Ethan Ruzzano has encountered three myths regarding what is supposed to be important. In rejecting them, he discovered the biggest value of all.
There are three things we are told that are important in our process growing up as men. They aren’t things that our dads teach us or that we learn through school or mentors. They are ingrained within us through moments; one by one, slow but persistent.
The myths come to us at different stages in life. Over time, we learn to judge ourselves and our value by wrong and often impossible measurements. It starts when we’re young.
The myth of strength
We learn the first myth on the playground. We learn it as we’re chosen last in gym class. We learn it as we watch the big kids bully the small ones. By the time we’re through primary school, we’ve fully absorbed the first myth: that our worth depends on our physical prowess.
The myth of magnetism
The second myth appears as our bodies begin to change. We wake up one day and realize that our friends who are girls look different somehow. And that we want, or need, their attention. We need it and we start doing crazy things to get it. We begin to worry about how well liked we are, how many women we can attract, how many we can score with. In this stage of life, we learn that our worth depends on our sexual prowess.
The myth of wealth
The last myth comes as our bodies begin to fade. But we’re assured that it’s ok because the last myth doesn’t rely on the body. The last one is about power. As we finish our education and enter the new and exciting world of earnings and industry we learn that we don’t need a great body to attract others anymore; we need a great portfolio. We learn that our worth depends on the size of our wallet — our financial prowess.
Though their influence is substantial, our awareness of the myths can be minimal. Many people simply accept them as a part of who they are. Others are at least somewhat aware of their negative impact but have not confronted them through a conscious effort. I believe that if people come to understand them when they’re young, they’ll be better equipped to avoid their influence as they mature.
So this is what I’ll teach my kids about manhood. That a man is not his ability to win on the soccer field or date the prom queen. That a man is not less of a man if he chooses to pursue a passion that doesn’t live up to a particular financial standard. The worth of a man is not something that can be easily seen by others or something that garners praise.
Simply put, a worthwhile man is a man who does things that are worthwhile.
A man of worth can show kindness and give friendship to those who need it; can bring a spark of joy and a bit of laughter to tough situations; and can refrain from making judgments of his peers. A man of worth is humble in his accomplishments; generous with his time; and makes a conscious choice to do the right thing when no one is watching.
As men, we spend our lives believing that we don’t measure up because we are conditioned to use the wrong measuring stick. I teach my kids to think of manhood differently.
That may be the most worthwhile thing of all.
Photo: Flickr/Ted Craig
This post originally appeared on The Dad Dynamic, a community for modern dads.