What is a man?

One of the hardest things to be in today’s society is a man. As we have strived for equality of the sexes, the thin black line between the sexes is now a thick grey one. In many, if not most, ways it has been refreshing and long overdue. Good riddance to the notion that men belong in the workplace and the “little woman” belongs barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Good riddance to gender pay gaps (yes I know we’re not there yet but we’re making progress). And good riddance to the notion that women are objects to be leered at and objectified. We’ve made tremendous progress in righting the scales in so many areas, but unfortunately in the process we’ve made it somewhat difficult for men to be men. It goes beyond eliminating bad behavior, society is pushing for the de-masculinization of men, and that will not end well. In the process of rehabilitating bad men we are destroying the good ones.

So what is a good man? This may be just my opinion but a good man has old-fashioned values, values that the men who built this great country possessed. Men with resolve, vision and a strong work ethic. Good men still exist today, despite the active marginalization, but they don’t thunder across the tundra in the numbers they once did. The ones that still exist possess the following qualities.

Honesty
Let’s face it, at the core of everything is honesty because the antithesis is dishonesty which is the root of all bad behavior. A good man is almost entirely defined by the trait of honesty. Without the reputation of being an honest man, one will not be trusted and his services and company will not be sought. Honesty is displayed through our words and our actions. If a promise is made verbally, the honest man considers it a binding contract that is iron clad. Consequently, failure to live up to the promise makes you a liar. Once you’ve earned that moniker, there is no turning back.

I was raised by two honest men, my father and my grandfather. Both showed me at an early age the value and virtue of honesty. My grandfather started me off at a young age with telling me,
“Nobody likes a liar”, and “In order to be a good liar you had better have a great memory.”
I watched my dad and grandfather in their professional and personal dealings and it became evident early on that they placed a lot of emphasis on a handshake, eye contact and keeping their word. A handshake was the measure of a man and dads spent great time and effort teaching their boys both the technique and the importance. Combined with a promise, the handshake solidified a verbal contract, one that was meant to be kept and honored.

Both my father and grandfather did side work to supplement their incomes and my grandfather once under-quoted a roofing job. He completed the job, on time, and stuck to his original quote even though he made almost no money. My father told me about it, as an example of what an honest man does.

Today the handshake means almost nothing. Eye contact has been replaced by staring at screens and the verbal contract thing? That is also a thing of the past. Entire professions are dedicated to finding ways to get out of written, signed and notarized documents. Is it any surprise that in our dealings with others we find ourselves at the least cautious and at the least fearful of being lied to? The good men among us still value the handshake and the word of an honest man.

Accountability
I have chosen Accountability as the second virtue due to its close affiliation with that of honesty. While honesty speaks of our dealings with others, accountability is about being honest with ourselves.

How many of us have taken a deep, hard look at events and realized that we made a mistake. How many of us have taken a hard look at our entire lives and realized that who we are and who we think we are to be two different entities? They’re both bitter pills to swallow regardless of age. From being in a leadership position, to analyzing a particular incident or realizing you’ve been living a lie for decades, to reach the point where blame can be put on yourself is extremely difficult. It is also cathartic and the beginning of the road to self-improvement. If only we were all capable of it and spent more energy rectifying and improving the behavior than we do denying our involvement and shifting blame.

3 months ago I took a motorcycle safety course. I failed the skills test and I was furious at myself. My first reaction was to blame the instructors, the course itself, the bike I was riding. But I quickly realized that the course was about low-speed handling and I, despite having ridden a motorcycle before, never learned those maneuvers. It was my fault, no one else’s. My next step was to set up cones in my driveway and to spend hours learning them. I then took my road test and passed. I needed to be accountable and when I did, things worked out.

From learning from a single incident to re-evaluating ones entire life, you cannot be a good man without being accountable. Your light shines from within and, as Harry Truman famously said…”the buck stops here.”

to be continued…