JOLIET – Patience. Gentleness. Kindness.
These are just a few traits some people might not equate with traditional masculinity in our culture, according to Steve Hinkle of Joliet. But biblically, they are all fruits of the spirit and traits men and women should strive to acquire, he added.
Hinkle, who founded the former Joliet-area church Istoria in 2009, has worked with young people for more than 20 years as a youth pastor and high school teacher. He is blogging and writing a book he hopes will encourage young men who might not fit the traditional – or stereotypical – mold of masculinity.
He plans to call his book “Male Fail? The Bible, Masculinity and the Pursuit of Happy Socks,” which will explore and address issues of masculinity and gender stereotypes in both the Christian church and American culture.
“The main thing my book will talk about is what the Bible says – and doesn’t say – about masculinity, how our culture and society define gendered stereotypes, and whether there is room for boys and men who don’t seem to fit that macho mold,” Hinkle said.
Hinkle said he has felt the pressure to live up to stereotyped standards, particularly when he first read John Eldredge’s “Wild At Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul,” a popular book about masculinity and contemporary Christianity.
“All of the illustrations had to do with sports, manly-men adventure movies, outdoors and hunting,” Hinkle said. “They were things that, as a man, I didn’t enjoy. I’m more creative. I’m not athletic. Maybe I’m more wild at art.”
Lack of athleticism marked Hinkle as a young adult, too. In high school, he recalled the time when he broke his collarbone in wrestling. He cried in class, and his classmates made fun of him. The coach told him to ‘Man up,’ ” Hinkle said.
Hinkle said he knows he isn’t alone in those kinds of experiences. Many times, ideas about what men should – or shouldn’t – do are at odds with the reality of who they are.
“Male Fail?” isn’t a book against macho men, Hinkle said, but he believes everyone is different and should be affirmed and encouraged.
“Sometimes, the church and Christianity have this one ideal way of masculinity,” Hinkle said. “I want to show men and young men out there who are like me that you are still a man. You are just unique in your own way. That doesn’t make you less manly.”
But it’s not just the matter of creativity versus sports as hobbies. Some masculine ideals actually are hurting men, Hinkle said, such as the idea men shouldn’t show emotion or ask for help.
Hinkle believes those unrealistic expectations may play a part in male suicide rates. Men commit suicide at a rate four times that of women, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“The most common form of despair is not being who you are,” Hinkle said, quoting the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
Hinkle said many masculine stereotypes stem from the patriarchy as depicted in the Old Testament, but he said the Bible gives examples of many different expressions of masculinity.
Some of those biblical men follow the traditional American macho ideal, Hinkle said, such as Sampson. But others – such as David, whom Hinkle calls well-rounded – don’t quite fit that mold.
“He was able to slay a giant, but at the same time, he was gifted in playing the harp,” Hinkle said. “He was very open and poetic in the psalms that he wrote. He was honest and vulnerable. He even said things like, ‘God, why aren’t you paying attention to me?’ ”
Although Hinkle said he has received some criticism for his views, he believes this kind of talk is necessary.
“We need a revival of men of conviction, strength, vision and courage,” Hinkle said. “But we won’t change a thing if we hide behind the mask of toughness.”
That’s because true masculinity has little to do with athleticism or clothing, he added.
“It’s about being a good individual and portraying the fruit of the spirit in your life,” Hinkle said. “That is more important.”
On a recent blog post at notamalefail.com, Steve Hinkle of Joliet, former pastor of Istoria church in Joliet, suggested “5 Things Every Young Man Should Hear From Another Man”
• “You are a prince.”
• “You excel at ...”
• “You may cry in my presence.”
• “You can break the cycle.”
* “You are worth a hug.”