Life is not black-and-white — neither are men

July 22, 2023

I want to be the best man I can be. But what exactly does that mean to be a man? If you ask me this, I reflect back to a time when I was at Starbucks, and I saw a man playing a game of backgammon with his son.

For some reason, seeing this man play this game with this little child got me thinking about the life mistakes I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned, and the people who have come-and-gone in my life that have left a little piece of themselves with me. No matter how insignificant the contributions, I’m the person I am today because of these relationships and interactions I’ve had with these individuals. You are the same.

The person you are has been formed by the people in your life. This fact can freak me out because I realize this means that I’m forming the lives of people I come in contact with. You are too. And I realize that with all of you watching me, I acknowledge that’s a big responsibility. This got me thinking even further about who I am, the type of person I am, and the type of guy I am…. in other words, the type of man I am and want to be.

Just because you have a package does not make you a man– that makes you a male. The fact that you can get a woman pregnant doesn’t make you a man– it makes you a male. How you handle your responsibilities, however, makes you a man. Knowing how to be happy without relying on others, knowing how and when to stick up for yourself without being overly cocky, and having conviction in your beliefs but willing to be corrected when you’re wrong.

Basically, being a man is just being able to rise above all the bullshit surrounding you, being independent and able to focus on your own goals and projects, and being toughened by the hard lessons in life while allowing all of it to humble you instead of dragging you down.

When you’re a boy, you are very impressionable. You do what your mom says and want your dad to be proud of you. You dress how celebrities and musicians dress, even though they’re really just paid to promote those clothes. You care about how your peers look at you. But, when you “become a man,” you stop caring about that stuff and look deep into yourself. Being a man means being honest with yourself, accepting the consequences, and doing your thing without shame. If you blindly do what others want you to do, you’re not an adult. You’re just a tool.

Men respond instead of reacting. A man understands the vast chasms and extremely complex situations life brings. Life is not black-and-white, and there is not always simply time to be happy and time to be sad. As we know, most things require a large amount of contemplation before they can be totally understood. In short, a boy reacts to his emotions and the context of the moment. In contrast, a man evaluates WHY he feels a particular emotion and responds accordingly. This concept has helped me distinguish the type of guys I seek to be friends with and let into my life.

Being calm in a bad situation makes a man. I don’t consider a male a man because he’s jacked and built like a Greek god. I’ve seen jacked guys who hit the gym be the biggest pussies I’ve ever seen. But, the guy who can remain calm and tries to figure-out a solution to a bad situation is the guy everyone looks up to. This guy may not be the loudest, the best looking, or the fittest. But holy shit, when things get crazy, or there’s a bad situation, we all turn to him. Just being in his presence makes others calm.

All of the ‘real men’ I know have no idea that they’re considered ‘real men’ because they do not seek nor want outsiders’ validation — that is not their motivation with how they live their life. They are honest and loyal, and their character is supported by a profoundly ingrained integrity that you can feel in their presence. They have conviction and are proud but will be the first to concede when they’re wrong. They NEVER show off; they don’t need to because they know what they are. They lead by example. The true litmus test for a man is the image he feels the need to project onto others. A real man is secure in his path and does not need to blow his own trumpet.

Being a man means realizing that you should focus on understanding yourself rather than focusing on what you can’t control. First, your parents were people; like the rest of us, they effed up. Sure, they could have done better, but your ass is alive and kicking. So, they didn’t do too badly. Don’t stress about what damage they did. Rather, spend time doing better. Also, being a man means that you understand women are people too — stop over-complicating it. Further, being a man means you realize some arguments need to be let go — it’s not worth making a pointless enemy.

Realize that alcohol is a chemical depressant that will not help you when you’re depressed. Most everyone doesn’t get paid for hobbies, and you may eventually change your interests anyway (especially if you make them work). But doing a job right is worth the extra time and effort. When it looks good, works right, and you can be proud of the outcome, you will feel that pride. It’s worth so much more than doing a half-ass job. And like I always say, you will f@#k up. Learn how to learn from it, then you can prevent the f@3k up from f@#king you up the next time.

After all of that being said, I realize something about being a man. Just be a good person. Spread more love in this world than what you inherited it with and make positive changes in your community or someone’s life. If you can do those things, you’ve surpassed being a man. You are a good person. Sure, we will all have rough spots where we aren’t our best, but that’s okay. It doesn’t make us any less to show our emotions or to ask for a helping hand. If anything, it makes us stronger than most. So, just be the best person you can be. Barring that, be a person you would want to have as a best friend.

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