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
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.
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?”
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.”
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