On Being a Man

Here are two of my favorite passages on Manhood.  I miss the old days when boys were expected to make something of their lives beyond a few bucks to blow on movies and entertainment, and earn the right to be called “a man.”  Fatherhood has never been easy, but there used to be a day when there were more of them, more of them who guided and nurtured the next generation, teaching them that truth, honor and the dignity of a woman were things worth fighting for.  I’m proud to have a father who has done his best to teach me some of these things.  The following two passages are from men who I think represent some of those ideals:

Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son! 

The Battle of Life
by Theodore Roosevelt

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910


One thought on “On Being a Man

  1. walt says:

    adam,i really like this post. recovering the idea of manhood, and not merely getting older as a male, but truly maturing, is greatly needed.overall, i really like kipling's poem. not getting caught up in the maelstrom of popular opinion and mob mentality, nor spending yourself on thoughts without action, nor giving yourself up to pride: these are definitely manly qualities, and a good reminder.i'm a little confused by some of the lines."And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;"i don't understand looking too good at all. with speaking too wise, perhaps he means to not sound like a know-it-all, but i think a man can talk with great wisdom, while still being understandable to the common man, in as much as he can understand that wisdom. i would find it folly to take out wisdom just because it might cause the hearer to need to strive to grasp it, but maybe i'm misunderstanding him."If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;If all men count with you, but none too much;"i'm not sure if i'm understanding this completely rightly, but i think if foes and friends can't hurt you, you are not a man. a true man can be vulnerable, can be truly hurt and still not be incapacitated. the sentiment expressed here often leads to a macho mentality of a man with no sensitivity, with no deep emotion, and that is not the measure of a man. if your foes can't hurt you, perhaps you are not that passionate in your cause. if your loved ones can't hurt you, perhaps you don't really love them like you thought.and i admit to not understanding "men counting with you" at all, unless you are an accountant ;-).as for roosevelt, i have oft quoted that speech myself. tis a good reminder to get out of the far-removed critics seat and into the thick of things.anyway, just some sparks for discussion. i'm interested in your take on those things. i hope things are well on the hill. be well, brother. may God lead us into manhood as He intended and exemplified it.

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