In my book, To Kill a Lion: Destroying the Power of Lust From the Root, I point out that many factors in our contemporary culture hinder men from discovering what true manhood is all about. I’d like to share one snippet of truth that has helped me to develop my character as a man.
The DC Comics’ character Superman is also known as The Man of Steel. But let me present you with a profile of a real-life superman—one who not only is a man of steel, but also a man of velvet. I learned this concept early on in my Christian life, and it has helped me, many times, be the complete man God created me to be.
In our culture, manhood is often equated with the following characteristics: physical strength, independence, boldness, hard worker, determined, confident, unemotional, macho, and so forth. These steel qualities may be great in their right place, but when they are not balanced by velvet qualities, they create a character imbalance. The mature man will benefit from embracing a blend of both steel and velvet qualities.
Generally, God made men primarily steel, and we need to stay that way, but He also made us with some significant velvet ingredients. Velvet does NOT mean feminine! Jesus was the example of manhood, but he was an awesome blend of both the steel and velvet traits—He showed love to children, showed a high degree of compassion, wept publicly, displayed sensitivity, as well as taught gentleness and meekness. He was caring and became a servant. In John 13:25 there is a reference about the apostle John and Jesus that says: “Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him…"
What a velvet friendship!
I grew up in a family that nurtured neither steel nor velvet qualities. I had to learn both on my own. My greatest challenge, though, was the velvet side because my family never displayed intimacy of any kind. I am not saying that displaying velvet comes easy to me, but it has become a much more natural thought process when velvet is needed more than steel.
I have found that often I can communicate my love to my wife, Ruthie, more effectively through velvet filters than steel ones. I write her poems, play love songs for her, leave notes on the table for her to see after I’m gone, and bring her lattes as a surprise. I have learned how important it is to her for me to share the secrets of my heart with her, to dream with her, to cry on her shoulder when I need to, and to make her laugh all the time, and especially to listen, listen, listen! As men we have the privilege of romancing the wife God gave us.
As a family we hug all the time—before bed, before leaving the house, and randomly as the mood dictates. Other velvet things may include connecting with people by giving small gifts, calling or visiting friends when they are sick or taking time to be with another guy who’s struggling with grief, sorrow, or fear. To be like Jesus, is to be a healthy mixture of steel and velvet.
Being both steel and velvet may not make you, like Superman: faster than a speeding bullet, or more powerful than a locomotive (don’t feel bad, since I turned 60 I can rarely run that fast anymore), but it will make you a well-balanced man, capable of connecting with others in a more complete way.