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Culture is not always right in standards

I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

I had come across one of those “Dear Abby” columns in a newspaper and that day’s edition featured a submission from a young woman who was understandably upset.

She had found out that her boyfriend had gotten pictures of a nude woman on his phone. She wrote to “Abby,” asking how she should approach the situation with him.

The response from “Abby” ran more or less as follows: Just accept it and move on. That’s the way men are. Don’t let it get in the way of the relationship.

This advice shocked me. I wanted to somehow reach through the paper and tell that woman, “Don’t listen to that! You deserve better!”

I’m not denying that some men engage in things like this. But if that’s the standard to which we expect men to act, then it’s time to stop and do some re-evaluating.

As a young man getting his feet wet in adulthood, I have a problem with the idea that doing things like sending and receiving inappropriate picture messages is “just how men are.” But I don’t have to look far to see this idea everywhere. The men we see in advertisements, movies and television comedies cannot control their sexual desires and have a little too much affection for material things like cars and alcohol.

When I say, “men today,” ponder what comes to mind. Modern ideas of masculinity can flow from the line of thinking that men are wired a certain way. Of course men are wired a certain way. But does the way a man is wired mean he should program himself to act in a way that lowers the standard for men? Or might he actually be wired to live out his masculinity in a way that points to something greater than himself? In my time at the University, I have seen young men act “just how guys are,” and I’ve also seen young men act quite differently than that.

For me, it was easy to be attracted to building friendships with those men who strove to live a lifestyle of intentionality uncommon with a lot of college students.

When I started my life at the University as a freshman, I wanted to find some friends who I would feel comfortable hanging out with—who weren’t going to just act like stereotypical college males.

I have to admit, I didn’t expect to find the friendships that I ended up forming, which have actually challenged my comfort level so that I’ve had more fun and sincerity with my college friends then I’ve ever remembered having before.

I learned that I didn’t have to shy away from a good time in college—I learned that I needed to be around people who would encourage me to come have a good time in a sincere and responsible (and no less pleasurable) way.

We’re called to be more than what the culture at large expects of us. This leads me to wonder: are we afraid to hold each other to a higher standard? It’s certainly not easy to hold yourself to that, but the difficulty means it’s worth doing.

Perhaps we think it won’t really make us happy. But there is a difference between pleasure and happiness. If you look closely, a lot of things in this world give us pleasure but not lasting happiness.

I doubt the man from the “Dear Abby” column is going to find happiness in his actions—pleasure, unfortunately, but not happiness.

I’ve found that an openness to discussing things like stereotypes, the truths we can learn about ourselves from them, and how we live out this knowledge goes far in relationships with those close to us, and can point us in the direction of a lifestyle that will really bring us happiness.

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