty to the God who is so very loyal to us.
At a time when masculinity is viewed as a liability more than an asset, as something that is more likely to harm the world than help it, Brant Hansen describes and celebrates a form of masculinity that is good, pure, and true—a form of masculinity that will serve families, serve the church, and serve the world. He calls men to embrace it and display it in their lives. It turns out that in this time of confusion, The Men We Need is exactly the book we need.