Ken Solin offers suggestions on openness and integrity.
There’s lots of talk going around about authentic men. Everyone seems to have an answer: there are articles and movies and even TV shows dedicated to covering the issue, trying to come to some sort of consensus – and some point in the right direction. But I have my own sense of what it means to live authentically, and I do my best to live by according to this sense.
A man – a true, authentic man – is a man who lives openly and with integrity, who has little about their lives they feel they need to hide. These are men who are honest, men that don’t deceive, men who are concerned with the ways their actions affect those around them.
I try to surround myself with men like this, men who are trying to live authentically. Of course, this leaves a lot of people out of my life, but experience has taught me that it isn’t the number of friends a man has that matters – rather, it’s the quality of his friends.
I refuse to be associated with men who live dishonestly, men who lie to their wives and girlfriends. I’ve been asked to cover for men who cheat on their wives, and I’ve declined. A friend would never ask another friend to lie, for any reason. I especially avoid men who don’t have a moral compass, and those who pretend not to know the difference between right and wrong when it suits their needs to plead ignorance. A man who lies is untrustworthy, and where there’s no trust, there’s no love.
What’s left to choose from are the best of men who can always be depended upon for their straightforwardness and integrity. My friends are concerned about me and my well-being; I know if I need a favor or help of any kind, they will be quick to come to my aid. My male friends work hard to be the best husbands and boyfriends possible. When their relationships hit a rough patch, the first thing that comes into their consciousness isn’t to have sex with other women to make themselves feel better, but rather to do the work to figure out how to get their relationships back on track. With them, it’s all about integrity.
My friends understand the basic principles that I taught my sons from the time they were young: that nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy, and that hard work is nearly always necessary to achieve real life goals. There are no shortcuts for living a good life.
A man understands that sometimes he has to admit that he’s wrong. No one is right all of the time. Moreover, he’s okay and secure in that knowledge, and he doesn’t see apologizing as a sign of weakness. A man understands that everything about his manhood – or manhood in general – isn’t connected to his ego (otherwise referred to as his dick).
A man knows that being a father means spending time teaching his children the lessons that will carry them through their lives, even if this means missing a round of golf on Saturday, or a round of drinks with the buds on Friday night. He knows that being a father doesn’t end the moment his children go off to college or into the military after high school; he accepts that as long as he’s alive, he’s going to be involved in his children’s lives.
A man doesn’t browbeat his kids into thinking the way he does; he nurtures them. He knows that sometimes it is best not to give advice unless it’s asked for – whether to his children or to complete strangers – because more often than not people just want a sounding board, not a fix. Moreover, a man knows the difference between advice and simply telling a person what to do. A man knows that true advice comes from drawing information off of previous experience – the good and bad. A man understands the importance of helping his friends heal, emotionally and physically, when they’ve been hurt.
A man doesn’t utter racial slurs or engage in bigotry of any sort. Period. There’s nothing more to say on the topic other than that.
This is how men – authentic men – act. Those who do otherwise aren’t men at all, just boys parading around with a false title and a false sense of what it means to carry that title. I’ve known 12-year-olds who are more of a man than 60-year-olds. It takes more than a Y-chromosome to make you worthy of carrying the title of Man.
Most of my closest friends are men that I’ve been in a men’s group with for decades. We have helped one another understand how to live authentically, and when we fail to stay on that path, we gently guide each other back onto it. Does all of this make my friends and me authentic men? It does in my book.
Photo Roomic Cube/Flickr