What does it mean to be a man?  To some confessing to be “only a man” is an admission of weakness.  To be a “real man”  may be the ability to out drink  friends, or have the most cars in the driveway.  

       A “good man” to a woman could be a man who puts his desires to the side and puts his family first. Someone who gives all he has and never gets angry and says hurtful things? He maintains his composure at all costs as to not jeopardize his “manhood.” How can an explosive man lead his family? Protect his wife and daughter from other “men?” How can an explosive man set an example for his sons?  We live in a society today that attaches words like “toxic” to “masculinity” as if they are synonyms.  We have children being raised without fathers, because men don’t even know the role they should be playing. A person can get a degree in “woman’s studies” but ask anyone what a “man” is…and you will receive nothing but contradictory answers or worse blank stares.  

If you google articles on what a man is you will be hard pressed to find any type of answer to the question. It’s merely a question left unanswered. 

    Man is said to be made in the very image of God. I have also struggled defining what “god” is in my life. Is god the creator or just an idea in the minds of men? Is God forgiving and compassionate or angry and full of wrath? Jealous and petty? Is god determined to love you only if you submit to his will?  I would like to define what “being a man” is but like the concept of god I believe it’s easier to determine what a “man” is not in order to conclude what a man “should be” or “is.”  

My first claim is that man is NOT god. I’m not a religious man; merely comparing and contrasting ideas. We are NOT perfect. We are not all knowing. We are not all loving. We are not all good or all bad. We are a work in progress. To borrow a quote “We are all self-made men but only the successful will admit it.” A man is someone who owns up to himself.  

Next, We are not women. While women too struggle with gender roles and expectations to “act like a lady” imposed by men and women in society there is an obvious distinction between men and women. Both in the physical sense, mentally and emotionally. We do not serve the same purpose as a woman. Not physically, sexually, or spiritually. We have a role to play and knowing what that role is; is a matter of finding out what role needs filled.  

  Third, we are NOT children. These are all self-evident but I believe it is important to start finding where we fit in as members of this world. What is a child? A young person who is in need of guidance…lacking experience. Likely undisciplined. Someone who has an obvious need for an example of what a “man” and a “woman” is. Perhaps we are all so confused on what “being a man” is because our parents didn’t set a clear example of what to emulate in order to be a “real man.” 

Because you are NOT a child… you must be the one who demonstrates discipline, you must demonstrate patience, you must demonstrate the ability to take some shit but also the ability to say “enough is enough.” Everything in life is about balance. You must be the force of balance. You are the Masculine to the feminine, the experience to the inexperience. Don’t allow feminine energy or childlike understandings to bring you out of balance.  You will need to learn when to give a warm hug and when to burn a city to the ground. Your power is only powerful when it is managed by the wisdom of an adult. Without that it’s just destruction waiting to happen.    

I’ve reached a few conclusions as to what makes a “man” and these are my thoughts.  

1. A man is whatever a man is. You can add whatever word you like or dislike to describe a man…good, bad, ugly, powerful….those words are the words that define you. A man is just embodied potential. Generalizations about what a man is; is an exercise in futility. Some men need to toughen up, some men need to mellow out. There is no “proper” way to be. We all have work to do. Being a man is accepting that responsibility. It’s taking whatever burden is on your plate and managing it.  Just make sure you don’t disappear while trying to be the glue for everyone around you. Your strength should be feared and admired. Let your friends admire and your enemies fear. It is not your job to make people respect you. It’s your job to respect yourself…everything else will fall into place if you accomplish that. 

 2. Whatever being a man is….it is not for a woman, or a child or society to decide. That is your job.  You define what you are. You are on a journey…like it or not you are a “real man.” Stop trying to compensate.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is not qualified to speak to your area of expertise.  All of your emotions, experiences, attitudes belong to you. You are a complex person and you know your weaknesses and strengths. Both men and women played a role in shaping you. You have all the tools you need to refine yourself. You know when someone has legitimately called you out for your weakness…and you know when someone is doing whatever they can to cut you down just to elevate their own self-worth. If your critic isn’t carrying your weight their opinion is as useless to you as their lack of effort.  

3. A man is just a man. The only thing that can take away from that is conformity. If you let the opinion of another male, female, child, parent define you…that is when you surrender all you really are to the interpretation of someone who is nothing that you are. If you let someone who has never walked in your shoes tell you how you should walk…you are surrendering your man card. You are if nothing else…your own. So own it. You can be anything you want…but you can’t be “a man” when letting someone else boss you around or bully you into submission. 

 You can be a strong man…but you don’t have to be. You can be a sensitive man…but you don’t have to be. You can be calm but you don’t have to be. You can be angry…but you don’t have to be. This is the beginning of embracing “self-ownership.” You ARE a man…rest assured. People will love you and people will hate you no matter what you do. Accept that as a fact and be the captain of yourself. 

The only thing you must know to be a “real man” is that you are a self-defining example of masculinity. You look yourself in the mirror every morning.  Good or bad…you are still a man.  To show compassion is manly. To sever the heads of your enemies that wish to destroy you or your family…also manly.  Whatever you do you have an obligation to YOURSELF to do it to the best of your ability. When you embrace what you are, you can define yourself with your words and actions. 

One thing I see going on in society is men taking on a submissive role. They submit to their women, they submit to their kids, they submit to their bosses, they submit to the government, the courts, they spend 100% of their lives trying to please everyone. The grand prize is a domesticated animal in human form. Merely the shell of what a man could be. Overcome yourself. Stand up for what you think is right. If you are wrong be willing to change. If you are right be willing to stand your ground. 

Educate yourself because you are capable of understanding. Lift that weight because you can. Listen to others because you are able to receive criticism. Tell people to fuck off because…some people are just antagonistic assholes looking for shoulders strong enough to carry all the blame. Dedicate yourself to helping yourself…you will be helpful to everyone else as a consequence of your actions. The only person who is a threat to your manliness is YOU.  Being a man is a hands on job. Not a hands off job. Look at the history of mankind and know that you are but a part of it. From the invention of the wheel, to the invention of the internet mankind has been solving problems and turning this rock into a home. We rely on brute force and careful consideration. We build the tools that build us in return. Never second guess your greatness or your impact. Never doubt you’re potential. Embrace the fact that the world has a great need for you. The services you provide, the wisdom you have. We are what give meaning to this world going around in circles. Creating order from chaos.  In a sense being a man is always “going your own way.” Blazing new trails, leading by example. You don’t do it because someone else needs you to. You do it because it’s who you are. You will only feel like a man when you do. You are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.

 The only thing that will challenge you to truly master in life is yourself. So be good to yourself. Cut yourself some slack…you are a man and you are in good company. From one man to another…I’m proud of you…you’ve come a long way and you’ve got a long way to go. We are all on this journey together and your strength is necessary.   -TheBeardKnifeBoss-