I was raised in a culture that treats women differently. Not necessarily badly or disrespectfully, but differently. Machismo (masculinity) is a very prominent concept in Latin culture, though I would say it is actually a distortion of what it really means to be a man. Even when it’s not necessarily acknowledged, it is expressed simply by the way we live.

For example, I grew up in a place where little boys would never dare to play with dolls or cooking sets or any thing labeled as a toy for young girls. We were raised to play soccer, fix cars, and build stuff.

Though these topics are talked about more openly now, those “requirements” for how to express masculinity gave me a different outlook, which was only made worse when I came to the United States and began middle school and continued on to high school.

No matter where I looked — TV, magazines, the internet — I was told that being a man was about getting women and gaining respect from other men by using women.

A Distorted View

During late middle school and early high school, friends invited me to tons of parties. Everyone knew that if you were at enough of those parties, your reputation grew. Your reputation grew even more the more you hooked up with women. I wanted nothing more than to be known and respected by my peers, to have a great reputation, so I chose to go to these parties.

The more parties I went to, the more I treated women as if they were nothing but objects. To this day, I remember how my “friends” and I focused on talking to the women we deemed “pretty, yet vulnerable.” It was a never-ending, terrible cycle that required giving away a piece of myself and, even worse, taking a piece of those women. That was my definition of manhood.

The Discovery

Fast forward through a retreat my mom forced upon me, a conversion, and my joining a youth group — I met guys who lived way differently than I did and yet, they were happy. They did not talk about women the way other guys did, so I thought there had to be something wrong with them.

I eventually joined many of these guys in a fraternity called Esto Vir, which is Latin for “Be a Man.” Slowly but surely, they helped me see that men don’t always have to be the provider, the strongest (physically and emotionally), the bravest, etc. They showed me that real men struggle, pray, talk, and, most importantly, real men do not conform to the world’s idea of what it means to be a man.

This group helped me see that I was wrong.

Society measures manliness by the amount of women a man can “get” and his strength, both physical and emotional — which I started to realize is absurd. If we hold ourselves to the very low standards this world uses to define a man, we are weak.

Easy? No. Worth It? Most Definitely

It is so easy to use women and feel “good” about it. It is even easier to brag about it to other guys who think the same way. (Been there. Done that.) However, I also know what it’s like to finally open your eyes and realize that all the things you did — the things that once made you feel like the strongest man, on top of the world — now make you feel like the most insignificant, selfish, smallest boy there ever was.

One thing that this approach to masculinity has right is that men are called to be strong. Yet at the same time, society fails to call us to be stronger in our respect for women, in our love for women, and in our empowering of women.

You may have to leave many friendships to do this. You might have to have a serious conversation with the men around you. You may even be the first in your family to realize this as an issue and bring it up! Even if you are surrounded by machismo influences that won’t hold you accountable to what it means to truly be a man, remember you are called to more.

The women around you deserve better men. And you know what? You deserve better, too.

Look at Christ on the cross the greatest and most resonating example of manliness. How? In the shape of love. Was it easy? You can bet it wasn’t, but He knew we deserved better, so He gave it to us.

Time to Step Up

Saint Josemaría Escrivá said, “There is a need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and nullify the savage work of those who think man is a beast. And that crusade is your work.”

“Your work” — and mine.

This crusade does not have to be a grand gesture — it can start in the smallest displays. At home, be kind to and serve your mother and your sisters. Show them how they should be treated by a gentleman. At school, be the man who stands up for women and treats them with respect, even if you are the only one doing so.

Everywhere you go, simply remember that Christ died for both men and women alike. He sacrificed it all because He wanted more for us than sin and the world could ever offer. Now it’s our turn to step up. Although society tries to communicate flawed interpretations of what masculinity should look like, we are still called to remain true to ou original calling by following Christ’s example. This is a standard of sacrifice, which calls us to die to our desires and seek the good of others. The world might think it’s weird, outdated, or even dumb, but we know it is freeing. This is what we were made for and it is up to us to show the world what real men are made of by being… you know… real men.

About the Author

Juan Aznaran

I think one of toughest things in life is being sarcastic and Catholic, so I am still trying to find the perfect balance. I am a die-hard Patriots fan despite people’s nice comments. I’m either listening to music, playing video games, hanging out with friends, playing with my puppy (Loki), watching New Girl or Friends, or all of the above. I have not figured out exactly what it means to be a man of God, but I have learned that real men do not stand, they kneel.

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