Why Manhood is More Than Grit

Kaleb says that manhood is not a series of one-time accomplishments, but an everyday goodness.

By most measurable standards, I am not yet a “man.” I’m not even twenty yet, I’m still a virgin, and most people would argue that I’ve never had any serious responsibility in my life. Yet I’ve dealt with a serious drinking problem, talked several people out of suicide, and had to deal with problems that didn’t exist when my parents were my age.  But damn metrics; they don’t really tell us anything.

The idea that “manhood” can be quantified with achievements or the like is absurd. The fact of the matter is I consider myself to be a good man and I sure as hell have my reasons.

The archaic and faulty notions of stoic manhood are dying out, and rightly so. My father—a man who has always displayed some of the rough and tumble spirit that won the West, built Rome in a day, and stormed Normandy—shocked the living hell out of teenage me when he admitted that he sees a psychologist and firmly believes everyone should.

This led me to some of my first ponderings on the ideas of “manhood” and made me realize that what attracted me to those archaic heroes wasn’t necessarily their toughness or grit (although they are admirable qualities), but their inherent, never-ending struggle towards “manhood,” or as I like to see it, “goodness.”

Yes, I used the word “struggle” on purpose. I know that most people inherently quantify “struggle” as a weakness or as bad, but I’ve come to accept that life isn’t going to be easy and by god, I’m going to have to fight for it. But that isn’t a bad thing. Call it the childish nativity of a teenager, if you must, but isn’t the sense of accomplishment just as sweet as the accomplishment itself? The tenacity to haul yourself up by your bootstraps after you’ve been knocked down is just as admirable as actually completing your goals. And at the end of the day, that’s what manhood is.

I’ve made some bad decisions in the past, and I’ve hurt some people, but right now, I’m very comfortable where I am. Spit and grit are fantastic, but for what? Tenacity alone is not enough: one must have a goal. And I’ve realized that when I can sit back and recognize that I have had a good day, that is enough. When I can look back and recognize and relish the moments when I helped other people—even if it meant my own personal sacrifice—that’s a good day. When I can look back and see myself trying to weed out my childish and hurtful qualities, that’s a good day. When I can look back and say to myself, “You were a man today,” that’s a good day.

Manhood isn’t gained, it’s perpetually earned.

Photo credit: Flickr / anyjazz65

About Kaleb

Kaleb is a student at a small liberal arts college in the Northeast. His primary interests are history, politics, and procrastinating. He has worked briefly as an EMT and a tour guide in a history museum.


  1. Richard Aubrey says:


    Agreed. But the small,daily decisions can be considered “upstream”, against present interests or fun, in the direction of difficulty.
    The three examples I gave were small, daily decisions. Can’t do those without grit. True, it’s invisible grit, but so what?

    • Brian Reinholz says:

      Yup, I agree. I guess I took the author’s definition of grit as a bit more tongue-in-cheek, implying some kind of ‘True Grit’ machoism.

      I think the examples you gave are exactly what he’s describing as good…but I could’ve misunderstood.

      • Mhm, that’s what I meant exactly. Grit alone (like the kind of true grit, tounge-in-cheeck kind) is not enough. The important things are those small daily decisions that you described, which require some form of toughness and grit, and a direction and sense of right and wrong.

  2. Brian Reinholz says:

    I think the author’s point is that the small, daily decisions we make are what make us who we are. Oftentimes these are unseen by others and don’t always carry the stereotypical heroism. They’re rarely easy. They don’t always have good consequences. But there is a virtue in making those decisions nonetheless.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    I got confused between the headline and the article. Is it the case that a single achievement isn’t as laudable as daily being good?
    What makes anybody think that being good every day doesn’t take grit?
    George Stewart, in his preface to “Pickett’s Charge” suggests it does. Referring to the lessons of the battle:. “Must not each of us once, if not every day, hear the call to rise, and cross the field, and go up against the guns?”
    Does it take grit to invite an aged parent to visit from assisted living when you know there’s a fair chance you’ll be cleaning up the bathroom?
    To keep trying to communicate with a troubled child, taking the inevitable crap?
    To keep working at a lousy job?
    Not getting this.

  4. The author thinks that manhood is wage slavery, it has to be earned perpetually.

    • Clearly that’s what someone who doesn’t currently hold a job thinks. It’s not like I mentioned self reflection or charity at the end at all.

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