Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What does it mean to be a "hard" man?

Before launching into this, please keep it clean.  Yes, there is the obvious innuendo from the play on words but, for goodness sake, get your mind out of the gutter!

We often hear about the hard man who can chew rocks and will slog through mud all day and everyday, undergoing gruelling physical torture, to eke out a living.  I want to challenge the notion of "hardness" as a physical prowess or toughness of sorts.  Yes, this is a part of it, but I believe that true hardness is more of a character virtue that holds a man to his word and sees him never backing down from his principles.

So, what are some examples of manly hardness in action?

Refusing to give in to emotional manipulation
e.g. Your 13 year old daughter wants to go to a party where there will be no adult supervision, but some older teenagers who have cars.  You won't allow it on the grounds that you don't know the other kids well enough and you don't think it appropriate that a large group of teenagers be left to their own devices without some form of supervision.  Your daughter says that she hates you and is never going to speak to you again.  You remain firm in your decision, knowing that the safety of your daughter is of more importance than that she show you affection.

Saving, even during tough times
e.g. despite your budget being really tight, you make sure to save even a little of each pay.  You believe that the habit of saving is good to maintain, even if you could spend that very little on something to provide a little comfort.  Ensuring that you have savings means that you don't have to be a drain on others when an emergency occurs.

Not making hasty decisions
e.g. An investment opportunity arises where you must take action today or risk losing the chance to make significant financial gains.  You want to know more about the situation before committing and this will mean tomorrow is the earliest chance you can actually commit.  A hard man will not bend on his principles and will be happy to lose the opportunity because he knows that it is unwise to commit blindly.  Even if it turns out that this was a good opportunity, he does not regret his decision.

You might not agree with the stance taken in the examples above but the concept of sticking to a wise principle is a good one.  And doing so despite personal loss or harm.

A final example:

Valuing human life
e.g. A terrorist puts a gun in your hand and another gun to your head.  He tells you to shoot the child in front of you or you will be shot.  A hard man will accept his fate, even if the terrorist will also kill the child.  Better to do what is right and die than to compromise and live.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Morals, Values, and Convictions

Real men are not afraid to stand up for their convictions, even promoting their personal values in society.

Many people feel a bit strange about sharing their values, or talking about what they think is right and wrong.  It is as though they feel like they are passing judgement on anyone who disagrees with them.  Being "intolerant" of other people and their ideals.

Not only will a manly man have strong morals and values, based upon a lasting foundation, but he will not be afraid to tell people when he thinks they are wrong.  Of course he won't be ungracious about it, and he will expect others to challenge him on his position.  It is a good thing to have strong convictions arising from your values, but to be closed to discussion about the formation of them is rather weak.

Even more important is the attitude to challenge which is welcoming of the "battle of wits" (in a sense) which sees the opportunity to refine a point of view, perhaps even working together to find the best ethical position.  It is good for men to have a strong faith also, and to not be ashamed of this so long as their is good reason to believe.  Blind faith (truly blind faith) is ridiculous to the manly man because it would mean he is rely on his emotions at the expense of reason.  Not to say that manly men don't get emotional, just that they have enough control over them not to act against reason.

So men, I challenge you to step into the arena at the next opportunity.  Take up your sword and offer your perspective when an ethical question arises in the lunch room.  Give your opinion, and then explain why you think the way you do.  If anyone else is opposed, ask them why they think that way.  You will be surprised at the bonding with your "enemy" that arises once you have worked out the basis for your disagreement.  You will find that polite, reasoned disagreement is a powerful character trait.  But remember not to let your opponent get away with a purely emotional line of reasoning.

Be bold, and be strong!  Convictions that are worth making public will shape society for the better.  Our world needs strong men (and women) more than ever before.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Real men know the meaning of the word "commit"

I'll keep this brief.

Relationships are not about you fulfilling selfish desires.  They are about working together to be better than when you are alone.  This means you will have to change.  This means it will be hard.

If you enter into a relationship with the wrong motivation it will be a wreck in no time at all.

I'll put it this way:  It takes commitment to really love someone.

Happy feelings, sexual desire, etc are all part of a successful relationship but if you are not prepared to commit above all else, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health (especially when you don't feel those nice things for your partner) then you are not a real man.

I could also have titled this piece "Grow up and commit" because it is much the same thing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jealousy - overcoming human nature (and harnessing the green eyed monster)

Jealousy is a normal and natural part of human nature.  That doesn't make it okay to be jealous, but even manly men have to deal with it.  So how do we deal with jealousy?

It is important to ensure that you aren't getting worked up over nothing.  I can't tell you whether you are really jealous or whether it is more admiration for an attribute of someone else that you would like to copy in your own life.  It is good and healthy to want to be a better person - healthier, stronger, smarter, more resilient, more manly...  And it is okay to admire and appreciate others who do these things better than us, so long as the aim is to learn from it.

Jealousy is a form of self-pity.  You pity your own lot in life because you want something better than you have.  That's why jealousy really sucks - because at the heart of it is having to admit that you are not as great as you think.  Some things you can change and other things you can't.  Step one in overcoming jealousy is to quit dwelling on the things that you can't change and to start working on the things that you can.  So much of real manliness is in having a realistic view of yourself.

Step two is to convert your jealousy into a healthy appreciation that will motivate you to be a better person.  And again, you have to be realistic in your goals here.  Some things you will never achieve because you won't have the same life and natural good looks (or genetics) as the dude on the cover of Men's Health magazine.

While this doesn't directly address jealousy over material goods, the principle is the same.  If you want "stuff" you have to be realistic about whether you can achieve that possession as a goal, and you have to set a plan of action to achieve that goal.

Speaking of goals, a simpler approach is to keep your focus on your achievable goals and not on the non-achievable which leads to self-pity and jealousy.  Usually there is not enough time to focus on the things that you can't have anyway, but keep a look out from time to time because the green eyed monster has a tendency to creep up.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When you know that you're not being a real man

It happens.  Nobody is perfect all of the time.  Not even Chuck Norris.  Let's just be really clear about this: nobody can be a "real man" all of the time so when I'm talking about true manliness it's with the disclaimer that a realistic point of view of human imperfection must be held also.

So having said that, I want to say that real men know when they are not being a real man.

Sorry, what?  Consider it a literary device to grab your attention.

What I really mean, that is, one of the qualities we want to develop in our manly selves, is the ability to notice when we are being "a tool".  This is harder than it seems.  So much of our own behaviour goes unnoticed because we men are creatures of habit and routine.  Add to this that we are also proud and do not want to be seen as weak, which means we don't want to be wrong (or just seen as wrong).  This leads us to deliberately ignore our faults and mistakes - you know what I'm talking about!

So try this little exercise
Replay in your mind the last argument you had or the last time someone told you off for doing something that annoyed them.  Not completing chores, saying the wrong thing, whatever.  Your instinct was probably to defend yourself, right?

Sure, sometimes you are in the right but, if you are honest with yourself, you know that you have a tendency to bend the truth to win an argument or to be seen as right.  What I want to encourage you to do is to develop the manly skill of noticing when you are behaving in this way so that you can stop doing it.  Identifying bad habits is the first step towards changing them for the better.

If it helps, say to yourself, "What would Chuck Norris do?"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Take it on the chin" - rethinking the common approach

When someone is said to "take it on the chin" it usually means that they have done something and are standing up boldly to take the consequences.  A just punishment, so to speak.

This is something that a real man does.  He will always face what he has done and receive what he deserves.  Ideally, he won't have done anything intentionally wrong though!

I want to raise another side of this idea.  How about taking it on the chin for things that you know that you aren't responsible for?  Husbands will know what this is like.  Sometimes you may need to take a deep breath and then let it out before taking it on the chin.  Why would anyone do such a thing?  How about to support others through a situation in which they can't manage by themselves?  Kids crash the car and you have to pay to get it fixed or they can't get to school/work?

How about being in the same room when something important gets broken and you are blamed in the heat of the moment? Later, when the blamer *cough*wife*cough* realises that they were mistaken, you might get an apology and be thanked for not escalating the situation.  You might not get an apology though, but doing what is right is often more important than everyone knowing that you didn't really do anything wrong.  Everyone who matters will know in any case.

Manliness is clearly much deeper than just reacting emotionally.

So how else are men called to "take it on the chin" in this alternative sense?  And how can we remain positive through the effort?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Temper: make your brain explode (but not really)

One of the particular challenges that real men manage to overcome is the challenge of keeping his temper in check.  Whether arguing with a spouse, a mate, or a child, even when dealing with a naughty pet, it is never a sign of anything good when a man loses control of his temper.

Meekness is the characteristic of "restrained/reserved strength".  Just because you have the physical ability to dominate, doesn't mean that you should.  A reign of terror, in which you keep everyone in check by fear of what you will do or say to them, is not cool.  It's good for those whom you lead to realise that you have that power though - it leads to greater respect when you keep your cool and ask for obedience (rather than demand).

Restraining your anger is not the same thing as not letting people know that you are angry either.  They will likely see it in your face anyway, but it is better if others trust you to keep control and seek justice through fair and careful means (rather than through a general explosion which has collateral damage).  It may mean that your brain feels like it will explode, especially if you are clearly in the right, but let the pressure out with a deep breath and act wisely.  Your head will remain intact!

Part of a real man's burden is to suffer wrong at times too.  More on that another time.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Challenges and Testing Yourself

Real men are never satisfied with themselves, yet at the same time they are confident because they know their own abilities and their reactions to certain experiences.

This lack of satisfaction with self leads to a desire to challenge oneself and to grow through the challenge.  That's where the joy comes from when testing yourself against a strong opponent or in difficult circumstances.  There is always joy in knowing that you are a better man.

On the other hand, if you never seek out challenges you will never develop the confidence of self-awareness.  Can I suggest a place to start challenging yourself?  Diet and exercise.  Correct diet gives you the energy to exercise and exercise develops your physical and mental capabilities.  This is the foundation for further success in challenges which leads to much rejoicing in your manliness!

Friday, February 24, 2012

When to Indulge

A real man knows when to indulge himself, and when it is wise to restrict his indulgences.

Whether they take the form of food, sports, social activities, reading, or other hobbies and comforts; he knows that there is a time to reduce his reliance on these things for emotional or mental support.

There is nothing wrong with using these indulgences to relax and recover some vitality, but it never does too good to overly indulge too often.  The senses become numb and the appreciation (along with the renewed energy they bring) is diminished.  Not only that, but indulging yourself often comes at the expense of healthy relationships with others.

Consider the practice of regular self-denial as essential to building selflessness and resilience.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Real Men Read

Different men read different amounts, but all men should be willing to read in order to learn.

Reading is not only for entertainment, but for contemplation.  Because it can be a slower form of getting information than a video, it forces you to take your time which can leave a lot of your mind unused.  This encourages you to fill the unused "empty space" with contemplation, specifically in the application of what you read.

So when you read, keep in the back of your mind the intention of working out how to do something useful with your new knowledge.  This will lead to you being a better man, and being more productive.