This Good Is Good features Seamus Matlack sitting in for his old man, with a post about true manhood.
I asked my son Seamus, who is a freshman at Boston College High, to read Jeffrey Marx’s Season of Life because I thought it would allow us to talk about some important father-son topics. The book is about a NFL Hall of Famer who decided to teach boys how to play football—not to win games but to become good men. Seamus liked the book so much (his school’s motto is “be a man for others”) that he asked to contribute a blog post. —Tom Matlack
Economic status, athletic ability, and sexual competence are the three things that make up false manhood. Think about it. Have you ever been judged or judged someone on one or all of those three things? I have. Those are the things that make people think you’re cool or popular in high school, and successful when you’re an adult.
I relate to the second and the third the most. Schools even create the idea that being athletic is great, especially when the schools’ sports teams are good and difficult to make. So it automatically separates people, excludes them. It makes some kids looked at as the better because they were more physically fit to be on a team.
There’s also the macho factor; if someone is better than you physically then they would be able to beat you in anything physical, especially a fight. It’s basically the same thing with sexual competence. If a girl wants to do something sexual with you, then that must mean you’re better than someone else with whom she doesn’t want to do the same thing. This again leads to separation and exclusion of people.
Economic status, I believe, is the worst one. Money is the ultimate excluder—it rewards people who are good at only certain things. You may be very good at playing guitar, just as good as someone is with trading stocks, but the person who works with stocks will be rewarded with more money, even though you both have the same amount of talents.
To be able to love and receive love are the two things that make up true manhood. What this means is people who are able to give and receive love and are able to build relationships are more likely to be happy. When you’re on your death bed and your looking back on your life will you feel happy that you had more money than anybody in your family, or that you started every game for your high school basketball team, or that you got to third base with a girl on prom night? I don’t think so. And if you do, then you probably had an empty life, because what you should feel happy about is that you were a good father, a good son, a good brother, a good friend.
What it comes down to is being a man for others. This means a man who is not self-centered. He puts others’ needs before his own; he makes sure he helps everyone around him before he helps himself. The men for others are the real men in the world. Not the ultimate fighters, or the rich stock brokers, or the pimps and players, because nothing of what they do matters all that much to anyone beside themselves. So instead of worrying about getting that big promotion, or making a certain team, or even if you’re going to get lucky, worry about what really matters: whether you are a man for all who are around you.