Recently I ran across the following piece of advice in an online conversation:
“If you want to be a man, just be yourself. Never let anybody else tell you how because a true man already knows how to be one.”
This is a truly terrible piece of advice. It is so terrible that I feel moved to write something about what being a heathen has taught me about being a man, especially as this is not the first time I have seen somebody giving this bad advice.
Being a man, a real man, takes a lot of work. It requires a lot of learning. This is because you aren’t born a man, you are born a male, and nothing more.
Being a man means keeping your head in the middle of chaos and disaster, and acting with thought and deliberation no matter what.
A man knows his own worth, and does not crave the approval and attention of everyone else. He does not let the hatred of others stop him from doing what is right, nor does he let his desire for their love lead him into doing what is wrong.
A man knows how to handle rejection with grace.
A man does not sit fuming and raging when he fails or is rejected. Instead, he looks deep inside himself and tries to learn from the experience.
A man should be a stand up guy. He does what he knows to be the right thing, even if it costs him. A real man does not turn a blind eye to injustices done to others. A real man should be something of a hero.
A man is a creature of will. He keeps going when he needs to, even when hope is gone, or when his body gives out.
A man learns. A real man does not admire ignorance. A man never assumes he already knows everything he needs to know.
A man is able to risk it all on a roll of the dice, and accept both success and failure with equanimity and a smile.
A man should believe in things like Honor, Mercy, and Justice. Not because these things are real. They aren’t. A man should believe in them because they’re the only things worth believing in.
A man is someone who can meet death with a smile and a jest.
A man should be able to fight effectively, and should also know how to resolve issues without fighting.
A man is someone who can go it alone when needed, and also cooperate when needed.
A man should be able to cook and clean, to sew and mend, to change diapers and read bedtime stories, to heal injuries and comfort the bereaved.
These things are not things you get automatically, just because you were born with testicles. They require work, self discipline, character development, and introspection. Most cannot manage these things. There are, unfortunately, many males in this world, but very few men. A man is somebody who works hard to be a man.