The Incredible Disappearing Man

An Essay By Gary // 3/20/2006

The Incredible Disappearing Man

There is a scene in the quite hilarious movie “Secondhand Lions” that, I think, speaks volumes. The coming of age film about a fatherless boy living with his eccentric uncles has many zany situations (fishing with shotguns, ninety-year-old men flying an airplane under a highway overpass etc.). However, it also contains some scenes that have a lot of meat. One scene that pertains directly to the subject goes like this…About five boisterous young men enter a bar where a tough-as-nails war vet is having a drink. One of the extravagant teenagers, preoccupied with his “coolness”, starts annoying the old man. Soon a fight breaks out. The immature teens get thrashed by the old fellow. Then the substance starts appearing. The old man complains about the youths’ upbringing, takes them to his house, helps them with their injuries, feeds them, and then gives them his “what every boy needs to know about being a man” speech. Basically, he spanks the disrespectful kids, shows them manly compassion, then tells them how to be the men they were trying to be, but didn’t know how to.

This is one of the problems plaguing America…young men don’t know what men are… they don’t have any clue! The icons presented to us as manhood are so very often askew. There are the rappers and singers who talk about women like dogs, movie characters that are selfish, lustful, and prideful, and athletes who put their jobs in front of everything, including the law. That’s why I love “Secondhand Lions” so much. It gives one a brief glimpse of a more virtuous manhood. It’s also extremely hilarious (another good thing about it).

A boy isn’t suddenly transformed into a man when he gets his license or graduates high school. The sad truth is that real manhood never spontaneously happens to anyone. Virtuous masculinity has to be achieved. Many adult males have never achieved it. Even some eighty-year-olds have never reached its’ fullness… So what is the it? What is true manhood?

We are offered many examples, but most don’t suffice. Is it the rough hero who blasts through countless adversaries, and who forgets about sanctity, even life’s own? Is it the coward who shies away from war and lets the unrighteous take control? Is it the man who allows his passions to control him? Or is it the man who, though composed, lacks the courage to sacrifice? No, no, no and no! A true man is virtuous, strong, disciplined, selfless, courageous and most of all loving.

That’s what we have lost. Men of this generation tend to take it to extremes. People need to understand that manhood is not barbaric, but it’s not cowardly. That it is not a bully but it’s not a wimp. Manhood isn’t brute strength, neither is it frail. It is strong enough to make itself weak, and humble enough to acknowledge authority.

One way to look at manhood is through womanhood. Man and woman are intrinsically different, and thus the relationship between them can offer some profound insights into our souls. The book “Wild at Heart” talks about this ingrained knowledge young boys and girls have - this essential understanding of a story that is somehow infused in their beings. It is the story of the princess kept high in a tower unable to escape, and lo’ and behold the prince comes. He fights the evil dragon, rescues her, and they find true love! Pure little kids understand and know this story…especially little girls. It speaks to their little hearts, hearts that will someday take part in that same story. The prince in the story knows the danger; he knows he could die for his princess. However, he loves her more than himself and is willing to sacrifice. Hmm...There’s the key to manhood! Selflessness. Selflessness and sacrificial love.

I was at a sweet sixteen party, and I saw a beautiful girl sitting down with her hands on her lap. She looked so upset. I barely knew her, but I knew she was sad. I don’t think she had danced with anyone all night…There it was, the little princess and prince story…I downed my fruit punch like a shot of whiskey (subconsciously copying those “masculine” movie icons), and strutted over to my princess. Though, I personally don’t look very princely, she took the invitation. I had never felt so manly in my whole life. She was absolutely beaming with happiness as we sailed (bumping into other dancers) across the floor. Then, of course, a wise cracker came along and ruined the “moment”. Argh.

Why is this story so natural to us? Is it so important? Many in our culture, which is so dehydrated of morals, hate and reject it as a stereotype of sexism…but it’s not! It’s just something that we know is good! I’m not saying that women always need to be saved. You need to look deeper.

People in our culture tend to think that for something to be equal it must be the same. So many people think that for equality between men and women to be full the two have to be the same. What a lie! Our equality is in our difference, and that’s the beauty of it. Through masculinity we know femininity, and through the feminine we know the masculine. The pure relationship between man and woman is one of the greatest treasures of humanity, and it like so many other treasures has almost disappeared. Very often one’s manhood can be measured by his love and respect for women. Likewise, one of the determining factors that separate men from boys is their relationship with women. There is this core longing for a man to help a woman achieve happiness selflessly, and I think women probably have a similar longing. Yet, our culture has perverted that basic longing.

Here we find one of the biggest problems in our culture. It is impurity… Impurity is lack of respect for the other sex, our own sex, and we ourselves. It stems from not being able to control our passions. The scary thing is that it not only harms other people, but us, at our very core. We suddenly become incapable of true love, and become saturated with lust. Our relationships with others are corrupted. Young men, by not practicing chastity, not being pure, and not avoiding bad media, can become emasculated. The ability to become true men is torn from them. The wounds can be healed, but they are hard to overcome. The clincher is that the media tells us to be impure. They tell us how not to be men, and how not to be women.

Often the only glimpses of authentic manhood we get are those that come from extreme circumstances…war, persecution, and pain…On September 11th real men took a stand, firefighters, police officers, and emergency workers, sacrificing themselves for the love of their fellow humans. At war time the same love tends to appear, that profound sacrificial love that defines us. The sad part is that it takes those extreme circumstances for us to act in such ways. That same sacrificial nature should pervade our thinking constantly.

Here comes one of the biggest wounds manhood has taken. It is wounded by selfishness. It is so deprived of that essential selflessness, but not completely - thank God. Men often are selfish in every aspect of their lives, even marriage. The communal love between man and woman is supposed to be a constant giving one. A man at the time of his marriage is so supposed to be offering his life sacrificially for his bride. However, so many of us tend to turn love inwardly…making it a selfish distortion of what love truly is. If love is not understood, manhood cannot be…it’s impossible.

The Bible says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ so loved the church. What did Jesus do for the church? Laid down His life willingly for her…He sweat blood, was beaten, whipped, scourged, nailed to a cross, and hung from that cross for three hours until He died. Now, even if you’re not a Christian, how awesome would it be if every man loved his wife enough to die for her! Not to mention all the other tortures Jesus endured. Marriage would be saved from so much pain. It’s so sad to think that in most marriages torn by divorce men are to blame, when they should be willing to die for their wives! What a meditation on manhood! If only we loved enough.

I have been blessed enough to have a father in my life, and many other great father figures. However I have found one truly perfect example. He upholds sanctity and virtue, is courageous and self sacrificing, has complete control over His every thought, is composed, and strong. For me, and many others, I find true manhood in the person of Jesus Christ. Whether or not you believe in Him religiously, His actions, especially those at the time of His death, truly exemplify manhood. Manhood’s real nature is one of love, a love willing to sacrifice anything and everything. He loved outwardly, offering Himself constantly to those He loved. He was completely humble, untainted by pride and arrogance. A selfless, loving, sacrificial man is a real man. Jesus Christ was a true man…and was also God, but that’s another topic.


Astoundingly profound

This is the best piece of material I have read in a long time concerning the nature of men. Really, you ought to do seminars at churches. Or talk to husbands or men who are engaged or desire to be married. My hat's off to you sir.

Anonymous | Sun, 09/16/2007

Thank you.

I have a young son, and after reading this, I realize I have got to make some changes... It takes more than I ever understood to bring up a REAL man in this world. You are brilliantly blessed, and to have such wisdom at such an early age, is clearly evidence that God is merciful. If there is but one who understands, then there is hope for the future of mankind.

Anonymous | Sun, 09/16/2007

Thank you very much! I'm

Thank you very much! I'm glad you liked it...All I can say is that God blessed me with many true men in my life to guide me, and many true women to inspire me. Thanks be to God for His Grace! And may He bless you and your son!

Gary | Fri, 10/26/2007

I am considering it, God

I am considering it, God willing it will bear fruit. I'm glad you liked the piece!

Gary | Fri, 10/26/2007


Gary, thank you for this piece of work. Your ideals are very good ones. It's really great!
I've seen Second Hand Lions, which I thought was a fun movie. And the scene you mentioned was probably my favorite part. :D Now if only the language were a little better...

"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa

Brianna | Sat, 10/27/2007

"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa


It's just as good as your talk!

Deus Regnat!

Lucia | Sun, 12/02/2007

Scio, diligo, servo Deum.

jesus ,to my knowledge

jesus ,to my knowledge NEVER asked/required a church.He asked that we love our father and our fellow man.I believe he was right.There is NO wrong faith,only wrong men.

Anonymous | Sat, 03/22/2008


I love Wild at Heart--and the companion book Captivating--your essay gets right to the point!
The Word is alive/and it cuts like a sword through the darkness
With a message of life to the hopeless/and afraid...

~"The Word is Alive' by Casting Crowns

May my words be a light that guides others to the True Light and Word.

Julie | Tue, 05/19/2009

Formerly Kestrel

I think you have some good

I think you have some good points - however, while you say, "Many in our culture, which is so dehydrated of morals, hate and reject it as a stereotype of sexism…but it’s not" you go on to say, "On September 11th real men took a stand, firefighters, police officers, and emergency workers, sacrificing themselves for the love of their fellow humans."

What about the women emergency workers and firefighters who died? Granted, they are in the minority; more men than women pursue that type of profession. But in identifying this type of heroism as true manhood, you label as masculine traits which can be found in both genders, and indeed are admirable in both, and you completely disregard the women who sacrificed just as much as those men.

If you have a few minutes, you might take a look at this article:

It provides a sad and striking glimpse of some men who don't live up to the ideal of manhood, but also of how perceptions of gender roles and abilities can lead to a lot of difficulties and pain.

This type of thing, I suspect, exemplifies the reason why many people regard the princess/prince fairy tale you've mentioned as a sexist stereotype. Now personally, I think they take things too far the other direction. I think there is value in the story, and that men and women can be equal without being the same. However, I don't think that this means they should not be allowed to do the same jobs, pursue the same interests, etc - if they so wish. If a man plays the part of a prince and rescues his princess from the tower - good for them! It is a romantic and wonderful ideal and there is much good in it. If the story turns out more like "Willow," with the two of them fighting back-to-back, that is not a bad thing either. Occasionally the roles will reverse and the woman will pull the man out of some mess. We see that in fairy tales as well sometimes. We even see a strong example of it in "The Faery Queen" (Spenser), written in the 1590's. So while the prince/princess fairy tale does speak to many of us, it is not necessarily our only desire or ideal.

The idea of manhood, of what it means to be a man, is indeed degraded and broken in this age, and I fully support your efforts to restore it. But what is it to be a woman? Much as we sometimes enjoy the princess in the tower story, there are those among us who are also aspire to many of the traits you label as defining "manhood." Read your final paragraph. While I would agree that what you've stated does go towards defining the ideal man, I would go farther and say that it also applies to defining the ideal person, regardless of gender.

Anonymous | Tue, 07/07/2009

To Anonymous#1

Thanks for interacting.  However, since logic is true and non-negotiable, you need to seriously analyze your statement about there being no wrong faith.  It sounds nice, and most people believe it, but it can't be true.  For example, Jesus is either really  God, or he's not, regardless of opinions.  Therefore, since some religions say he is, and some say he's not, some of them consequently must be wrong, either way.  Also, Jesus' words are recorded in the Bible, which has quite a lot to say about the church.  Just some food for thought.

James | Tue, 07/07/2009

"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

A fantastic synopsis!

Fantastic synopsis!

This should be taught, demonstrated, and reinforced to every young boy in the country (and showing it to some of the older boys couldn’t hurt).

Fortunately, our society is suffering the consequences of belittling masculinity. Our constant attempts to make all men and women equal under the definition of “sameness” has brought our marriage institution to the brink, caused our schools to be warzones, and robbed our society of truly strong, willful, determined, courageous men.

Is it any wonder today why more women declare they are depressed?

What woman wouldn’t be depressed if every man in her life was a skinny, effeminate, GQ boy?

Thank you very much for writing this article.


Anonymous | Tue, 01/19/2010


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