What are the basic characteristics of being a man?

Why is it important to know what a real man is? Well, it is important for everyone because we are all shaping people to some kind of ideal. This is true whether we know it or not. That is, everyone encourages and discourages each other, by our statements, omissions, praises, etc. What we praise, we encourage. What we denounce, we discourage. Whatever ideal that we have in our mind, leaks out in our actions, and into society.

Consider this. Imagine that you are a father or mother, and ask yourself, what things do I need to instill in my child by the time of accountability? This is an old term, but basically, it amounts what does it mean to pass from ‘being a child and boy’ to ‘being a man’?

This is important because parents need to know the whole so that they can order the parts. They need to know where they are going, in order to plot their course. So, what are the basic, and most important, characteristics of becoming a man, and being a man?

This relates to cultural responsibility. These are deep issues, but I think a lot can be said by simply pointing to what is passed down, encouraged, discouraged, and glorified. We pass down what we think is the best, not just material things, but values, songs, favorite activities, etc.

In that ballpark, then, what are we responsible for exemplifying, encouraging, and expecting of children?

Now, it seems that a fact of human life is related to the KISS principles (Keep It Simple Stupid). KISS is not just a good idea because it works (though it generally does), it is a  principle because–we humans– we really are stupid sometimes. If you don’t keep something simple, you completely forget the point of what you’re doing in the first place.

So, about ‘being a man’, what is something that we can point to that is simple and true, that shows what a man ought to be? That is, what is something that we can point to that we aim to get our young boys towards, by the time their bodies are developed, and become men? (because you can be physically grown without maturity in other respects).

To my mind, the simplest thing that we can point to is the joint role of father and husband. Being a man is the ability, and willingness, to understand the great responsibility of being a husband and a father. This doesn’t mean that you only become a man if you’re married and have children. This isn’t the point. The point is, that the great responsibilities for being reliable, honest, committed, gentle, fierce, loving, and prepared, that is what shows that you are a man (readiness to be what is needed). The converse would also be true. If you can’t have a committed relationship, have what it takes to build a life for yourself and others, then you are not yet a man, regardless of your age.

More could be said about this, but I fear that far too little is already said about this. If we point to mere children as men (take your pick about any celebrity that isn’t the fatherly-husband type i.e. still a boy), then we should not be surprised that our children often struggle to find out where they fit, and whether or not they are successes. I am, of course, suggesting that an honest man that builds a life and family is the true success, and beyond this, we go into more complex matters about wisdom, philosophy, the best life, what God wants for us to do, etc (which we should address). For now, though, raise your glass to the men (real men) that do it right, that walk the line. And lovingly suggest to those that don’t understand these things, that perhaps, just perhaps, they missed a few important lessons of life, about what about being a man means. (oh, and by the way, being a husband and father is really difficult…that’s why we need to cultivate it in our young because preparation helps us all succeed).

So, what does being a man mean? A simplified version is this: Being a man is knowing how to, and being prepared to be, committed, reliable, honest, and constructive so that they could be a husband and father. Don’t let the simplicity of the statement deceive you though. It often isn’t (simple), that’s why only real men can do it.

This short article is only a prelimary treatment of the topic of being a man.

Here are some interesting books on the subjects of being a man, and parenting: