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Be A Man! John Wayne, Johnny Football, Jordan Peterson, and Jesus of Nazareth

character manhood warren mainard
a son and father standing next to each other in conversation

Be a man.” “Man up.” “Man card.” “Man cave.” “Man-splain.It’s likely you have heard or said these and many other man-centric expressions in our world today. Manhood, however, has never been more difficult to define or describe than it is now. There was a day when being a “man’s man” like John Wayne was an agreed upon standard for masculinity. These days, the jury is split on whether John Wayne is admirable and to be emulated or toxic and to be canceled. As 90’s songstress Paula Cole once asked, “Where have all the cowboys gone?

Whatever your thoughts on John Wayne; true masculinity and manhood is about far more than leather chaps, boots and spurs, and a quick draw. Shaving with a buck knife in the woods (or growing a lumberjack beard) may seem manly, but these are simply external behaviors that distract us from getting to the heart of a man. As Chris Harper from Better Man wrote in his 'The State of Manhood Report' -

In the 1970s, it was “I don’t need a man.”

In the 1990s, it was “I don’t want a man.”

In 2024, it is “What is a man?”

This is the question of our day - “What does it mean to be a real man?

Dr. Jordan Peterson and Andrew Tate along with many other experts and influencers have seized the megaphone and filled social media and gathering halls with throngs of men desperate to find the answer.  The polarity, confidence and clarity of Peterson and Tate are attractive to many men, who are holding a hammer looking for any answers they can nail down with certainty. To be clear, this is the space that IMPACT Players has stepped into as well. IMPACT Players is all about inspiring men to be great husbands, fathers, and leaders be equipping them to thrive in the relationships that matter most. Hear this however, getting married doesn’t make you a man, neither does having children, becoming the captain of your football team, the CEO of your company, or the leader of your organization. Marriages, families, businesses, churches, and organizations need men to be men in order to thrive, but just because a male gets a female to marry him or procreate with him does not mean he is truly a man. The ability to “do something” or accomplish something is an outcome, but not the essence of manhood.

Consider the example of Johnny Manziel (AKA - Johnny Football) who mesmerized college football as a Heisman winning Quarterback for Texas A&M, only to flame out in the NFL, despite being a first-round draft pick. The Netflix documentary - 'Untold: Johnny Football' illuminates how Manziel’s charisma and other-worldly talent got him to the top, making him one of the most popular athletes in college football history. However, a major deficiency in Manziel’s character and maturity, requisites of healthy manhood, sent him on a “5-million- dollar bender;” ready to take his life with a gun to his head. Like many men today, Johnny Football was trapped in a state of self-obsessed adolescence, unable to bridge the gap between boy and man in the areas of his life which mattered the most. Johnny Manziel was the quintessential “Peter Pan” refusing to grow up, take responsibility for himself and others, and choose the discipline of virtue over the Turkish Delight of carnal masculinity. What Manziel discovered as his world came crashing down was the emptiness and insecurity he felt deep inside him was not being filled by these worldly marks of manhood, but actually growing like a deadly cancer within him. Feeding the pain with pleasure was only making him more despondent, more depressed, and more destructive to himself and others.

Sadly, Johnny Football is not alone in this familiar plotline of perpetual Peter Pan’s becoming despondent, depressed, and delinquents. Today, men are more likely than women to fall behind in school, be unemployed, abuse alcohol and drugs, end up homeless or in prison, or take their lives by committing suicide. The research and statistics on the problems with men today are astounding. Consider the research in the following four areas of life -

  1. Loneliness and Isolation: According to a study published in the American Journal of Men's Health, men are more likely than women to report feeling lonely, with 35% of men in the United States experiencing loneliness. The US Surgeon General recently declared loneliness a public health crisis. Men in particular have been identified as the loneliest segment in our culture today. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that loneliness can be as harmful to one's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

  2. Mental Health and Suicide: The American Psychological Association reports that men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues, leading to higher rates of undiagnosed depression and other mental illnesses. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, men die by suicide at a rate four times higher than women, with middle-aged men being particularly at risk. According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young men aged 15-29 globally.

  3. Education: The National Center for Education Statistics found that boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities and are less likely to graduate from high school or pursue higher education. A study published in the Journal of Education and Work highlighted the widening gender gap in higher education enrollment, with women comprising the majority of college students in many countries.

  4. Spiritual: Men are leaving the church and the church is losing men. The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female and 39% male. 70% of Men seldom, if ever, participate in any structured prayer, scripture study, or religious education group. Almost 25% of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands this Sunday. 70% of boys raised in church will leave the church during their late teens and twenties. 1 in 4 Men admitted their impassiveness in spiritually leading their families (State of Manhood).

The crisis of manhood is central to many of the issues of our day, and few people seem to recognize the problem, let alone understand the answer. What if Johnny Football had an older man in his life who could have taught him how to be a real man? What if he had an wise mentor to teach him that conquests on the battlefield, bedroom, or boardroom misguided missions for men of valor? Would Manziel still be enchanting fans with his improvisational magic in the pocket and zipping passes in the end zone for an NFL team? There is no way to know for certain, but he no doubt would be producing a healthier impact on the world around him.

In Ancient Israel, the blessing of a father to a son was one of the most treasured of all experiences. It was more than an affirmation, or the distribution of an inheritance, but a charge to carry forth the virtues and the practices of maturity from one generation to the next. Read the words of the great King David, who calls out the greatness of his son Solomon by entrusting to him the meaning, mission, and mandate of manhood in his final blessing.

Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies... that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” - 1 Kings 2:2b-3 (ESV)

Be strong, and show yourself a man...these are the words of a father to a son who is receiving the baton of responsibility for leading a nation. Every man should aspire to this charge, to understand what it means to “be strong” and show himself a man. Far too many men do not have a framework or worldview for understanding what it means to be a man, let alone a father or mentor who is intentionally passing these virtues along. One reason IMPACT Players exists is to help young men understand what it means to be a real man, and to equip older men to pass this blessing down to the next generation.

In the two-part IMPACT Cohort study The Marks of Manhood, we unpack what it means to “show yourself a man” by uncovering the ancient texts of the author of manhood and examining the lives of men who teach us valuable lessons about manhood, both from their successes and failures. Ultimately, we put a spotlight on the perfect picture of manhood and masculinity, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus Christ, a first century carpenter’s son is the blueprint for every male who aspires to be a man. Every man who goes through The Marks of Manhood will discover for himself personally the secret to experiencing what the early church father St Ireneaus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive, but the life of man is the vision of God.” A man who is “fully alive” will bring glory to God and good to the world, but no man can be fully alive without a God-given vision of manhood.  Drawn from the model of Jesus and the message of Scripture, IMPACT Players has identified 10 Characteristics of an IMPACT Player that give clarity and conviction to the mission, meaning, and marks of manhood.

The 10 Characteristics of an IMPACT Player

  1. Ferociously Faithful: We will embrace every commitment and honor every responsibility laid before us, learning to love the grind and love the process. (1 Corinthians 4:2)

  2. Intentional Leadership: We will be thermostats not thermometers, setting the temperature where we live, work, learn and play. (1 Peter 5:2-3)

  3. Relentless Pursuit: We will pursue and cherish the heart of God, our wives, children, and the people we care about. We will make the first move. (Philippians 3:14)

  4. Wholly Integrated: We will not live compartmentally, but fully integrated lives (heart, soul, mind, and body) with God, spouse, family, and others. (Mark 12:30)

  5. Courageous Conviction: We will not back down from what we believe to be true. Even if the world comes against us, we will stand and fight. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

  6. Linking Shields: We will fight together, fight for one another, and pull other men from isolation. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

  7. Audacious Authenticity: We will be so sincere and vulnerable that it obliterates masks, and pulls others out of fake living and imposter syndromes. (Ephesians 4:15)

  8. Unshakable Foundation: We will build our lives, marriages, family, and business on the solid rock that cannot be shaken. (Matthew 7:24-25)

  9. Sacrificial Love: We will lay down our lives, preferences, and desires as humble shepherds and servant kings. (Ephesians 5:25)

  10. Impact Multiplication: We will train up other men, sons, daughters, and future generations to make an impact and leave a legacy. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)  

Being an IMPACT Player is hard. It requires us to surrender our pride, push through passivity, step out of our comfort zones, and endure through struggle. Psalm 66:10 & 12 describe this process of growth… “You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver. We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance.” To be purified like silver, you must be tested. To be brought to a place of great abundance, you must go through the fire and the flood. IMPACT Players exists to help you grow and keep going, so you will discover the meaning to your mess, the significance to your suffering, the purpose for your pain, and Jesus in your journey.

How do men reclaim their true sense of self, manhood and masculinity in a world where the moral compass has reversed its polarity? Men must build their lives on timeless truth to understand the meaning of manhood, set their eyes on an unchanging North Star to follow the model of manhood, and surround themselves with a band of brothers to pursue the mission of manhood.  Inspiring men to embrace their true identity and discover their deep purpose in a brotherhood where they can be known and belong is the core mission of IMPACT Players.



Warren Mainard author photo
Warren Mainard
National Director | IMPACT Players
[email protected]
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