My Dad has been my hero for as long as I can remember. That’s not to say he hasn’t made mistakes, He’ll be the first tell you that, but perfection doesn’t make a hero. Imperfection and humility make a hero, and that’s why my dad is mine. My dad has always been an excellent example of putting other people first. I’ve been there when he’s pulled over on a rainy day to help a stranger change a tire. I’ve seen him pay for other peoples meals without a second thought. I’ve seen him give of his time, energy and money to people (including myself) who don’t deserve it. He just doesn’t judge people. He looks at everyone the same.
By all means, he should be a bitter man. His childhood was mostly robbed from him by his alcoholic, abusive step-father. He was told constantly that he wouldn’t amount to anything or that he was too stupid to make anything of himself. He choose not to believe any of that because he knew it was bullshit. He learned that if he wanted something bad enough, all he had to do was work for it. He still does. He works hard, day in and day out because he loves to learn and he loves to prove hateful people wrong.
This is the example I witnessed everyday.
He taught me not just with words, but with actions. I may forget some of the things he’s told me over the years, but I’ll never forget the examples he’s shown me.
As much as I believe list are overplayed, and have become a rather annoying go-to for writers vying for the short attention span of their readers, they do have their merits.
With that being said, the following is a condensed list of guidelines I learned from my Father and from my own mistakes. These guidelines help shape a mere man, into a real Man.
1. Don’t be a dick.
In the everlasting words of the king of the geeks, Wil Wheaton’s motto for life is very simple: “Don’t be a dick.” This might be my biggest struggle. Despite the relatively amazing example my Father set before me, as well as other humble men I grew up around, I’ve always been one for sarcasm and general dickery. Admittedly, it can be fun. And for those that I’m close with, they don’t necessarily see me as being a dick, but just sarcastic. That, however, does not excuse some of the things I say and do. This is something that has been brought up to me more than once, and something I have to work on every day. The concept is simple though, just don’t be a dick.
2. Put everyone before yourself.
I mean everyone. When you take a look at your life and look deep into your purpose (even if you’re not entirely sure what that is yet) you begin to see that whatever you do, is in service to someone else. It doesn’t matter if you flip burgers or run the whole damn country, you are serving someone else. So just accept that. Find solace in it. Find more ways to serve someone rather than more ways you can be served. The American dream is whatever people want it to be, but it’s mostly to be rich and have people worship you. It’s unfortunately true and we’ve all wanted it at some point. However, your life will suck trying to attain that. Helping other people achieve their own dreams? That’s fulfillment.
3. Masculinity is not defined by conquests, sexuality or your ability to consume alcohol.
As a cultural rule, most guys see masculinity as being able to do a hundred push-ups, bang a hundred chicks and drink a hundred beers. Don’t get me wrong, beer and push-ups are terrific (not combined though) But just because your body reacts to alcohol and you are able act like a drunken asshole while pissing away your money (and your pants), doesn’t prove anything beyond that you are actually just another asshole. I’ve been that asshole. It’s pretty empty. What about being gay? Does that make you any less of a Man? No. Being an asshole makes you less of a man. It doesn’t matter who you’re attracted to, what you dress like or whether or not you can consume fifty liters of beer. If you genuinely love people, put them first and don’t be a dick, you’re more of a Man than most.
4. Women are better than us, accept it.
We live in a patriarchal society, that’s pretty clear. If you also happen to be white, you have it easier than any other human on earth. Especially women. Most men don’t worry about glass ceilings, exploitation or the threat of rape on a daily basis, but most women do. Most women just deal with it as an unfortunate part of life. If you are in a heterosexual relationship and feel the need to dominate your partner then maybe you don’t quite understand what partner means. You’re not the one giving birth, dealing with the same societal expectations and pressures, or everyday sexism. You’re probably adding to the problem. Women are better than men because they actually have to work harder than men all the time. They don’t get free passess like dudes do. They have to fight for everything, and they work a hell of a lot harder than we do. In my current job, I’m literally surrounded by female triathletes. Trust me, they’re better than all of us.
Do you ever watch a film and find yourself hating the guy that brags and loving the guy that walks away having done all the work while taking none of the credit? Batman, Superman, John McClane. They’re all pretty much the same guy. They prefer anonymity over praise. They even accept being blamed as the bad guy, knowing they were doing what was right. Jesus did that. The Man died a horrible, earth shattering death while the weight of mankind’s worthlessness crushed him into oblivion. That’s not easy, especially in a society that takes everything for granted. We like praise, we like to feel like we’re wanted, needed, desired and loved. Humility is much more than just passing off praise. It’s continuing to work in the background just to see someone else’s life benefit from it, no matter what it costs us.
It takes a lot to love people, especially those of us that break all the guidelines I just laid out. In reality though, loving people should be the easiest thing in the world. It requires the least amount of work on our part. Hating someone is hard work. I’ve done it. It’s laborious holding on to hatred and bitterness all the time. It makes you tired and weary, it causes you to hate other people and thus double your burden. Sometimes it feels legitimate, sometimes that hatred feels like all you have, but if you let go, truly let it go and actively try to love that person, your life will take a dramatic turn. Hatred usually comes from anger, and it’s ok to be angry. When some douche of a comedian makes a rape joke, it makes me angry. It’s not funny, it’s hurtful and disgusting. It would be easy to hate that guy and let my anger fuel it, but that’s not going to change that person. If anything, it may make them even more deplorable because they were able to elicit a negative reaction out of me. If I decided to love that person instead, there’s nothing they can do. You’ve won without having to battle.
7. Fight when it’s time to fight.
I know all of what I wrote above sounds like different levels of pacifism, and in some ways it is, but there’s a time and a place to fight. Sometimes it’s physical and sometimes it’s not. It certainly takes more strength not to throw a well deserved punch than to actually take a swing, but sometimes that swing needs to happen. Beyond self defense, there may come a moment in your life where you need to stand up, pull back your your fist and knock someone the fuck out. I don’t say that lightly. While most guys think that this is the only road to take because we grew up watching Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michael Biehn, it should only be used as a last resort. When it does come down to just you and your appendages, there had better be a damn good reason and that reason had better be in line with defending the defenseless. If you can outwit the attacker or talk them down, then by all means, do it. But if they strike first, you strike back. And make it count.
Us guys love to bullshit. We bullshit about everything from sports, to conquests to Wikipedia entries we just read as if we were the first ones to discover this new fact. We talk so much, not much is left that can be believed. We cram our opinions down everyone’s throats as if it is the holy truth of God Himself. We talk down to others and do more destruction with our words than we ever could with armament. We hate and lie and manipulate just so we can feel a little bit above someone else. We talk so much, that the only way we can make amends for our endless bullshit, is to just shut-up. Stop talking. Not every argument needs a rebuttal. Not every person needs to hear your unabashed opinion. Granted, this is all very meta for me, seeing as I am sharing my unabashed opinion right now. This is part of my point though. If you have an opinion that you feel is necessary to show who you are and you need to share it, write it down. Read it through. Have someone else read through it, then consider saying it (or posting it). If you’re momentarily impassioned and open your mouth, you’re likely to cram you own foot in it once again, and not even realize it.
There’s plenty more life lessons I could write down. I’ve been lucky enough to glean from Men of integrity and humility. It’s not easy to go from a man to a Man, but it’s in all of us. We all have the capacity to stop acting like bastards, and start acting like Men.
There are of course, addendums to nearly everything I’ve said. There will always been addendum’ s and footnotes and add-ons and edits and blah blah blah. I don’t care. This is relevant and reflective of my life right now.
Like I said before, if I get to part two and realize this sounds stupid, I’ll take responsibility for it.