We’re inculcated with tales of noble acts performed by men in every medium we absorb. From the bedtime stories we’re told as children to the movies and media we watch thereafter, the men are lionized, glorified, and hailed as champions and heroes. The media indicate that men ought to be valiant, brave, and fit into a number of preconceived stereotypes: the strong man, the rich man, the looker, the bad boy, the bigwig, the charmer.
In fact, the male protagonist these days gets carte blanche to misbehave in an array of ways so long as, in the end, he conforms to one of the aforementioned stereotypes. He can begin as the noncommittal bachelor, the careerist, the fixer-upper, or the parasite who lives on his parents’ couch into his 40s. Our society is oddly accepting of many types of men, and fails to really define what makes a man truly worthy, upright, or noble.
It’s no different in “real” life. Our culture reflects men of all kinds. They can be virtuous or vile, kind or cruel, intellectual or dim-witted, goal-oriented or unaccomplished. Too bad our culture doesn’t incentivize men to become. Our culture, instead, celebrates one-time acts. No one seems to recognize the man who quietly goes about his life doing good and noble things. No one pays any mind to the family man, the man of few words, the man who is courageous but doesn’t necessarily have to rescue people in slow motion to prove it (like all the movies portray).
There’s a difference between being noble and doing noble things.
We confuse the one-time act of nobility with the character trait of being noble. For a man to truly live a noble life and be a noble person, he must leave his mark on humanity in small, consistent ways that demonstrate and define his character over time. He must be selfless, stand up consistently for what’s good and right even when it’s unseen or unpopular, and never yield his integrity to what’s convenient or common.
A noble man cares more about others than himself. He adapts to the needs of those around him. He builds successful relationships, flourishing families, and a prosperous career; not for the glory of those things themselves, but simply because everything he touches becomes infused with his integrity and good intent. A noble man recognizes his influence in this world and strives to make that influence memorable and positive.
A noble man is not a man who does one or two good things in his life and then rests on his laurels the rest of the way. I once had a friend who gave a destitute, down-and-out single mom a car (not a Ferrari by any means, but a fairly reliable older car) and proceeded to brag about it for years and years afterward. I’m not putting the guy down; after all, he did a great thing. However, he failed to understand that one kind act in his lifetime does NOT give him license (pun intended?) to relax his efforts!
Life is about constant expansion and growth. A noble man is a changing man — one who considers new ideas and ideals. A man who recognizes he simply cannot understand all situations and people, so he does his best to withhold swift judgments. A noble man is not always the teacher or master, but more often the student and the ever-learner. He doesn’t have to instruct others because his actions already speak for themselves and set the standard for those around him.
A noble man doesn’t pardon his poor behavior — he’s quick to apologize. A noble man doesn’t need to be the envy of all people. He can set aside self-promotion and self-centeredness. His ego isn’t so big that he can’t celebrate and encourage his peers.
A noble man is NOT perfect and he makes regular mistakes — which he strives to learn from.
Being a noble man is more than an act. It’s a rewiring of our thoughts and actions. It’s a new way of thinking, refining our behaviors, and perceiving the world around us. Being a noble man IS A LOT OF WORK, and it can be intimidating. But the world needs noble men. Your circle of influence needs noble men. Your family needs noble men. Humanity needs noble men.
Become a noble man — and never stop becoming.
Previously published on Medium and republished here with the author’s permission.
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Photo provided by the author.