Questioning what it means to be a man is something that I would consider to be a foundation to this website. So, in honor of that, I decided to compile 15 questions about masculinity that I have seen and heard asked often.
Now, before we jump into these questions, I would like to explain how the answers were created. I chose to ask four men who I respect to take time and share their wisdom. The next thing I will do is introduce them so you know a bit about the men behind these words.
Each of these men I believe has some great wisdom to share. To help you know who the writers are I thought knowing some basic information on them would be beneficial.
Without any further ado, here they are.
Name: Larry Keck
Name: Mike Yarbrough
Name: Justin Bailey
Profession: Network Engineer
The last thing I would like to note is that I have not altered or edited their answers in anyway, so what you are reading is exactly what they wrote
Q1: What is your definition of being a man?
Larry: I believe there is no one specific answer to this question. Being a man is not a one size fits all answer. Manhood is not defined by personality, intelligence, social status or sexual orientation. The old stereotype of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood taking out the bad guys mono e mono is not an accurate representation of what manhood is all about. I believe being a man is defined by their character. Though this is not an inclusive list, I do believe it represents the parameters of the qualities of being a man.
A man is someone that is:
Mike: First, you must be male. Second, a man is responsible for himself. That doesn't mean completely self-reliant, but is aware and considerate of his own self being either a benefit or a burden to the world around him.
Nick: A typified set of traits, a common denominator, possessed or idealized.
Justin: A man knows who he is, knows what he believes, knows what he wants, and acts in a way that reflects all of the above.
Q2: How do you become a man of value?
Nick: Define, first what you value. This question may lead one to think that the value needs to be externally driven - i.e. how do I become a man of value to Tim. But, that would be an ingenuine approach to self-improvement based on another's value structure that I may not agree with. It's the wrong place on the continuum for me. But, if I work to first become a "man I value" then I'm internally driven towards these goals and those in turn increase my value. If I consider myself valuable first, that will resonate into my actions which will in turn make me a valuable person to someone else.
Justin: Give more than you take, every interaction, every relationship, every time. I don't think this is an attainable goal... but it is a worthy pursuit.
Larry: It all starts and ends with being honest. Knowing yourself. Loving yourself. Forgiving yourself. Learning and growing daily. Challenging your convictions and beliefs, and changing them when they no longer line up to your perceived truth. Being fearless means being vulnerable.
Mike: Passion + Talent + Meeting Needs = Value
Q3: What defines masculinity?
Mike: I believe masculinity is virtue in masculine form. There are certain virtues we associate with men, though in truth, virtues are for everyone. But, there is a way about a man and how he carries out those virtues. For example, courage looks different coming from a male than it does from a female. It's a difficult thing to describe, but you know it when you see it.
Nick: To a lesser extent the above - I think "man" being this idealized (and personalized) set of traits and masculinity may be the expression of those traits.
Justin: Masculinity is defined by the way we respond to a given situation. The dictionary defines masculinity as being set by a given society, but I personally think of masculinity as its own, immutable force.
Larry: Masculinity in its broadest term comes from a position of power and strength. If you mean courage in place of masculinity, that would reveal itself as; standing up for what is right, protecting your loved ones from harm, and doing the right thing in the face of public scorn or condemnation. However, I feel the term masculinity has taken on a negative connotation. Being a tough guy has nothing to do with true masculinity. Masculinity is over used, and over hyped. It is an outdated term which ascribes itself as an attribute all males should subscribe to. Being a well adjusted healthy male should be the new definition of masculinity.
Q4: What does it mean to be a good man?
Justin: I don't know. I hear people use this term and I assume it means they've had good interactions with the man. I don't believe men are good or bad. Men do good and they do bad, and hopefully in the end our good outweighs our bad.
Larry: A good man lives by his conviction and does not waive from his moral values. Staying true to oneself, is quintessential to defining goodness. However, cultural, societal, and religious beliefs all have a hand in how the word "good" is used.
Mike: I believe integrity as at the heart of being a good man. This means standing by what you believe as well as keeping your word to others. The man you are when no one's looking kind of thing.
Nick: To balance between masculinity and femininity, striking a balance of emotional regulation and emotional understanding with strong, sometimes aggressive, approaches to maintain your core values.
Q5: What does masculinity mean to you?
Larry: I think being masculine has taken on a persona in and of itself. Masculinity is over used, and over hyped. It conjures images of the tough guy, the cowboy on the range defying the elements, or the Police Officer starring down the barrel of a gun. Once again, I believe masculinity should be replaced with healthy Male which means; being honest with oneself, loving and caring for those around him, staying true themselves with no false bravado. Being a tough guy has nothing to do with true masculinity.
Mike: For me, it's living with the confidence and appreciation of being a man and then also walking out the responsibilities therein. Men have a certain kind of strength that is to be offered to others. We grow ourselves to be in the service of others. That's where we are needed and that's where we find fulfillment.
Nick: A stereotyped set of traits commonly found in the male gender. Bastardized at this point, i think, but I digress. :)
Justin: To me masculinity is a force. It's more talent than skill, and lies directly opposite of the feminine. We all embody some of both. And just as one may be talented towards the guitar and another in chemistry... both are of equal necessity in life.
Q6: How can I be masculine?
Mike: There are certain things men can typically do to be more masculine: build physical strength, work independently and find enjoyment in being alone (detachment), ground yourself in a worldview that stands up to the wishy washy nonsense of the day.
Nick: Strive towards striking that balance in a meaningful way to you.
Justin: Know who you are; a lack of identity, vision and purpose will rob you of your masculine self.
Larry: Don't be! Instead, find out what you truly believe and be true to yourself. Being masculine is about an image or an outward appearance. Be a healthy male. Research your inner beliefs and convictions and live by them.
Q7: What is the difference between boy and man?
Nick: Age? Regardless of rites of passages, one is considered a man at a certain age. I'd say to some degree there is a certain level of flexibility - if someone is considered a "child" but is reading something like this in an effort to better themselves, that is a man like trait to me.... This one's trickier than I thought :)
Justin: A boy says and does the things he thinks he is supposed to do. A man says and does the things he believes, regardless of what those around him may think.
Larry: Simply put, a boy is still in the process of maturing physically, emotionally, and spiritually, all the while discovering who they are. A man has gone through the early trials of life, and at least has an outline for what they believe. Though these beliefs may change, a man has guidelines, goals, and aspirations. A man has a plan and a course of action to accomplish these goals. It should be noted a male's brain does not stop maturing until at least 25, so age is not always a determining factor on when a boy becomes a man.
Mike: A boy typically has his mind on himself and in the world of fantasy. A man has his mind on himself, those around him, and uses his imagination to cast a vision for the world as it should be. A boy dreams, a man dreams and acts.
Q8: What qualities make a good man?
Justin: Things like honor, integrity, respect, and charity towards others are all things a good man should be striving for, but I don't think we ever "get there".
Larry: I believe the following constitutes qualities of a good man:
It is not only defining these qualities, but consistently living by them, and correcting the behavior when it gets off course. It is okay to admit a mistake when wrong. Stand up and be honest in your reflection of your behavior and change your behavior accordingly.
Mike: Dependability, honesty, hard working, thoughtful, noble.
Nick: Integrity, emotional intelligence, wisdom, strength, and a drive to seek out weaknesses and work on them.
Q9: How do I maintain and better myself as a man?
Larry: Honest self-reflection. Challenge your beliefs. Do not take what you hear as truth. Investigate, study, argue, and grow. If you are of a liberal persuasion, read conservative articles, and vice versa. If you are of the Christian faith, learn about Islam. Look for differing points of view that tests your beliefs. Never stop learning.
Mike: Get around men who you want to be like. Understand you are a child of God and that you are here for a purpose. Work hard to be worthy of the love you have been shown.
Nick: Through effective self-reflection or even therapeutically mediated self-reflection in an effort to find out what shadows continue to haunt. Identifying core beliefs or values that are unhelpful or hurt you, identifying ways for which you don't embody whatever the balance is for you as stated above, and picking up on the things that you are doing that continue to hurt you.
Justin: Community. Everyone I've interviewed who are centered and doing great things in this world have surrounded themselves with excellent people who share common values.
Q10: Where can I meet other good guys?
Mike: Men's groups at churches can be a good place to start...but it can also be a crapshoot. Good guys are all around, but finding men that really want to push forward in life is harder. You often have to seek them out.
Nick: Define "good".... I'd say that you'll find yourself around others that have the same outlook and general philosophies.
Justin: Anywhere... the trick is are you willing to put yourself out there? The best place is to start with those you know. Who are the men you observe who are doing it the right way? How can you move into that next zone of friendship with those men? What adventures can be had, what hobbies do you share?
Larry: First, I would need to know your definition of a good man. However, with that being said, you can meet what I believe to be good guys anywhere from church to your local bar. Finding good men is like shopping for used cars, they are everywhere. I would caution you not to go on appearances alone. A shiny new car looks good, but it hasn't been road tested yet. Some cars may have been driven hard with a few dents and a little rust, but they are battle tested, and reliable. Find people who are doing things for others and not just for themselves. I believe this is a good place to start.
Q11: How can a boy become a man?
Nick: Self-examination in an effort to better oneself.
Justin: A boy can move into manhood when he knows what vices are at risk of controlling him. Only then will he able to confront those vices and hopefully conquer them, or at least spend a lifetime valiantly fighting them.
Larry: Becoming a man will happen eventually simply by living. But, does that make them a good man, or a reliable man? Only time will tell. Surrounding boys around good men dedicated to helping others is often the best way, (mentorship). Traditionally this has fallen to the father. However, in today's society there is a lack of paternal involvement in many young boys lives. All boys need strong role models that exemplify the qualities of a good man. From coaches, to pastors, teachers and neighbors, there are many places to turn to find a guiding force to help a boy become a man.
Mike: Take responsibility for himself and his actions. Fail. Learn. Grow.
Q12: How do I become a more confident man?
Justin: Figure out what you are good at... do those things a lot.
Larry: Confidence begins with belief in yourself. Once you understand your inner self, not just the image you wish to uphold, but your true self, you are on the the road to becoming confident. However, finding that person takes courage. You must examine every motive, thought and action to determine why you chose this particular path. Being open, honest, and vulnerable is a scary proposition. But when you learn this one simple fact, you will free yourself to become more confident: you are the ONLY person you have to live with 24/7. If you can live with yourself, and love the person you are, you will gain confidence. Know where you stand. Be confident in your convictions and consistent in your walk. If you have the ability to forgive yourself when you stumble and fall, chalking it up to growth, you will start to become confident in your life.
Mike: There are a few ways confidence happens. One, it is a mindset that a person has a holds to (naturally optimistic) . Two, it comes through being tested, failing, and getting back up. But, the second can also turn negative if a person doesn't have the right mindset to begin with. Rather than focusing on self-confidence, focus on self-compassion. Confident people are simply willing to let themselves fail in front of others. That's it.
Nick: This one's tough - confident in which ways? Confident in "manliness"? because this may not be striking the best balance. You may be idealizing a trait that is disingenuous and therefore, will never seem attainable. Confidence levels are often associated with self-compassion and esteem issues as well, and therefore these all need to be properly analyzed.
The Man Effect: 15 Ways You Can Become More Confident As A Man.
Q13: Are there unique qualities of masculinity?
Larry: No, I believe masculinity is a myth devised by the advertising industry, movies, books, and now social media. The term masculinity has been bastardized to emphasize false bravado, harden men, rough, tough, not showing feelings-emotionless drones. Being strong or brave has nothing to do with who can whip who in a fight. This fearless male is a creature of Hollywood. Every man I know has doubts and fears. It is the man that faces those fears, that is the person who is truly masculine.
Mike: Yes, but too many to answer here ;-)
Nick: I think the uniqueness of these types are based more on the construct that anything. So, it is possible that a women expresses more "masculine" traits than a male, but may not make that male less of a man... if this makes sense? The question suggests thinking too of the opposite, is masculinity not unique, but that seems absurd given that even cross-culturally this idea of transforming from boy to manhood is found all over the place.
Justin: To me the tangible signs of masculinity show up in crises. Sacrificing yourself for others, standing up for those who cannot stand themselves.
Q14: How do you define toxic masculinity?
Mike: Vice in masculine form.
Nick: Expressly harmful behavior masked as idealized masculine traits. Threatening and using violence when such actions are unnecessary in an effort to show you're "stronger" than someone else, I'd throw here too. Although this is just a trigger question and I'm working hard to not become emotionally dysregulated in suggesting that its a bullshit term made up by pseudoacademics.....
Justin: The passing on of toxic traits to a younger generation in the guise of being a man. An older man telling a younger man to "just grab them in the pussy" is probably the best example I can think of.
Larry: I took this from another question: The term masculinity has been bastardized to emphasize false bravado, harden men, rough, tough, not showing feelings-emotionless drones. Being strong or brave has nothing to do with who can whip who in a fight. This fearless male is a creature of Hollywood. It is believing this hype while denying our inner convictions that leads to toxicity. Bullying is a form of toxic masculinity as well as going along with bullying due to cowardice or fear to stand up for your beliefs
Q15: How do you define healthy masculinity?
Nick: Expressly helpful behavior that is genuine and comes from a place of possessing that trait or working towards developing it.
Justin: Passing on to younger generations the qualities that invoke manhood. Honor, Integrity, Loyalty, etc... .These values not only need to be lived out and strived for in a man's life... but they must be passed on.
Larry: How about just being a healthy male and disregard this need to appear masculine? Being masculine appears as actions that fit a mold or perception. Being a healthy male, is about inner qualities that produce an internal peace with self, not a preconceived set of outward behaviors.
Mike: Virtue in masculine form.