My last post had to do with modern day barbarians and featured some of my thoughts from a must read article written years ago by Terrence Moore entitled “Wimps and Barbarians.” Now I would like to offer some of his thoughts on the wimps of our time. The quota for wimps has in fact been met, but they are everywhere, especially in the church. In fact, I would consider this problem to be one of the most critical issues facing the church today. I struggle with wimping out at times when stepping up is needed. Too many preachers hide behind the pulpit where they are bold as lions but are remarkably timid when facing a personal conversation. Even worse, some with particularly spongelike spines hide behind blogs or (the wimpiest of all) behind anonymity on the internet. Men take responsibility for their actions and do not blame others. Men of God do not wait on a denomination or someone else to give them recognition for their self worth: service to the Most High God will do. So, I would say that men who are decisive, bold in Christ, and yet patient and gentle at appropriate times are the need of the hour in the Western Church. Moore, while not commenting on the church per se, gets the reality that we need men, real men, like never before.
Moore’s comments will be set apart in quotation marks followed by my thoughts. Again let me say that all men have a tendency to lean toward one extreme or the other, but a true man is one who is neither a wimp nor a barbarian.
Identifying the Wimp
“At the other extreme from true manliness is the wimp. Wimps are in many ways the opposite of barbarians. We would be mistaken, however, to classify wimps as simply young men without muscle. Often enough they are the stereotypical 98-pound weaklings who get sand kicked in their faces at the beach. But slightness of build and want of talent in sports do not make one a wimp. The diminutive and sickly James Madison was a man, just as was the towering and vigorous George Washington.”
Just as one can be a diminutive intellectual and be a barbarian, one can be manly on the outside and yet be a wimp. In football we have an expression for a man who looks manly, all muscular and athletic-looking, but who stumbles off the field the first time he is hit like a whipped two year old. We call him the “look like Tarzan, play like Jane” guy. In short, a wimp. Moore continues:
“If barbarians suffer from a misdirected manliness, wimps suffer from a want of manly spirit altogether. They lack what the ancient Greeks called thumos, the part of the soul that contains the assertive passions: pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, anger. Thumos compels a man to defend proximate goods: himself, his honor, his lady, his country; as well as universal goods: truth, beauty, goodness, justice. Without thumotic men to combat the cruel, the malevolent, and the unjust, goodness and honor hardly have a chance in our precarious world. But two conditions must be present for thumos to fulfill its mission. First, the soul must be properly ordered. Besidesthumos, symbolized by the chest, the soul is composed of reason and appetites, symbolized by the head on the one hand and the stomach and loins on the other. Reason has the capacity to discern right from wrong, but it lacks the strength to act. Appetites, while necessary to keep the body healthy, pull the individual toward pleasures of a lower order….The second condition that must be present is a sufficient level of thumos to enable the man to rise to the defense of honor or goodness when required. Modern education and culture, however, have conspired to turn modern males into what C. S. Lewis called ‘men without chests,’ that is, wimps. The chest of the wimp has atrophied from want of early training.”
Moore quotes Lewis at this point: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
Think of the recent beer commercials with men in everything from speedos to skinny jeans. They are mocked in the commercial, but they are embraced in the culture. A true man is a balanced man, who knows when to be patient and restrained, and when to step up and confront a challenge.
The Wimp and His Music
Moore continues: “Like the barbarian, the wimp is easily recognized by his personality and preoccupations. His main passion is music. Music does not serve him as it does the Platonic guardian, to balance his soul. Nor is he usually a performer or student of music. He has no affinity for classical symphony or opera. Rather, he finds that certain types of music evoke a mood of listless self-infatuation….his absorption with music is essentially a private refuge from the challenges of the world.”
The wimp is the guy who when he gets bad news or faces a challenge hides away in his bedroom with his earbuds and ipod. Listening to music does not make one a wimp. Listening to music when he should be meeting challenges or facing responsibilities definitely does.
The Wimp and Women
Warning: some of you who read this may about to become angry. But keep reading. And remember, when you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the dog that yells is the one that got hit!
“In addition to music, the wimp may take an interest in the opposite sex. But his approach to dating and relationships is different from the barbarian…..The wimp…has more complex reasons for wanting women. Although sex is certainly one of his desires, more than sex he needs affirmation. He desperately needs a girlfriend to boost his self-confidence. Having someone else notice him will somehow show the world that he is not a total loser. The wimp also needs someone to hear his laments, to commiserate with him when he is feeling down, to discover his secret self. Since he has few qualities or achievements to recommend him, he seeks to appear ‘interesting’ or mysterious. Initially, the wimp might seem amusing to an unsuspecting young lady and very different from the insensitive jocks and rowdies she has known. Ultimately, however, the wimp seeks to draw her into his web of melancholy and self-pity. The story always ends unhappily since romance cannot be based upon pity or the thin facade of personality….The wimp will begin the relationship by saying, ‘You’re the only one who understands me’ and end it by saying, ‘You don’t understand me at all.’ The truth is that there is not much to understand.”
Read those last two sentences again. I have met that guy far too many times. In that paragraph Moore just described a huge number of the single young men I know in their late teens and early 20s. That is why I have made more than a few angry with me when making this statement: If you are a guy and you have more girl friends than guy friends, you are in fact a wimp. I have gotten a few emails and other responses to that quote. But Moore notes why in the paragraph above. You see, guy friends will confront other guys, whereas girls tend to be simply sympathetic. Men need men who will get up in their grill and challenge their stupidity (we all who are male have a remarkable propensity for stupidity), and men who are not wimps can take it, even if we do not like it.
Our Culture’s Failure to Produce Men
“The wimp is unmanly in other ways, especially when compared to young men in the past. Throughout history men have come of age by preparing for war, going to sea, felling forests, or even mastering Latin and Greek. Besides listening to music, however, how does the average wimp spend the most formative years of his life? Shopping….The wimp is a perfect consumer. In the largest sense, he consumes the liberties and public treasures his forefathers have passed on to him through their ‘blood, toil, tears, and sweat,’ without himself adding anything back to the common stock.”
Guys, get off Craigslist and put down your game controller and go do something that requires sweating. No, you do not have to join the marines. Maybe a good 3 months of P90X will do for starters. Or maybe just seeking out a band of brothers who will love you enough to challenge you to become a man.
Moore concludes this section with a salient point: “Our civilization cannot be sustained by barbarians or wimps; it needs true men.”
Now you see why a growing number of young men yearn for such series as Band of Brothers and such resources as Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dobson. More and more young men, especially young men who love Jesus, recognize the need to become what Mark Driscoll and others refer to as “the Dude,” a man, not a BAN, not a barbarian, and not a wimp. Truth is, all of us have a tendency to lean to one side or the other, toward barbaric behavior or the lifestyle of a wimp. Seek a more noble path. Seek a valiant life, a life that challenges you. Life life daily, and live it hard. Find some men who will push you toward manhood and not simply join you in your perpetual immaturity. And find older men who will show you by their lives how to be a man.
We need men.