Lessons on Being a Man

Town News

By Linwood Trott


Carl Safina wrote an article in the New York Times about the misunderstood character of an alpha wolf as a model for alpha males. “The term alpha male connotes a man who at every moment demonstrates that he’s in control in the home and who away from home can become snarling and aggressive.” Human males often face pressure to “man up”. The idea of “manning up” carries with it certain stereotypical characteristics of alpha wolves. Unfortunately, this conception of wolves, which live in family units like we do, is a misunderstanding of their actual behavior.

Observations of wolves in free-living packs in Yellowstone National Park reveal that “the leadership of the ranking male is not forced, not domineering and not aggressive to those on his team.” 

The Alpha is not aggressive because he has nothing to prove. He leads by a quiet confidence, doing what is best for the pack. He has a calming effect on the group. The group that is not locked in internal power struggles is more likely to thrive. Certainly our homes, churches, communities and government would benefit from a less adversarial approach. It is time for us to grow up; the juvenile, bombastic, competitive approach is failing miserably. Confidence in leadership is leaching out of the fabric of life.

Dominance that flows from the recognition of character by the group will be unforced and beneficial. Domineering leaders who rise because of external forces can only affect change while their power structure is intact. “Strength impresses us. But kindness is what we remember best.” 

The Alpha is tough when in defense of his family. He gives off the “don’t mess with me” vibe when danger is present. It is directed toward the real source of conflict not everyone. 

“Clearly, our alpha male stereotype could use a corrective makeover. Men can learn a thing or two from real wolves: less snarl, more quiet confidence, leading by example, faithful devotion in the care and defense of families, respect for females and a sharing of responsibilities. That’s really what wolfing up or “manning up” should mean.”

Jesus Christ exemplifies this type of leadership. His no nonsense approach to opponents was obvious. His compassion to the questioning and needy was seen in His answers and in the preliminary questioning of an enquirer. Each person was handled in an appropriate way. 

The challenges from political/religious leaders were handled by “hitting the ball back” so they could answer the questions themselves. This was done to engage the common folk in the process of seeking truth. Those who attacked publicly were handled with dignity publicly.

Needs declared by those in a state of privation were met with sensitivity and direction to give glory to a loving God. He, being God, could and often did meet the needs miraculously. 

Those who were hurt, even by their own choices, were treated with genuine concern. In keeping with the servant leader theme of His ministry, we are told in Matthew 12:20 that his handling of the hurting and injured had healing as the goal. “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” In His leadership, there is hope. The world is seeking leaders that instill hope. 

Competence and caring are qualities that will take one far in this hope-starved world. That is what Jesus offers to His followers. That is what is available to all who seek a leader worth following. Jesus knows what is to live in this world. He had friends and enemies. Some of His enemies even declared Him a criminal. His friends deserted Him in His moment of greatest need. Your personal circumstances are not unknown. 

The temptation is to snarl and growl when we don’t get our way or encounter difficult times is always present. Jesus, the greatest leader of all time and the most unjustly criticized and condemned ever did not respond in kind. 2 Peter 2:22,24 says,  “He had never sinned, and he had never lied.” 

His goal was to accomplish the greatest act of loving care… 

Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so we would stop living for sin and start living for what is right. And you are healed because of his wounds. Now that is a leader I can follow.