What does it mean to be a man?
When presented this question, one cannot help but start to answer it. Even if an answer is not verbally shared, I would suggest that both men and women carry an innate inner posture towards what it means to be a man. In following this question, I want to pose a deeper question: What then is the foundation of this innate answer?
I understand the answer is checkered with social status, ethnic diversity, cultural manifestations, religion, and history. I wrote “The Confused Beauty Inside of a Man” to address what I have seen along the journey of being a man. I have seen that inside of me there is a beast who desires attention and praise, which seemingly trumps all things, but I simultaneously see in myself a desire for love and care. My words touch on the tension of being soft yet stoic, and living the dance of carrying a past of mistreating women, but now striving to care selflessly for my sisters of humanity.
What I have found to be crippling is that the idea of manhood has been highly influenced by culture. If a man took the time to look deep into the layers of his soul, the innermost parts of what compiles his individual character, I would suggest that he would find many artificial stigmas of what culture says it means to be a man. For example, culture has perverted the privilege of selflessly providing for a family into a avenue for silent boasting, and how a man’s family functions now resembles more an advertisement of the man. All of humanity struggles to admit its flaws, and I have seen this specific imperfection cling to men like static skin. If this holds any validity, then where is the beauty in humbly pursuing meekness? Because I am seeing humility characterized with weakness, shame, or something of lesser value.
Why is this true?
Where is the fight for men to be honorable? And what is honor, but laying down one’s preferences for others? And what is laying down one’s preferences, but the greatest expression of love.
To hear, but not ponder these questions, would a clear indication that you are under the spell of cultural illusion.
Women are not excluded from these questions. I would promote that women have equally been influenced by the filth of culture. Both men and women contribute in the battle for what cements our ideas of manhood. What women look for in men directly correlates to how women treat men. Expectations for physical appearance, material possessions, character traits, sexual intimacy, and even down playing romance send a clear message to men where their value lies. These non-verbal or verbal expectations eventually progress into how men transform themselves or strive for what women want.
Where do these thoughts and questions then lead us, Mr. Poet?
Self examination that leads to blaming our fallen nature becomes too easy. If there are truths about manhood, then why do men only practice certain attributes of being a man, and only in certain scenarios? For example, why do some of us when in a comfortable environment have no problem with belittling our fellow man, but then can easily choose to change into the costume of being polite, apologetic, and sporting fake humility. Which is the real man? Where do you find yourself more comfortable? Do you have a nagging itch to be found as Dr. Jekyll when Mr. Hyde is the only lurking substance left when you are alone with a cup of tea and only a dialogue with your thoughts to keep you company.
These are the things worth discovering: why do men do the very things they loathe in other men? If honor and humility are things that are glorified, then why do we settle for anything less than these beauties? Where do we get the idea that we are a prideful people? If there is a written desire to be cherished and give love in all of our hearts, then how do we take that desire and transfer it action? Being a man is not a theoretical idea only, but a powerful reality that begs our souls’ fingers to mold to these truths.