Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What Defines a Man?

From television shows and movies, to magazine and newspaper articles, to songs and commercial jingles, the way men are characterized varies widely. Some portray man as one who is found outdoors, more comfortable communing with nature than with someone else. Others paint him as the tireless adventure seeker, living on the edge, weekend after weekend, pursuing the next do-or-die exploit. Still others see him as refined and suave, a man for all seasons, fluent in Romance languages, Mediterranean liqueurs, and exotic ladies.

It's my opinion manhood is not defined by whether or not a guy can shoot, field dress, and spit roast his dinner or if he appreciates the nuance between a salad fork and a tuning fork. Nor is knowledge or physical prowess sufficient in themselves to pass muster into true manliness.

For me a man is defined by strength -- not the power of his muscles, but the quality of his character.

This comes through in many ways. One way is that he will speak for those without a voice. History, both ancient and modern, has had its fill of brutes that have oppressed and bullied people without cause. In these instances, true men have often stood tall, giving voice to the tormented and maligned. Today a man can stand strong and give voice to those without one.

A man is one whose word is his bond. That word is not lightly given, but when it is, it can be counted on. It's also, on closer inspection, offered sincerely and with an eye to its fairness in respect to all involved. Legion are those who have filled their coffers at the expense of others, ignoring both contract and conscience to get what they want -- no matter who gets bulldozed in the process. In these instances, it's easy -- when covering one's derriere -- to shift blame, deflect responsibility, and spin statements. A man who does not keep his word is, in my opinion, not a man. A man is a person whose words and actions are one and the same.

A man takes responsibility. If mistakes were made, a man steps up and says, "I did it. How can I make it right?" A man is not ashamed to show and share his emotions. When a friend dies, he weeps. When his daughter is born, he can't help but be enthusiastic.

Being a man is many things, but many of those things are not what the world would have us believe. Millions of boys and young men are adrift in a stew of popular culture that thrives on diluting godly characterizations of men for any squirrely substitute or mass-marketable image it can come up with. And, sad to say, when the men in their lives abandon them -- as is all too frequent the case -- the images of popular culture are often all those left behind are left with.

Boys need men who are secure in what it means to be a man. They need role models, mentors, teachers, guides -- call it what you want -- boys need men to learn how to be one.

Can you be that man for someone else?

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