I spoke recently with a man who spent some time as a jailer. He concluded that most men are in jail because they never learned how to control themselves. They might be tough guys, but that doesn’t make them real men.
In his book, Seven Men, Eric Metaxas refers to the C.S. Lewis essay, “Men Without Chests” to explain that real men have heart. By that he means “the courage to be God’s idea of a real man and to give of yourself for others when it costs you to do so, and when everything tells you to look out for yourself first.” He presents biographies of such real men, each of which sacrificed something important for the benefit of others.
After the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army wanted to install George Washington as American King George I. They lost confidence in the Continental Congress over back pay. Believing this exposed the weakness of the republic form of government, they circulated the Nicola and Armstrong letters which advocated military rule. Washington summoned his officers and in a speech that moved many to tears, appealed to their honor and patriotism to never overthrow the newly-won American liberties. In refusing their overtures, he gave up power and fortune for the good of his fellow citizens. King George of England declared that if the man that defeated the most powerful army on earth stepped down, he would be “the greatest man in the world.”
Perhaps you saw the 2007 movie, “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce. He was elected to the British Parliament at 20 years old. He became politically powerful and quite popular in London society. Early in his career, he vacationed with Isaac Milner on the French Riviera. The young politician was moved as Milner talked about faith. Given that high society took offense with anyone serious about God, it was no small matter when this political prodigy converted to Christ. His old friend John Newton, the former slave trader and author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” encouraged him. So he took up the cause against slave trading and slave holding, which meant reforming culture itself. What did he give up? He could have been Prime Minister, but he spent his political capital elsewhere. He could have remained in high society, but chose the cause of the lowly instead. After decades of personal sacrifice, days before his death he learned that his cause was finally successful.
These are but two of the biographies Metaxas collected, but to what end? He writes, “I hope you would want to study these lives – and not just study them but emulate them. It is my prayer that those who read this book would be inspired to become real heroes, to become great men in their own generation.” May more Real Men step forward.