What My Broken Engagement & “Safe” Sins Taught Me About the Real Meaning of “Man Up”

“Rub some dirt on it!” This was the medical solution for injuries for my sisters and I growing up. In my family, the phrase “Man up!” really was translated “Don’t be a sissy!” These words were used to thicken our skin.

In some ways the phrase “Man up!” has taken on a sexist identity, implying that men should be hard and in control ALL. THE. TIME. And, while I do think it’s good to be tough, there are qualities of greater importance that every man should practice. So I’d like to take a shot at spinning this popular phrase from my childhood into something more positive and powerful. What if we used the phrase “Man up!” to mean this…

Man Up … and Be Vulnerable

Self-preservation and insecurity ruined a lot of my relationships, especially after I went through a broken engagement. I’ve started dating again and it seems like the popular thing to do is to act uninterested, waiting days after a date to call, not wanting to sound too eager. In a way, it’s about guarding your heart so you can’t get hurt. I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind for relationships. I think He would tell me to “Man up!” To guard HER heart, not my own, to make sure I’m always first to be vulnerable, to make sure I’m communicating in a way so she never wonders where I’m at or what my intentions are. Successful relationships contain selfless people, and since dating is preparation for marriage, it’s the perfect place to practice complete selflessness, not self-preservation.

This same rule applies to marriages. If you and your wife are fighting, then lead her in repentance by seeking her out, “Man up!” and be humble. Desire relationship over being right. It’s in our weaknesses that God shows His strength. Be quick to confess weakness and I promise God will be quick to show His strength in your marriage and relationships.

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Man Up … and Communicate

Man up! And have hard conversations. Jesus straight up said to Peter, a disciple whom He really loved, “Get behind me Satan.” Jesus loved through confrontation. Friendships aren’t surface conversations and clean-cut BBQ’s on Friday evenings where the kids wear matching outfits and play in the yard. It’s the Sunday nights when the house is covered in a mix of clean and dirty laundry and lunches still aren’t made. Man up and talk about your problems and struggles. Romans 2:4 talks about how we see God’s kindness through repentance, so if you’re not repenting you’re missing out on Him!

I’ve been a part of countless men’s groups where we talk about the “safe” sins. The rule of thumb is to confess with vagueness and ambiguity, “I’m not perfect by any means but I’m trying,” so people think you’re a sinner but they don’t know the depths of it. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Find friends you trust and get real—safe confessions don’t bring about radical change in your heart. Man up and be open.

Man Up … and Work

It’s extremely important to use the gifts that God has given you, and if you’re able to get paid for it, amazing. It can be easy to forget this fact: We are going to suffer following Jesus. In 2 Timothy, it says that all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted. This means it’s going to be hard work. There will be days that you hate your job, your pride will take hits and you’ll think the work you’re doing is beneath you. A friend once told me that you discover what kind of servant you are when you are treated like one. Show Jesus through your work ethic—even when it’s tough and unrewarding.

Remember, Jesus asked God to save Him from the cross before saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” We’re going to be called to do things we don’t want to do and we can glorify God by how we “Man up.”