Good Men Can Be Their Own Worst Enemies

Men, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers—but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.” —Katharine Hepburn, Me: Stories of My Life

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” —Mahatma Gandhi

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In the search for the ingredients that comprise a “good man,” it becomes clearer—and more popular to discuss—what defines a man as “bad”: Raping. Coercion. Homophobia. Abuse. Blackmail. Abandonment … The list is long and inarguable.

These qualities do not describe bad men; they describe bad people. Any participant in a debate whether these qualities are evil would themselves have to be, at the very least, a sociopath.

These terms are edgy, the crimes forbidden, their results can be horrific, their victims traumatized.

It feels good to stand-up and speak out against them. It is sexy to be part of a group which, with one voice, yells: “That may be them, but it’s not me.”

Men are expected to be more flexible and sensitive, traits we usually assign to women. For instance, it is considered admirable for men to demonstrate sensitivity towards women, children, gays, and golden agers, and it’s impressive for men to assume responsibilities once thought of as strictly a woman’s domain: cooking, laundry, sewing, and shopping.

But men, even the good ones, still rarely turn to one another for advice and guidance when facing life’s more complex dilemmas; despite the fact many of these are universal, and painful.

In so many respects, men still ‘wing it’ to avoid showing weakness. By not asking for help, or admitting ignorance, even good men can be their own worst enemies.

For instance:

Men rarely admit financial illiteracy.

Money problems are consistently among the top stresses in any relationship.

How often do even “good” men discuss with their friends the topics of budgets, finance, or how to communicate within a relationship about cash flow?

As much courage as it takes to denounce abusers; it takes strength of a different kind to look across a pint of beer and admit: “I have no clue how to organize a family budget or plan for my retirement. How do you guys do it?”

Father’s hide their fears about their children.

It’s easy to announce when your kid makes ‘AA’, or gets straight A’s, or shows an innate understanding of the guitar he picked up a month ago.

However, it can be terrifying to have a child who performs at the wrong end of the bell curve.

Fathers spend a lot of time around other fathers. But it’s mothers who will more easily admit: “I’m really afraid for my child. I’m worried his inabilities will lead to teasing and isolation. Any ideas?”

Even good men need relationship advice.

Everyone knows successful relationships are built on love, respect, and compromise.

While, during rough patches, men will complain to their peers that their “wives are crazy” or they “just need to get away for a while,” sometimes people need to be told what they need to change about themselves in order to improve their marriage. It’s too easy to deny your faults to your spouse. It’s courageous, however, to turn to your male friend and ask “What do you think I’m doing which is making her so unhappy?”

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Is easy, during a quest for what is “good”, for us all to gather, to lift bloody sheets, and point at what is ugly and bad. It’s a lot harder to turn that quest inward, and—instead of boasting about what makes us “good”—ask our peers what we can change to make ourselves “better.”

 

Read more Advice & Confessions.

Image credit: familymwr/Flickr

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About Kenny Bodanis

Kenny Bodanis is the author of the parenting book "Men Get Pregnant, Too (despite never pushing a watermelon through a pigeonhole)" . He is a parenting columnist and blogger at www.MenGetPregnantToo.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +

Comments

  1. I am somewhat tired of articles of this nature, I may be an odd ball, but I don’t go around blaming others for my problems. I take responsibility for my actions, I strive to be better. Can I (we) read a celebration of that? All my life people have been pointing out the faults, just once can we honor good things? Just once?

    • Agree so much!!! Please GMP, stop publishing article about “bad jerk” nice guys anymore.

      Nice guys syndrome, the appeal of bad boys. Please, just please. I rarely open this site anymore. No quality articles published last few weeks ( except Alyssa Royse article ) . Only same and same relationship advice article about how nice guys are jerk and asshole and misogynist ( hello Dr NerdLove and Ozz )

      I’m tired of all these article.

    • Hi Wally,

      Ironically, being the author of this article, I don’t disagree with you. I also think we spend a lot of time analyzing ourselves and finding labels and shelving ourselves according to categories.
      I don’t this think article blames anyone else for anything. I wrote this after reading A LOT of articles about ‘qualities which make up a bad guy’. My point was, although we may pat ourselves on the back for not being homophobes, or brutes, it is still difficult to find a fellow ‘guy’ with whom you can have a completely honest conversation about everyday troubles.
      As for the rest of the posts you read here. that is largely the mandate of this site: searching for ways to celebrate what makes a “Good Man” and prodding discussions about areas we can improve ourselves.
      As for lighter fare, focusing on the positive, there is a lot of it out there, on this site, and on my own blog:) Maybe you and I should go for coffee?

  2. Hi Kenny,

    I agree with you, it is very hard to find to find anyone, let alone another male to share issues with, whether they be challenges or joys. Can’t tell you how many male clubs, talking circles, retreats I have gone on, yet it’s obvious that there really isn’t allot of listening going on anymore. I am in my 50’s, in my entire adult life I can honestly say I’ve had one, maybe two, conversations with other men where sharing and an honest exchange of ideas took place.

    I have compensated for that by constantly examining my life and how I look at things. I DO treat women and men with respect. I DO treat folks in cultures outside of my own with respect and honor their ways. I do my best to help people and celebrate their victories. I am well aware I am not perfect, I am we’ll aware I need to improve in areas.

    This all said and done, the I run across an article like yours and basically I need to examine my motivations more. Geez, please, can we celebrate the good? Sorry if this is coming across harsh, but I hear all the time how men don’t listen, we just are empty lugs that our single goal is to watch sports.

    There are lots of guys, men, out there that aren’t like that. They cry when they are denied there visitation rights, pay their child support, plan out romantic “dates” with the woman that they share their lives with. They (we?) need to hear from other men that hell yeah! Your doing ok.

    Rant over. Sure lets go for coffee…. I know this great place in Oak Park….

  3. I liked the article! Thank you for writing it. I love this website. It helps me understand how men think.
    I think if people don’t want to read any more of these articles, then just don’t read them? :)
    Some people are just more introspective and self-analytical. This doesn’t mean anyone is “blaming” or “criticizing”. I think this article resonates with many people. If it doesn’t with you, move on to the next article :)

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