Jesus, Alpha Male
In a selection* from the book Mama’s Last Hug by Franz de Waal, the author discusses the essence of a true alpha male.
“In animal research, the alpha male is simply the top-ranking male of a group…In political parlance, however, it has come to denote a certain type of personality…emphasizing self-confidence, swagger, and purpose. Alphas are not just winners…they beat…everyone around them and remind them every day who won. A true alpha goes it alone and crushes the competition, like a lion among sheep.”
Many authors have tried to categorize Jesus Christ by pinning one label or another on him: CEO, coach, revolutionary. These and other labels seek to define Christ by putting him in a box—not a box we find in the gospels, but a box designed from some human viewpoint. It’s as if they say, “Here! We’ve figured out who Jesus is. Accept our definition of him and you’ll understand him perfectly.”
All these labels are wrong. Jesus defies all categories because he is unique. What else would you expect from the Son of God?
We might be tempted to label Jesus Christ the ultimate alpha male, and in some ways he fits the description. He certainly had self-confidence. He was never at a loss for words. No matter what company he was in he was at ease, always in control of himself and the situation. He was equally at home with Roman leaders, the religious elite of his own faith, the rich, the powerful; and sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, beggars, common working folk. Jesus spent time with them all, had a message for each, offered life-changing opportunities to everyone he encountered.
Jesus had purpose. Once he began his ministry his focus was on purpose and nothing else. His purpose was to give his life for the world; he achieved it. His purpose was to offer salvation to those he met; he achieved that also. His purpose was to do God’s will, and make God visible to the people with whom he came in contact; he fulfilled that as well.
Swagger? No. There was no swagger to him, no ego, no need to be on top. Instead Jesus was humble, self-effacing, always pointing beyond himself to his Father, trying to get people to follow God as completely as he did.
A winner? Not by the world’s standards. He didn’t “crush the competition;” he didn’t “go it alone.” He didn’t remind everyone every day of how good, how important, how tough he was. Instead he reached out to people, surrounded himself with them. Touched them, healed them—loved them.
I believe de Wall would argue that Jesus was closer to the definition of an alpha male in the animal kingdom than to the distortion we apply to overly aggressive, highly successful males.
Among primates the alpha male almost always achieves his position with the cooperation of others. He may not even be the biggest, strongest, meanest male in the group. Once he has achieved leadership he “protects the underdog, keeps the peace, and reassures those who are distressed.” While females generally console others more than males, the alpha “acts as a healer-in-chief, comforting others in agony more than anyone else in the community.”
Sound like Jesus? It does to me. This is the Jesus we meet in the gospels, the one whose strength is so great he doesn’t have to brag about it, whose victory is achieved through love and compassion rather than through overpowering those around him.
*This excerpt appeared in the website Delancyplace.com.