It’s interesting how times have changed since I was a young boy looking up at my father, and the other men who were around me when I was growing up. To me there’s a big difference between the men of those days, and the role they played, and the ones I see today.
The definition of what it is to be a man, and the role men play in society has changed since then, and, in my view, not for the better. When I look at the men around me now days I can’t help but feel disappointed and saddened at what I see. Let me be clear. When I say that I’m disappointed and saddened by what I see, it’s in view of the values and characteristics used today to define what a man is, and what his role in society should be.
It’s interesting how society in general has changed it’s perception of what a man is, and his role in the world, but even more so in the way that the men of today define themselves and the role they play. Ask ten men what it is to be a man, and the role they should play in society, and you’ll get ten different answers.
It seems there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the subject of men today on the part of society and even within themselves, and I believe it’s that confusion that’s causing some men to not only question their identity, and their role, but also their expression of those things. I remember a time when many men defined themselves by a set of values and standards that were very clear.
A man defined himself, not by his physical strength, but by his willingness to use it in service to his family and to others. He defined himself in the way he carried himself with pride. Not a shallow, vain, self-effacing sort of pride, but a pride based upon his willingness to meet and carry responsibility with modesty and humility. Being honest and trustworthy and dependable were the qualities he treasured, not only in himself but in others. His commitments and his word were his bond, and he honored them. He relied upon himself, his family, his neighbors, and most importantly his God.
He measured himself by his sense of justice, fairness, compassion and mercy, and not by the size of his wallet, or the breadth of his chest. In short there were three things he loved above all others, and they were God, family, and country, and if you wanted to make him mad enough to fight then you attacked one of these.
Yet, as important as all the above was, and is; those things weren’t what truly defined him. What truly defined him was his willingness to sacrifice. That’s right. Sacrifice. I realize that a lot of men reading this will sneer, and tell themselves that I’m full of it, but I stand by what I said. I hate to use the word “real” because so few people anymore actually have a sense of what it (really) is, but there’s a difference between what it is true and what is false, so I’ll say it this way. A true man is someone who will sacrifice his wants, needs, dreams, even his life for something that is greater than himself. A true man will put himself last instead of first.
It’s a great sadness to me that so many men seem to define themselves by the way they look as if six-pack abs, a bottle of hair gel and tattoos make them men. Then there are the ones who think that having a lot of money and power make them men. Then you have the ones who define themselves by how well they can play video games and sports. Worst of all are the ones who think that sexual prowess with a multitude of women, and having the ability to beat the hell out of another man makes them more of one.
These are certainly definitions, and there are a number of men that certainly define themselves in these ways. There’s only one problem. The definitions above aren’t those of a man, but of boys. I’ve absolutely nothing against boys. I was one myself, and I understand a boys’ need to distinguish himself, to discover who he is, to find his place in the world, but at some point boys should grow up.
Boys live in the realm of me and I, and suffer eye trouble in the sense that they’re shortsighted. They can’t see much beyond themselves. It may surprise you to know that men suffer from a form of shortsightedness, too. So what’s the difference? Men don’t see themselves at all. Men not only have the ability to see beyond themselves, but the willingness to sacrifice themselves on the behalf of others.
One of the tragedies in our society is the devaluing of men, and their role in it. In part, the reason for why men are being devalued is simply because there has been a failure to live up to the definition of what, I think, it is to be a man. I believe it’s a combination of things that have contributed to this, but regardless of the reasons, the result is that we now have a preponderance of boys in our society.
Our society in many ways mocks, and makes a laughing-stock out of the man’s role, and we do so to our harm. If we don’t start teaching our young boys what it is to be true men, our country won’t be able to stand because there won’t be men of strength and character to lead and protect it.