Posts tagged manliness

The manly art of the handshake

This post first appeared in the NoahGetsANailgun blog.

Handshake Statue

The handshake – almost as old as stone

Over the last year or so I’ve become discouraged at the decline of the firm, manly handshake. During the time at church where you turn around and greet those around you, I know there’s a 50/50 chance the guy I’m about to shake hands with will have a lighter grip than my grandmother. And as I’ve had to interact with other boys my son’s age, I’m noticing very few of them know how to properly do this simple, but very important act. Someone once said about making an impression, “three hours of interaction with a stranger is automatically created by the physical touch of that initial handshake.”

For me personally, if I shake your hand and all you give me in return is a dainty little squeeze back, or even worse, you only offer me four fingers to shake, my entire perception of you changes in an instant. I don’t have a study to back it up but I’m telling you, you lose respect from people if after they shake your hand they are left feeling like they just grasped a wet noodle.

You also don’t want to be the guy others never want to shake hands with again because they were bruised from you squeezing too hard. If you hear cracking when you shake someone’s hand then you’re doing it too hard. However, I would opt for the vice grip handshake any day over the wet noodle handshake. At least I know you’re a man. You may have a Napoleon complex but it’s still better than the alternative.

In all seriousness, it is important to own a good handshake and then pass it on to your son. Not sure why its happening, but we have begun to neglect teaching our kids the finer points of human interaction like the handshake. This one act can convey dignity, confidence, and respect. Or it can communicate you have none of these things.

The handshake also speaks to our physical maturity—which is a mark of manhood. Obviously men come in different shapes and sizes and demonstrate different levels of physical power, but common to all men is a natural strength and confidence that is given to us by God. He created us to be strong, masculine individuals. The handshake is a great way we demonstrate control over our God-given strength—not giving a bone-crusher handshake and not giving a limp-fish handshake. By doing it properly, we display our innate masculine design.

Steps to a good handshake:

    • keep the fingers together with the thumb up and open
    • slide your hand into the other person’s so that each person’s web of skin between thumb and forefingers touches the other’s
    • make the pressure firm, but not bone-crushing
    • hold about 3 seconds
    • “pump” once or twice from the elbow if you like
    • release after the shake, even if the introduction continues
    • include good eye contact with the other person

My nine year old and I have practiced his handshake over the last several months. I first sat down and explained to him why a good handshake was important and then we worked on it together. Every so often I’ll walk up to him and hold out my hand to see if he still has it—which he does. He’s also been complimented on having a good handshake by other men and when I circle back with him about that and tell him how proud I am, his chest swells a little and he gets this smile across his face because he knows he’s becoming a man.

Part of our jobs as dads is to teach these kinds of things to our sons. There are a lot of small life lessons like this that are extremely valuable and we need to be instructing our sons. Don’t not engage with your boys because you think it’s not worth talking about or just assume he’ll get if figured out. Big or small, press into these small lessons with your son and be his teacher.

Courage and fear: are they always opposites?

The qualifications for being a husband are simple but not easy. A man has to be a man, not just physically but in the full sense of the word. And a man has to be godly.

In their book The Silence of Adam, Larry Crabb, Don Hudson, and Al Andrews point to the interconnectedness between godliness and masculinity. “The only way to be manly,” they write, “is first to be godly. In our day, men are looking for their manhood more than they are seeking God. Too many men make the mistake of studying masculinity and trying to practice what they learn without paying enough attention to their relationship with God.”

Understanding the unique way in which you were created doesn’t make you fully a man. Getting married and having a family doesn’t make you a man. Success in the marketplace, great wealth and power, the honor and praise of the culture — these are not the measure of real masculinity. To be fully a man, you must commit yourself to the pursuit of godliness.

It’s almost a paradox, the idea of a godly man. Not because a man is incapable of godliness, but because of what is at the root of the idea of godliness in the Scriptures. We are called to live out our masculinity with courage and in fear. Courage and fear are not always opposites.

The Fear of God

There is a difference, however, between fearing God and being afraid. In fact, Moses, after receiving the Ten Commandments from God, appeared before the Israelites, who were filled with fear. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin’” (Exodus 20:20).

“There is a fear that is slavish,” writes John Piper, “that drives us away from God, and there is a fear that is sweet and draws us to God. … God means for His power and holiness to kindle fear in us, not to drive us from Him, but to drive us to Him. His anger is against those who forsake Him and love other things more.”

In his book One Home At a Time, Dennis Rainey says, “God is not feared today. In fact, He is mocked by our immorality, our treatment of unborn human life, our broken commitments, and the selfish, ‘me-first’ attitude that characterizes so much of what we do. Even in the Christian community, we are strangely silent about the fear of God. There is little teaching on judgment for sin, and the place of eternal torment called hell. We haven’t rejected God. But we have conveniently recreated Him in our image. We have reduced the Almighty to our level.”

Today there is such an emphasis on God’s great love for us that we have forgotten what it means to fear him. We don’t see him as a consuming fire, but as a kindly grandfather who chides us when we are mischievous, but always with a twinkle in his eye and only a faint sternness in his voice. Don McCullough writes “We prefer to imagine a deity who happily lets bygones be bygones, who winks at failures and pats us on the back to build our self-esteem. But according to Scripture, ‘God is love.’ And love devoid of judgment is only watered down kindness.”

Act like men”

Paradoxically, that fear of God ought to be the basis of great courage in us. As men who fear God, we learn that we are not to fear other men. “Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul,” Jesus taught, “but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Our fear of God should produce boldness in the face of opposition from men.

Tucked away at the end of his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul gives a solemn charge to those men who are leaders of the church. “Be on the alert,” he writes, “stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). In those five simple statements, he calls the men who lead God’s church to a foundational quality of masculine godliness. He calls them to be men of courage.

In fact, some translations of the Bible take the clause “act like men” in I Corinthians 16:33 (andrizesthe in Greek) and translate it “be courageous.” Earlier, Paul had chastised the Corinthians for acting like babies. “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food,” he wrote, “for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able” (1 Corinthians 3:2). By the end of his epistle, Paul exhorts his readers to act like men. The expression “act like men” is a call to maturity, to conviction and to courage.

In our hearts, we know we ought to fear God, but our sin nature keeps us from doing so. In the same way as men, we know instinctively that we ought to be courageous, but again, we are caught in the conflict between flesh and spirit — between what we know we ought to do and what we often choose to do. Instead of acting with courage, men today too often choose not to act at all.


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