How to Become More Masculine

By Sam Jolman | April 11, 2012

“Son’s don’t want their father’s ‘balls’; they want their hearts.” Terrance Real

At 18 weeks pregnant, Amanda and I sat in the doctor’s office, hardly handling the hope that this might be the week we find out the gender of our little one. “Oh, let’s go look!” exclaimed our doctor like a good friend who couldn’t wait to find out herself. So down the hall we scurried to the ultrasound room for an off the record sneak peek. The warm glow of that monitor illuminated our transfixed faces as we searched the screen for clues. “Well your little one’s being a bit modest but… I’m pretty sure I’m seeing girl parts!” 95% sure, she said. My whole insides went warm with joy and awe.

I don’t remember how we even got back to our car that day. But I do remember driving home unable to speak english, as our imaginations flooded with pictures of a little girl in our arms, our house, our lives. As it settled in over the next few weeks, she became more and more familiar. We even had her name.

The 20 week check up meant a more extensive ultrasound – the really long routine one. I yawned myself awake enough to come, really only to hear the heartbeat again and see our little girl bouncing in her little cocoon. We had our celebration two weeks ago, though my wife still wore pink, a little sisterhood connection with our daughter. “Okay, to start with I’m just going to take a bunch of measurements.” We sat back, trying to decipher the moving amorphous blobs of gray, nodding in recognition like good parents would when she pointed out leg bones or fingers, acting like of course it was all clear. The heart beat got me yet again, burst my heart with that warm affection, even more in knowing she was a her.

“Well, are you guys ready to see what you’re having?” “Oh, we already know,” I chimed in.We got a sneak peak two weeks ago. Its a girl.” She went quiet. And in the way only an african american woman could embody, she looked right at me and said in a reckoning come-to-Jesus sort of way, “She told you it was a what?!? This is NOT a girl. This is a BOY!”

I felt like I was in a free fall. She turned back to the ultrasound screen. “Look right there. That makes him a boy.” There was no mistaking body parts this time. It was obvious. Yep, he had the goods. “And look, he won’t even let me get his parts out the screen now. He wants you to know he is all boy!”

Along with having my world shaken like a snow globe that day, I also learned something pretty pivotal: Masculinity is not bestowed. Its inherent. Hardwired. Fundamental. As my high school biology class had taught me, every cell in his developing body had the “XY” boy chromosomes. Literally every cell of him was masculine. My son already had all the masculinity he will ever need right there in the womb. As our ultrasound tech said it in pure poetry, “He is all boy!”

This is not what is normally taught to men these days. Most of us have heard that boys need to be bestowed masculinity from their fathers and other men. And if we didn’t get it, we need to go find a source for this masculinity or we won’t become men. This is an idea gone awry. It has some value to it, which I’ll get to. But by and large, I think it hurts more than it helps men. It plays on so many men’s sense of inadequacy. “Apparently, I’m not masculine enough and need to get it from somewhere else.” This is a set up, heaping unnecessary feelings of weakness and shame on a man’s heart.

And I believe it threatens to send men on an outward journey without an inward one. It tempts them to put on masculinity in gear or clothing or job titles or a macho personality. It keeps them constantly looking for the fountain of masculinity, that thing or experience or person which will finally take away that sense of weakness or I’m-not-enough-ness, when in reality inadequacy has nothing to do with a lack of masculinity. And all of this shipwrecks them, distracting them from the inward journey necessary to become a man.

Truth is masculinity is not a commodity to be consumed. It doesn’t come to you through adventure sports or some sort of ritual experience or work achievement. You can’t get it anywhere because you already have it. No man needs more masculinity. All the masculinity you’ll ever need is already in you. Not much in life is black and white, but your gender is one of them. Those XY chromosomes either are or are not. Again, every cell of your body is masculine. And as John Eldredge says, the physical mirrors the spiritual so that even your soul is masculine. No man has a masculine deficiency. Not a single one.

Okay, I know, if this is true why aren’t all men acting like men? Why are so many men immature, boyish or even feminine? Apparently having masculinity in every cell of your body isn’t enough. Yes, of course, much like being 6’5” doesn’t automatically make you a great basketball player. Raw talent of any kind still needs to be developed. You need to grow up into it. To become great at anything requires years of maturing and training. And in this sense, something does need to be bestowed to men.

So what do men need to become men? Love. This is what he needs bestowed. That’s it. Author Terrance Real shares that current research reveals the “…centrality of affection in father-son relationships and the relative irrelevance of the father’s ‘masculinity’.” What’s passed between father and son, older man to young man is love. Love is the food that feeds his developing masculinity. And if it’s not love, it won’t help.  I have heard countless stories of fathers who taught their sons how to change the oil on a car or shoot a shotgun but did it with anger and criticism. And now these sons share these stories through tears of pain, of how they were wounded, not blessed, because love was missing. And love is everything.

Now to be clear, this love must come from other men at some point. The love from a mother or wife can absolutely help. But a man needs masculine love too. Love from other men activates a mans masculinity.  Sparks it to life.  It communicates acceptance, a welcoming into the world of men, a validation to a man that “You belong with us.” Traditional understandings of initiation rituals are fabulous ways to communicate this love. So is time spent fishing, hunting, fixing the car, doing the things men do. A loving father will want to teach his son these things. I’ll admit I look forward to taking my boy hunting in large part for those moments of snuggling in the tent when he’s young and when he’s older deep talks about life while sitting in the woods. Actually shooting an animal is secondary.

Whatever the context, it must come as love. Author Joseph Nicolosi says it must come as attention, affection, and affirmation. Or in a word, it must come as relationship. Teaching wisdom, instructing, sharing stories, disciplining are all good. A man needs to see what a good man looks like. But a father or father surrogate must first patiently and intentionally develop relationship with his son. Whatever is not driven by love will wound.

And without this love, its possible to live crippled as a man. Wounded. You can actually have all the masculinity you need within and yet never grow up to become a man. You can stay boyish your whole life. You can become a bad man or an immature man. You can even lose connection to your sense of masculinity and live feeling weak or sexless or feminine. And in this sense you may feel you’ve lost your masculinity. But what you’ve lost is a connection to the masculinity within.

Men, you may need love but your masculinity levels are just fine. God infused it into every cell of your body. If we lived knowing we already had it and just needed to grow up in it, we might stop looking for it everywhere else. And take the time for the inward journey.


  • Thank you Sam for writing such a moving piece. I agree with you but I would say it like this. Masculinity is not bestowed but it is blessed and it needs to be blessed–spoken into, affirmed and celebrated. The “warrior” image popular in some books and movements is also awry. If that were the dominate image that a man should live with, Jesus would have told us.  But what Jesus did tell us–is exactly what you’ve written about. Love. Only love transforms says David Benner and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve sat with hundreds of men looking for their masculine self but only to find it when they stumble into being loved—letting themselves be loved.

    Your article here is important and I hope it is picked up, noticed and goes viral to counter a movement about what true masculinity is all about. Great work in this!

    • Steve, thank you for your affirming words on this piece!  Means a lot.  I love your statement “not bestowed but blessed.”  That says it perfectly. 

  • I love the insight about how if masculinity is bestowed, it sends us outside looking for answers rather than inside.  I have seen in my own life a lot of scrambling to go after what God was already given. 

    By the way… was that basketball comment aimed at me?  🙂

    • Ha!  Bryan, what do you mean?  You’re dominating Crossfit 🙂  I resonate with the struggle of search elsewhere.  Been there… been my story.

  •  Hey Sam, loved your writing.  My son Jacob is now 12 and I’ve found Nicolosi’s ideas of love as attention, affection, and affirmation to be so crucial already.  In the world of middle school kids they will quickly allow others to define their worthiness of love and acceptance, and the voices of peers can be so loud.  Thanks for the reminder…wish you could join me at Tunnel Lake this summer.

    • Thanks Matt!  I bet you’re in the thick of it with your son… those puberty years.  You’re son is blessed to have a dad paying that much attention!  Miss seeing you, man.  Hope you’re well.

  • Nicely written, Sam!  We enjoyed this read, too.  Thanks for sharing. 

  • Fantastic Sam. Spent so much of my life thinking that I didn’t have something everyone else seemed to have, but it’s always good to be reminded of the truth that we indeed have masculinity already in us. 

    • Hey Brandon!  Good to hear from you.  Glad you liked it.  I’ve been that guy too, searching everywhere else trying to figure out what I lacked.  


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