Put Your Hands to Work

August 2, 2022

One of my favorite bits of masculine wisdom came from a priest I know. He told me, “It’s good for men to work with their hands.”

The trouble is, that’s easier said than done. My job requires me to sit in front of a computer all day. Last year I moved into a second-floor apartment with no yard to take care of, no workshop out back, and no “honey do” list.

The priest was right, though. I needed to find ways to work with my hands. And I did. I’ll tell you how in a little bit.

But first, let’s unpack the concept of “working with your hands.”

Men have an impulse to do things. It’s hardwired into us. Ever notice there’s no satisfaction like the kind when you’ve built, fixed, crafted, written, drawn, or painted something with your own hands? Why is that?

The short answer is, because our bodies are sacramental. The long answer is, because masculinity reflects an aspect of God’s nature.

From all eternity, God the Father pours Himself out in love, generating the Son, through whom all things were made. The Son, of course, is not created. He’s divine too. Men are created beings, and they’re not divine. And yet God created men to participate in His divine generativity.

You see this with biological fatherhood. Together with his spouse, a man brings a new life into being. But masculine generativity goes beyond procreation. It extends to the work of your hands. You build, you craft, you give form and shape to a new thing. That’s your generative nature in action.

When you work with your hands, you channel the way you’re made in the image and likeness of God. You resemble God the Father pouring Himself out in creativity, in divine generation.

And boy, does it feel good!

Working your hands also strengthens your mind. Human beings are a union of body and soul, and what you do with one affects the other. I’m a bookworm, but I concentrate better after I’ve been working with my hands. I think better, too. I have a more rightly ordered view of myself, other people, and the world around me.

Men are hard-wired to be generative. We like to do things that have a tangible effect. When you bottle up that virile energy, you get restless. Cue the temptations. Why do men fall into vice on computers and phones? Because the more you use them, the less you work with your hands. And the less you work with your hands, the more likely you’ll squander your energy on consuming – online videos, food, drink, you name it. But you aren’t wired to be a consuming being. You’re wired to create and to generate, like God the Father.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. I’m not implying that if you can’t grow your own food or carve wood or paint or play an instrument, you’re less of a man. And please don’t think that to work more with your hands, you need to throw away your smartphone or move onto a farm.

Here are some very simple ways I’ve found to work with my hands:

1. Cooking. We all have to eat. Cooking allows me to get my hands moving to chop, slice, and stir. Plus, by the end I get a tasty meal out of it.

2. Playing guitar. If you have a musical temperament, you know how satisfying it feels to use your fingers to create music. I’m no Jimmy Page, but I don’t care. It’s good for me to get my fingers strumming and moving around the fretboard.

3. Doing household chores. Trust me, I’m not here to glorify them. I’ve got plenty of things I’d rather do than scrub dishes or wipe down my bathroom. But when I do my chores, I’m an active steward of my living space. Working with my hands to “create” a clean and (mostly) organized space keeps me active and grateful for a place to call home.

You can find simple ways to work with your hands. Don’t overthink it. Just start with simple things that get you off your devices for a while. You’ll be glad you did.

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands!” – Psalm 90:17

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Alexander Elfreich

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