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softnessI snagged this little meme in light of some boring and redundant obsessions with alleged, “Biblical manhood.”

One of these days I shall roll my eyes so hard they just get stuck in the back of my head and than you’ll all be sorry. Like seriously, we’re still doing this crap??

We are indeed, “still doing this crap.”

Men must be hard. Not soft. Not gentle. Strong, having no emotions except anger of course. Anger is manly. Empathy is a besetting sin. So are feelings. Also manly apparently, repressing everything that makes you human, never asking for help, avoiding healthy connections and intimacy, having really high suicide rates, and being at risk for an early heart attack….. I’ll spare you the links, but you get the idea.

So here’s how it works in the real world, being hard is not strength, it is actually cowardice, fear, self protection. It is separation, disconnection, and stoicism. I know this on account of the fact that I was once hard, a tough, tough cookie. I let the pain make me hate. I let bitterness steal my sweetness.  I wasn’t strong at all, I was weak, totally walled off from the world, hardened. True story. It really isn’t all that different for men, except we try to tell them that this is the ideal, the epitome of being a man.

It takes incredible strength and courage to be soft, to be gentle. There is nothing so strong as true gentleness. You have to be willing to risk letting people hurt you. Love is so not for the faint of heart, it comes with a price, there is a cost. What does it mean to care? It means I am strong enough to endure your pain and my own heartbreak too, and to remain intact, whole, vulnerable through it all.

So, so not easy. That’s takes some serious strength.

I don’t know of any good bear wrestling, manly alpha words for “soft” and “gentle,” but I can assure you those do not belong exclusively to the feminine realm. Some fruit of the spirit is “kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control.” The Bible is not trying to feminize anyone, it is informing us that those characteristics come from tapping into the Source of all strength, the Holy Spirit. Not only strength, but genuine power, too.

I also don’t have a proper bear wrestling, manly alpha word for “sweetness,” but I assure you, men have a sweetness, a soul, an essence that is  unmistakable, untarnished by the world. It is well, sweet.

So 1 Thessalonians 2 is one of many places in the Bible where we see strength is not equated with hardness, and not genderdized, in fact the precise opposite. “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

Right? We’re comparing the strength of men to the gentleness of nursing mothers and speaking of not only sharing the gospel, but sharing our own selves.

One last thing, the quote that absolutely appalled me in this discussion was, “the devil is in the business of making men soft.” No, that’s totally bass akwards. The devil is in the business of convincing men they are strong, impervious, and hard, so self reliant and lacking vulnerability they don’t need nothing and nobody, including God Himself.

If the devil was in the business of making men soft and vulnerable, he’d be in the business of helping them to discover their complete dependence on the Lord, which would lead them to discovering their strength and power in Jesus Christ, and the devil surely does not want that.

Deflate the enemy. Be soft. Be gentle. It’s powerful.