What makes a man?

”Man up!”

“Man of the house.”

“Man of the year.”

“Separate the men from the boys.”

What makes a man?

It’s certainly not power and influence. The longer the Weinstein scandal continues, the more names added to the list of abused and abuser, the more we see that it is not status that makes a man.

Nor is it money. I see many rich men who show nothing that I would wish to aspire to. We live in a culture that idolises the ability to buy things, but that demonstrates about as much self-control as a toddler in a toy shop. Being able to buy your own toys doesn’t make you a man.

Is it your physical strength? Does a 100kg bench press make a man? Should you be a fighter? Yet many great athletes cheat. They become insecure in their success and try to supplement it or enhance it to keep themselves ahead of the competition.

So what separates the men from the boys?

Here’s my suggestion.


Courage has such an impact on people’s view of masculinity. There are such contrasting views on it. Does courage mean to charge headlong in to battle? Does it mean to bide one’s time? Perhaps the most courageous thing is to give up something of one’s self.

I wish more influential men had the courage to hear a woman say ‘no’ and not have it force them to over compensate.

I wish more powerful men had the courage to count to 10 before posting on twitter; to consider their character limits before using up their character limits.

I wish more rich men had the courage to be content with what they have and to put others first. Do you really need another gadget when there are those in the world have so little.

I wish more strong men had the self-control lift others up rather than knock them down; to control their rage and aggression to fight injustice rather than let it spill into the streets.

I wish more men had the courage to speak up and talk about how they are feeling.

Stormzy is a self-professed big man with a beard. That doesn’t make him a man. He’s no one’s back up dancer. That doesn’t make him a man.

He talks openly about his depression and his struggles. That’s a real man. The courage to speak publicly about self-esteem, family, faith, and brokenness is the strength of true manliness. Risking your rep by talking about your weakness in a music scene full of ‘men’ rapping about power, money, strength, and girls – that’s a real man.

Of course you don’t need to be a man to show courage. It’s not an exclusively masculine trait. Stormzy makes plenty of reference to his mum and her courage in raising him. The world is full of amazing women and girls who show their courage and resilience in fighting stereotypes, oppression, and injustice.

Men need to seek to match that courage if the world is finally going to become fairer for everyone.

Stormzy also gives a nod to another real man in many of his songs, a man who demonstrates even greater courage, giving his power, authority, and ultimately himself for the benefit of others. As we near Christmas we get ready to celebrate the birth of a king who became poor. A man who had the strength to move the seas but became a baby. Jesus is the perfect example of what a man should be. He gets angry, for the right reasons. He shares the best of what he has. His influence challenges those who would cast down the weak.

That’s what separates the men from the boys.

Unfortunately I fear that for as long as we continue to separate them we will have more boys than men.

Maybe we also need the courage to not be separated but instead to be role models.

Just like Stormzy.

Just like Jesus.


Luke is a south Londoner who lives in south Bucks with his family. He works for a church.
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