The Character of a Man
What is a Man?
In today's world there is much confusion about what defines the character of a man and, ultimately, what defines a "real" man. Personally, I grew up not knowing a father who could teach me about growing from boyhood to manhood. I didn't have a model of the path I should follow to become a man, and to know how to direct my passions and develop a purpose in life.
Now, fast forward to 2013. I had the opportunity to experience a "rite of passage" that would provide a means to know the true definition of manhood.
During our Rite of Passage Experience (ROPE), one of our tasks as a small group of men was to interview men on the street. We asked a 2-part question, "What is a man, and when did you become one?" The responses we received ran the gamut, from interesting, to funny, and to the far-fetched. For example, one man believed he became a man at 18 when he had relations with a girl for the first time. Another thought he attained full manhood at age 30 when he received his Ph.D. One other guy was certain he became a man as a 16 year old when he killed his first deer.
All that I learned from my manhood journey is contained in an acronym, STRAPS. I will list these character traits below, including some personal reflections.
- Serves others with his Time, Talents, and Treasures
• Serve one another in love; that's how your relationships with others as a man will grow. So you want first place? Then take the last place. Serve others wants and needs before yours.
• In learning how to serve other men that I was just getting to know, I had to do it without concern for whether it felt good or not.
- Takes Initiative, Leads Courageously, and is Strong
• Be strong (but not just physically)! Be courageous! Don't be timid! Don't get discouraged! Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your conviction, give it all you've got, be resolute, and love unconditionally.
• I have not always taken the initiative when it was time to do so, and am still learning how to be strong (spiritually, mentally, and emotionally) and lead courageously with help and support from other men.
- Rejects Passivity
• Be a man of your word, and don't hold back the talents and skills you've been given and developed. Be bold while maintaining love and compassion.
• Along with all of these characteristics, I have made this part of my self-talk. I must reject passivity, and then be more pro-active through being present, aware, and involved.
- Accepts Responsibility for his Actions and Inactions
• A "real" man is honest in small things in order that he can be honest in big things. If you're a crook in small things, you'll be a crook in big things.
• A "real" man knows how to make a decision and live with its consequences. That statement taught me that I may have to acknowledge a bad decision by making the appropriate correction.
• "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - from H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
- Pursues Excellence (in everything he does)
• Have you ever been to a stadium and seen athletes race? If so, you will see that everyone runs; but only one wins. As men our job is to run to win. All good athletes train hard. Regardless of the result, do it with all your heart and might.
- Sacrifices his Time or his Life when necessary
• Here's one way of making this a reality: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place others needs before your own.
• How willing am I to give up my time and be truly selfless? Even more, will I "take a bullet" for the sake of another? Honestly, I have a long way to go with this one, because many times I am selfish and lacking full compassion.
The Rite of Passage experience was a test of our minds, wills, and emotions, and in the end "manhood" was bestowed upon all the guys in my group. However, this was not the end of the journey, but rather a new beginning.
Since then I have been challenged nearly everyday to be the man I was created to be. With and through the application of the above characteristics of a "real" man, I have a model to follow in my career and in all my relationships.