Denzel Washington – The Meaning of Manhood in an anti-John Wayne world
Other than headlining Hollywood blockbusters, Denzel Washington is also a sharp, and gifted public speaker.Staying true to the latter, Washington delivered a 30min address during this year’s Better Man event in Orlando, Florida.
The John Wayne Formula
In a sit-down interview with the Reverend A. R Bernard, Washington talked about the meaning of manhood in today’s world, and how faith takes centre stage in his life.
Addressing the Better Man audience, Washington said,“the world has changed.”
Speaking rhetorically, he asked, since “The John Wayne formula is not quite a fit right now” what does man’s role look like?
The answer, he said, begins in recognising that “strength, leadership, power, authority, guidance, patience – are God’s gift to us as men. We have to cherish that, not abuse it.”
“I prayed this morning to be a better listener. It didn’t work so well. We’re human. You get back up. Yes, I’ve been high up on the mountain. I’ve been blessed, but that’s a slippery slope; and it’s lonely up there. People don’t know that side of it.”
On the subject of success, the Academy Award winner advised, “Stay on your knees. Watch me, but listen to God.”
He continued, “I hope that the words in my mouth and the meditation of my heart are pleasing in God’s sight, but I’m human. I’m just like you. What I have will not keep me on this Earth for one more day.”
Washington then offered three points relevant to the Daily Dad life:
Share what you know.
Inspire who you can.
Constantly develop those habits.
The actor also discussed character.
Here he stressed that “What he played in the movies is not who he is.”
Fleshing this out, Washington inferred that he wasn’t the hero of his own story.
The 66-year-old said, “Fame is a monster. We all have these ladders and battles, roads we have to walk in our given lives. Be you famous or whoever’s out there listening, we all have our individual challenges. It’s cliché; money don’t make it better. It doesn’t. Fame just magnifies the problems and the opportunities.”
Blunt about his own life struggle, Washington concluded by encouraging others to listen with him, not simply to him:
“I’m not going to sit or stand on any pedestal and tell you about what I had in mind for you or your soul. Because the fact of the matter is, in the whole 40-year process, I was struggling for my own soul.”
He finished with the words, “lift them faith weights […] always leave room to learn.” (CP)
One of the insights Washington’s public speaking offers us is the wisdom found in putting a distance between performance, perfectionism, and plain talk.
There’s a discernible line between entertainment and education.
Washington’s story answers his own question about man’s role in the world.
Faith as a Fallback
One of the most noteworthy examples of this is Washington’s widely shared ‘Fall Forward’ commencement speech.
Explaining why he never understood the concept of having something to fall back on, Washington said,
“If I’m going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything except my faith. I want to fall forward. I figure at least this way I’ll see what I’m going to hit.”
There has never been a golden age of man.
The on-screen John Wayne formula was, and is, for the most part an illusion of Hollywood.
It’s who a man is off-screen that matters.
It is better to be a stranger to the world, than a devil at home and an angel in public.
Like Wayne, Denzel Washington is a straight shooter. There is no pompous prose, nor polished pretence. An anomaly in the Hollywood scene, he’s as real as it gets.
The meaning of manhood in today’s world is expressed in Washington’s desire not to be worshipped, and how he, instead, unapologetically directs us towards the one he worships.
As an old Preacher once stated, ‘Be as true as steel.’
Much like Johnny Cash, who wrote, ‘I don’t cram anything down people’s throats, but neither do I make any apologies for it, and in a song introduction, I have to tell it like it is.’
Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.
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