Boys Will Be Men. But What Kind of Men?

Rapper Kanye West speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House with President Donald Trump, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Washington.

By Eric Metaxas Published on October 25, 2018

Remember when Kanye West was in the Oval Office a hundred news cycles ago? I haven’t forgotten it. His comments really got me thinking about how our culture has tragically confused the issue of manhood. And that got me thinking about a turning point in my life thirty years ago.

I was just out of college, living in a crummy rented room outside Boston when I got a letter from my father, addressing an unpleasant disagreement I’d had with my mother. At some point in his fatherly peace-making effort he wrote the sentence: “You are a good man.” In my mind I can still see the sentence, in the distinctive handwriting of my Greek immigrant father. Because he was himself such a profoundly good man, his words struck me with surprising force, and I was instantly choked up.

Epidemic of Fatherlessness

I didn’t really think of myself as a “man” at the time. In the mid-80s, the PC culture at places like Yale, from which I had recently graduated, had already cast “manliness” as a pejorative. To aspire to “be a man” — or a “good man” or a “gentleman” — was to brazenly resist the frog-march lockstep of that time and place, and few did. But my father’s words did an easy end run around my cultural indoctrination and I awoke as from a trance.

Though I didn’t understand it, I see now that I had just received what amounted to my father’s blessing. It was as if he had said those words with his dying breath. He had given me something incalculable, something that would carry me through innumerable difficulties over the decades.

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So when I heard Kanye’s comments in the White House, I remembered my father’s words. Kanye spoke for millions when he said, “You know, my dad and my mom separated, so I didn’t have a lot of male energy in my home.” The growing deficit of fathers is an American tragedy, but as the painful statistics show, it is particularly so for young black men. Is it, then, so surprising that Kanye might long for a father figure, or that he might see one in the Alpha male that is our president?

But Kanye’s next sentence pointed to something more. “And also,” he said, “I’m married to a family that, you know [laughs] … not a lot of male energy going on.” And right there, for any who caught it, was the queasy-making maraschino atop it all, the reminder that the step-parent-in-law of Mr. West had once been the superman decathlete hero of numberless boyhood sports fantasies — now remade as a self-proclaimed woman. It was such a bizarre fillip that many missed it, or chose to ignore it.

Unapologetically Male

The recent attempts to deconstruct and banish that most fundamental of all categories, male and female, is a vital piece of the fascinating cultural puzzle at issue. For most Americans, it is a preposterous sideshow they will take seriously the moment a rooster lays an egg. Still, for men longing to become the men they were created to be, it is a very serious matter. The media’s fawning approval of all things LGBTQ and #metoo deliberately ignores the honest questions of these men, as though they might simply be glowered into silence. We have often said that boys will be boys, but we cannot forget that in the end, boys will be men. That is the real issue, and what kind of men is the real question.

Might wildness, and unshirted manliness too, have another side — a non-toxic one that we have erred in forgetting, in failing to accept and celebrate?

We cannot will away such concerns by cultural fiat or premature legislation. They will come back to haunt us and are already doing so in countless ways. We might recall the lesson of H.G. Wells’ eerily prophetic The Island of Doctor Moreau to see that mere scalpels cannot overcome the deep nature of things as they are.

And so it is out of this deepest of fissures in the cultural rock — as though called forth by the father-hunger of millions like Mr. West — that there has emerged something like a caveman, a figure so unapologetically male that through our smudged cultural filters he appears to many impossibly vulgar and offensive. Even worse, he seems quite unconscious of this. He is strangely — almost bizarrely — untouched by the new cultural rules. He is a throwback, often wielding a club of harsh words. But in a culture bleached of such red-blooded manliness, his appearance is as refreshing to some as when a pageant beauty appeared with Bob Hope on the deck of a battleship. Many throw their hats in the air and cheer.

What Men Need

Some of us may remember when the children in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books ask whether the fearsome lion Aslan is tame. “He is not tame,” they are told. “But he is good.” Might wildness then, and unshirted manliness too, have another side — Donald Drains The Swampa non-toxic one that we have erred in forgetting, in failing to accept and celebrate? Might not young men without fathers long for this? Those who adore our mothers know that even the best mother in the world can never be a father.

So what if this president in his retro caveman wildness has somehow made it okay for some men in America to do what they are told they must not — be men. Kanye’s touching vulnerability on this subject touched the hearts of millions who have longed for this. For many, the moment struck a nerve that can somehow never again be unstruck.

But how the cultural mandarins whinnied and reared and goggled their eyes! What of it? Geldings are neither wild enough nor strong enough to drag us from the eternal truths within us, that in order to become men, men need the affirmation of other men. And especially of father figures, wherever they might be found — including, if necessary, in the Oval Office.

My own father’s words thirty years ago changed me forever. They did not say “I love you,” as much as “I respect you.” That manliest of all affirmations is what puts tears in men’s eyes — and puts steel in their spines and courage in their hearts. And no, it is not too much to say that it sometimes makes them feel like Superman.


Eric Metaxas is the author of Donald Drains the Swamp (A Donald the Cavemanbook) and 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness.

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  • Karen

    Ah, yes, the old lie that women need love but not respect, as though love is possible without respect. Look, there is nothing special at all about having a particular set of genitals. You want respect? Do something to earn it. Don’t whine about how no one grovels to you because you happen to have a Y chromosome and androgen receptors. The parts of us that are human — our intellect and our creativity — are in the mind and not the groin. Use them.

    • John A.

      It’s amazing to me how some people have bought into the lie that biology is not important in defining who we are. You can’t separate parts of yourself from the rest and have anything that makes sense or operates as designed. Yes, we are designed. Whether you like it or not, biology is one of the differentiators between the two options… male and female. One is not better or worse than the other, but to deny the differences is to deny reality and truth. That road leads to bitterness and ultimately an unfulfilled life.

      • Karen

        If being female is not worse than being male, why in your world are women assigned only crap jobs, cooking and cleaning? Why do men get to make all the important decisions?

        • Kathy

          How about the typical male responsibilities like mowing lawns, cleaning gutters, taking out the trash, etc? How about the jobs like sanitation workers, janitors, septic tank pumpers, road pavers, etc? I don’t see many, if any, women in those jobs.

    • Euromoto

      You miss the point and, at the same time, make the point that he’s driving at.

    • Paul

      I don’t know what article you’re reading but it sure wasn’t this one.

    • Bryan

      I think you’ve added your own experience to Mr. Metaxas’ article. You are correct: Love and respect are intertwined especially in relationships between men and women. Women tend to need love in order to feel respect while men tend to need respect in order to feel love. (Note as example Mr. Metaxas’s last paragraph.) In a good situation, both man and woman are fulfilled by each other as they fulfill each other. This is very often not the case in relationships between man and woman. Sometimes it is by mutual understanding, certainly. Sometimes it’s by careless or ignorant wounding on, occasionally, one, but usually, both sides.
      “Look, there is nothing special at all about having a particular set of genitals.”
      Male or female have no more worth than the other. Again that is correct. Yet they are different beyond their physical appearance. Acknowledging this is becoming political or cultural heresy as gender-fluid concepts continue to advance. A man should not demand or be given respect for simply breathing. While a basic level of respect for any human is certainly warranted, whether male or female, respect, as you say, is earned. However, in the same way, disrespect should be earned as well.
      “The parts of us that are human — our intellect and our creativity — are in the mind…”
      Yet even in our intellect and creativity we can be distinctly male or female. There is certainly a human way of thinking, creating, interacting, etc. And within that, there are male and female ways that are distinct from each other. No one way is more right or wrong in general, though in specific contexts, one way may yield better results over another. As a personal example, there are times when my wife can understand our daughters when I’m completely baffled by a situation. There are other times when our daughters will bring a problem or concern to me and my way of handling it is different than how my wife would have handled it. But both scenarios produce similar results.

      • Karen

        So, do you think women’s intelligence contributes to anything but the gooey ‘relationship’ crap? Do you respect your wife and daughters for their ability to solve other kinds of problems?

        • Bryan

          Relational intelligence is a big plus certainly. But my respect for my wife goes beyond her ability to understand our daughters. She has more education than I do, for one. She has a job that does not pay what she’s worth but it allows her to be close to our daughters, which was more important to her. That will probably change in the next 10 months and she may choose to get on a track toward her career goals now that she’s laid a foundation for herself. At the same time, if it was feasible financially, she’d prefer to homeschool our children. Unfortunately it’s not for a variety of reasons. But if that changes she’d stay home in a heartbeat (her words not mine).
          Do I expect her to solve our financial issues? No, but I value her input and we usually follow it when we’ve talked through the situation. Do I expect her to solve problems with the cars, or maintenance at our house? For the most part, no. Those things tend to interest her if they go wrong but not before. So I try to keep them from going wrong in the first place.
          We are certainly not perfect. And both of us can be strong-headed at times. I’m trying to work through anger issues I’ve let develop in my life so that we can work through problems and not each other. She’s working through trauma’s in her life as well. And that’s another reason I respect her: She has worked through a lot from her past and she is continuing to do so. She hasn’t given up and she keeps struggling through even when it’s hard.
          What makes “gooey ‘relationship'” stuff crap anyway? The relational part of us is just as important as the technical or analytical part. And whether it leads to high dollar opportunities or not, its value is not solely derived from money or power.

          • Karen

            Seriously, good for both of you. You have described an egalitarian marriage. Why do you need to make such a big deal out of sex differences?

          • Bryan

            There are differences so make it seem as though there aren’t isn’t helpful.
            Additionally, you tend to label every conservative male that you think you disagree with as a horrible, chauvinistic person. I’m trying to show you some of us (probably most of us) are not.

    • Faith

      You proved one point he made anyway; there is no pleasing feminists. My own point is that feminists are just plain nasty as you proved yourself to be. And please point out one instance where Mr Metaxas “whines about how no one grovels” to him. No? What a surprise.

      Mr Metaxas, there are many mothers of fatherless sons who know well the truth you speak.

    • Kelly B

      Thank you for proving the author’s point – leftist women are bitter hags who will die alone and be eaten by their 14 cats because nobody will know or care that they are dead.

      • Karen

        I’m actually married, for 31 years, with two kids, but being alone with cats would be immensely preferable to having to lick the boots of a conservative man every day. Conservative men all believe that they deserve to be worshipped simply by existing in male bodies.

        • Kelly B

          Yes. Conservative men all believe that they deserve to be worshipped simply by existing in male bodies. Right. *rolling my eyes so far back into my head I can see behind me*

          Hope you enjoy that leftist kool-aide, it’s pure poison and kills your brain.

          You are blocked.

          • Chip Crawford

            What we have here is a serially lazy, resentful person, who curses not being born rich enough to hire everything done, considering herself much too good to serve those ingrates in her household who dare to burden her with their humanity like needing to eat, have clean clothes and the rest. A pox on the system that requires someone as superior as herself to have to stoop to such tasks as these inferior women she despises – while actually despising every living, breathing human being, actually.

          • Kelly B

            Amen brother – I couldn’t have stated it any better – I feel bad for her family. She insisted that, because I was married to a conservative man, I therefore must be a doormat and he thinks he is God’s gift. NOTHING could be further from the truth – but truth is anathema to Marxists.

            She reminds me of an article on Townhall from a couple weeks ago about a similar woman who wrote a NYT article about how she screamed at her husband the previous day, and how even after he bowed down before her in humility she insisted that he, like all (presumably white) men, would NEVER change.

            Feminist women, like the rest of the World that is blinded and used by the enemy, HATE God’s design (as well as His Word, His Son, His People, ad infinitum), particularly with respect to His design for marriage with the husband being the head of the household. They could not possibly believe that God’s plan is ALWAYS best, just as the serpent who persuaded Eve that God was just a killjoy.

  • Kepi

    Back in the 1990s, the Promise Keepers group held a big rally in DC. The group’s stated goal was to make men better dads and husbands. Liberal women had only bad things to say about the rally. You really cannot win with feminists.

    • Kelly B

      My husband attended that rally, on a rainy and overcast day, all day long – until it was time for the alter call, the clouds parted and a huge beam of sunlight shone down JUST on the crowd of men at the alter to accept Christ as their savior. I wish I could have been there!

      • Karen

        Would you mind explaining to me why you like never making any decisions about your life? What is the appeal of being on the bottom in that hierarchy?

    • Karen

      Their definition of being ‘better husbands and fathers’ was “become the unquestioned leader of their families,” which also means taking all the decision-making power away from their wives. I am never going to accept being ordered back to the kitchen as an improvement in marriage.

      • Ben Welliver

        You needn’t worry about a man wanting you.

        • Karen

          I have been married since 1987, not that it’s even remotely relevant. I notice that none of you ever answer my questions. Promise Keepers was about making men “leaders” in their families and taking the ability to make decisions away from their wives. That looks like tyranny to me. I cannot imagine living with someone who thinks he’s my boss or that I am a weakling. How do you do that?

          • Chip Crawford

            Since your head is obviously screwed on backwards, that’s pretty much the way things look to you. So noted.

          • Bryan

            Chip, completely out of line

          • Chip Crawford

            You’re right; I forgot about the kids. Here’s big mama thundering around with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, dribbling ashes on her front, muttering resentments about needed housework, bawling out orders to the kids loud enough to be taken down by the kids down the street.

          • Bryan

            You’re proving her point, not yours.

  • Adrian B. Dean

    A great article and one that reminds me how lucky I have been to have had a Dad that was around. One who spent time illustrating Proverbs to me and my brother. One who taught me how to change the oil in my car. One who continues to teach me to this day.

  • chuckkoala

    Do you have a “Compete Works” available?

  • Lisa

    Wow. Such good writing and observations. What Eric Mataxis wrote about Kanye and President Trump and how men need affirmation from other men in order to become men. I’ve been thinking it was Trump’s alpha male qualities that attracted men, but maybe also he’s a father figure for some.

  • chrissymann

    What an insightful article, Eric! Rush Limbaugh had posed a question regarding Kanye’s visit with President Trump in the Oval Office. I sent an email to Rush saying that Kanye was looking for is a strong father figure and I believe that he had found it in Donald Trump. Donald epitomizes a godly, righteous man full of faith and confidence in his God. A man who is strong, bold, resolute, protective, and passionate in his beliefs. Our culture has become hexed by the spirit of Jezebel as it has brought forth abortion on demand and rallies to be dominant above all, screaming and plundering against everything that is holy and pure, dominating anything that is remotely male and all that it represents as God has created it to be from the beginning.

    • Karen

      In what universe do you live where a serial adulterer who’s on his 3rd wife — who, by the way, admits she married him only for his money — and who cheated on that one with a porn star, who calls for his myrmidons to attack his political opponents (why is he still leading “lock her up” chants two years after the election) and who lies hourly in any way shape or form “Godly?” Do you worship Beelzebub in that universe?

      I’m serious. I look at Trump and see the worst human I have every laid eyes on. He has no redeeming qualities — he has terrible taste, he’s physically ugly, he has a grating voice, he can’t speak a complete sentence, he has no policies that aren’t catastrophic, he manages to make $5,000 suits look like he slept in them — please, tell me what you see in him? Everything that I hold dear and value from nature to art to politeness to expertise to good food, Trump and his zombies hate. I really cannot live in your world. Tell me what you see in him?

      • Trump is America’s Last Chance to be saved from socialist serfdom!

        • Karen

          Actually, he’s America’s first chance to be ruled by a vicious, fascist dictator, but you do you.

  • Alan

    Karen, God created male and female. That doesn’t make one better, superior, or more important than the other, except, when it comes to rearing children. Then, all the data verifies the indespensibility of both, just as God planned. We are wired different to perform different roles. Those roles can be distorted and misused if God is left out. Again, that is God’s plan and we are prone by our sinful nature to exert power over others for selfish gain.
    Your comments clearly reflect either painful reflections of past and/or current relationships, or a wholesale acceptance of victim feminist status. God can help you find peace.

    • Karen

      Great. The problem is that the male role has all the power to make decisions and the female role is to mindlessly and passively suffer whatever the man wants to do. If that isn’t true, then why do you make such a big deal out of distinctions without differences? Either their is a hierarchy in marriage — and women are on the bottom of it — or there isn’t. You cannot say that men should be leaders unless you think they can force women to follow.

      • Bryan

        “You cannot say that men should be leaders unless you think they can force women to follow.”
        You’ve described a dictator. A leader influences those who follow because they want to get where the leader is going. A true leader inspires; they do not demand.

      • Alan

        Karen, oh Karen, I know you are enjoying this so much. No doubt this is cathartic for you, and, even opposition attention is better than none at all. God bless you, and He really wishes to.

      • Andrew Mason

        If saying men should be leaders means women should be forced to follow then what does it mean to describe Jesus as a leader? Can you explain, or accept, the notion of servant leadership? And what of Scripture’s position that men, whether they like it or not, are obligated to be head of the household? I’m curious how you reconcile things, or whether you simply reject anything that doesn’t suit you.

  • Kelly B

    Karen is perpetuating the stereotype of the shrill harpy leftist woman. But it is not her flesh and blood fighting God’s ways, it’s the enemy, using her mind and mouth every bit as much as a ventriloquist and his dummy. I pray that she repents and turns toward God, lest when she leaves this world she is doomed to an eternity of wailing and gnashing her teeth in regret of allowing herself to be used in this way. It is never too late.

    • Karen

      Oh, please find a hobby. If God demands that I be a doormat like conservative women, I’ll stick with cats and wailing.

      • Andrew Mason

        Do you actually know any conservative women, or are you referring to imaginary ones? Those I know have strong personalities – one in fact far far stronger than my own!

  • Maggie Downing

    In this mystifying era of gender dysphoria and “toxic masculinity” – whatever that is – how thrilled I was, Eric, that you took the time to so lovingly come to Kanye’s defense. Popular culture is not usually on my radar screen. Before Kanye’s Oval Office debut his only other “loose cannon” event that stood out for me was his Grammy diss of Taylor Swift. So it was with great amusement and delight I witnessed his tour de force rant in the Oval. Violating all the rules of comportment in his moment-in-the-sun power-to-the-people touchdown run. Though near enough to resolutely pound the Resolute Desk, there apparently remained too much distance between himself and the self-proclaimed source of his male energy. Like a rare earth magnet it tugged at his heart and drew him inexorably across a tacit no-man’s-land to deliver the bro-hug seen across the nation. Two imperfect superstars wrapped however briefly in each other’s aura. This momentary power exchange spoke volumes on so many levels but what stood out for me was the tenderness, fearlessly on display and, yes, masculine to the max. A beautiful thing to see!

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