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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Does it Take to be a Real Man?

I wrote this essay in 1996 and ever since, it has been borrowed and adopted by other writers online. I came across it lately while browsing the Internet and I decided to re-publish it here, hoping some of you will learn a thing or two about what constitutes true masculinity, from a woman's perspective. 

What Does it Take to be a Real Man?

©Amy L. Chaves

(Published at Xavier University Crusader, Feb. 1996)

Last December 1, 1995, during the Xavier Days revelry, a certain freshman student of the College of Engineering, attacked and assaulted my son who is also a freshman of the same college, without provocation and sufficient reason. His mother came to see me at our house, apologized, but justified his son's behavior as part of the need of adolescents to assert themselves to be considered "manly" or lalaki. Based from this erroneous and distorted concept of what it takes to be a real man, I write this modest essay with the intention of clarifying, not only to the student who assaulted my son, but  to all our male students, the true essence of manliness.

A real man need not prove himselfOnly those who are still uncertain of their manliness will be driven by the desire to prove that they are real men. So they engage in brawls and fights. But a real man need not assume a combatant stance. He has the ability to discipline himself and to let go of hostilities that can cause not only conflicts but harm and injury on others.

A real man is therefore one who has the inner strength and wisdom to distinguish between what is right or wrong behavior even in the most difficult situation. One need not be another Jean Claude Van Damme or Sylvester Stallone to be considered a real man. It is not only a matter of muscles but of substance that a man is made of.

A real man is not egotistical. Only an insecure person has the need to assert himself always, that he is right, and that he is the best; that always "the world owes him a living;" that people must always bow down and submit to him; that his world is at the center of everything else, to the prejudice of others. 
A real man is caring. Although he considers his own needs he also considers the needs of others and takes a healthy pride in valuing and appreciating others.  Down with egotistical men! What we need are grown-up men who have undergone the difficult process of coming to terms with their own weakness and capitalizing on their weakness to gain inner strength. We need men who can appreciate others without feeling less of a man.

A real man does not wear a mask of toughness. In fact, a real man is gentle. He is not afraid to be vulnerable and therefore need not show that he is tough. He is solid inside and is therefore not afraid to be vulnerable on the outside.  A real man knows when to be tough--when his rights or that of others are being violated; when he must act courageously, as a matter of principle, and not just of false pride; when he must be a protector of the down-trodden and the innocent--this he does with the right intention and at the right time.

A real man does not follow the crowd. He does not smoke, drink or take drugs just to be considered "in" or in vogue. Maleness or masculinity is not only a matter of smoking or drinking.  A trained monkey can do that.  A real man is an individual who is not controlled by advertisements in the media which insinuates that a real man takes brandy, "pang rrrromansa, espesyal!" Or that a real man must smoke Hope and then be surrounded by women in bikini. It takes more than drinking or smoking for a man to be a real man. It takes guts not to be part of the faceless, nameless, and irresponsible crowd.

A real man does not bend the rules. A real man not only knows the rules but respects the rules. He knows the importance of rules in life. Those who bend the rules are lopsided men with lopsided minds and are therefore not real men. They are the ones who, later in  adult life, become corrupt and cruel. Out of their legacy also comes malevolent and ruthless men who not only bend the rules but even the Law to their advantage. They are the cunning men who not only lack integrity but also honesty.

A real man is moral.  A real man not only recognizes the importance of ethical life but is downright ethical in whatever aspect of his life is involved whether it is the personal or the social. He knows, for example, that it is wrong to take advantage of innocent women. He values women regardless of status or qualifications. Those who seduce or rape women are not real men--they have another "kingdom:"  the "kingdom genitalia". In this kingdom, only the genitals are paramount. The head and the heart are non-essentials, almost non-existent. This is the kingdom occupied by men who are amoral particularly in the aspect of love.

Before I close, in case you are one of those trying to be a real man or are in the process of becoming one, let me tell you this: it will be a long and difficult process, a long upward climb. It might take years. But it will be worth the climb and the time. It may entail getting rid of some parental domination-- overprotectiveness and extreme forms of dependency--that may impede your personal growth to be a man. It may mean loosening your grip from some "barkadas" (peers) who may have negative influences on you--the drug addicts, the habitual drinkers, the womanizers, and the happy-go-lucky. It may require learning to love and to appreciate yourself starting now: an unrepeated, special person. It may necessitate behavioral control to ward off combatant behavior and channeling your energy into some worthwhile pursuits--the Campus Ministries may need a chapel aide and the world could surely take another environmentalist. It may mean respecting women, being more gentle to them, and refraining from sexist remarks. It may require becoming more duty- and responsibility-centered: studying, fulfilling class requirements, helping parents in home-making are some of these. It may mean integrating prayer into your life and relating to God in more profound ways than one.

Others may write more on this topic but for now, I challenge the men in this campus to become real men. They need not wear fancy clothes and put on sophisticated manners.  They need not be avant garde or oozing with self-confidence. They need not look like Keanu Reeves and smell of Lagerfield perfume. It might not be easy to spot the real men.  But review this article, observe, befriend some men. If you can find one real man, bring him to me. He deserves, at the very least, a kiss!

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