Respect or Respectable

respectEveryone seems to have an opinion these days about what guys really need – materially, physically, nutritionally, pharmaceutically, and emotionally. Most likely, this is related to a culture that is suffering from an anemic kind of manhood and looking for any, and every, possible solution. Recently, and on several prior occasions, this idea of the male need for respect has come across my path. As I have pondered this concept, I can’t help but wonder if we are, once again, missing the point entirely.

I need it … I really need it3

But Dad, I need it … I really need it”, exclaimed my youngest son. Knowing this to be a standard reply for him, I had mine ready to go, “You only need air, food, and water.” After the briefest of silence, came my wife’s voice, “And love … you need love too.” I smiled and quickly conceded that indeed we do also need love and the brief exchange came to a close, but the encounter started me thinking. I could hear the words of Colonel Jessup, the character played by Jack Nicholson in the hit movie A Few Good Men, “Deep inside in places you don’t talk about at parties … you want me on that wall … you need me on that wall.” Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about wants and needs, more so on the topic of needs – what is it that deep down inside in places we don’t talk about at parties that we really need? Continue reading

The Great Hunger Within

Illustration by JEMoores.com

Illustration by JEMoores.com

Why is it that males are so easily distracted from the things that matter to the things that don’t and from the things that will last to the things that wont? This is a question that has been on my mind for some time now; one that I don’t yet have a complete answer for. In my search for this answer, it is becoming clear that there wont be a single answer but rather a diverse multitude of causes. I am equally confident that these causes will ultimately group into a very small number of root causes. One such root cause is crystal clear to me, I even wonder if it will end up being THE root cause; I will call it The Great Hunger Within. Continue reading

Bring Your ‘A’ Game Bro – Stand Alone Revision

This is a revision for the print publication of my 2014 Father’s day post.

bringyouragamebroAs guys, we know what it means to bring our ‘A’ game. There is a place inside that motivates us to go the extra mile for that big project at work, the corp-to-corp golf tourney, the weekend race, pick-up game, leg day, or any number of other worthy causes. If you have an X and Y chromosome, you also have a primal desire to be a warrior. Every male, admittedly or not, desperately wants to fight those “odds stacked against you” battles, to adventure, to explore, to push himself to the brink for some great cause. Each of us is born with an ‘A’ game and a longing to express it. The existence of our primal and competitive nature isn’t the problem, nor is the expression of it; even if the expression is towards vocational, physical, or athletic excellence. The problem lies not in the areas where we ARE bringing our ‘A’ game but in the areas where we AREN’T brining our ‘A’ game.
Continue reading

Bring Your ‘A Game’ Bro

keep-calm-and-bring-your-a-game-5The timing of this post in no accident in that I intentionally waited until after Fathers Day to post it. I had some feedback from my last post, from several readers, that sometimes this can be a difficult message to take in. I have often considered toning the message down or balancing every stark criticism of western masculinity with a proportional amount of praise and adulation. I have; however, once again, reached the conclusion that I simply cannot. There are plenty of “yeah guys” resources out there but this isn’t one of them. Please don’t misunderstand; I do see hope in certain areas, I do see progress … but not enough. I decided to launch this endeavor out of a sense of urgency. Real men are an endangered species in our culture and unless we do something about it there will be significant consequences. Continue reading

Next Up … Father’s Day!

“Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.” – Dr. David Popenoe

I waited until after Mothers Day before putting this post up, and for good reason. I hope each of you took very seriously your role in leading your family into a meaningful celebration of the mom that raised you up in this world and the mother of your children. Continue reading

You? Who Are You?

I was, and am today, a terrible driver. I’ve given up on improving; I just accept that driving isn’t my strong suite. In fact, I am so bad at driving that I am thankful for the “honkers” out there, they are a much needed source of direction for me. I fully utilize all aspects of the road design, including the rumble strips, which help remind me which lane I am in and that I need to stay there. It’s really always been this way and consequently, from the ages of sixteen to eighteen, I went thru a few different autos. I finally ended up in a 1988 Dodge 600, champagne color with burgundy interior. It was my Mom’s car, which I was given to “borrow” after wrecking my moms “other car”, but somehow ownership eventually passed to me. To this day, I have no idea where my parents sourced the unending patience to deal with all of my antics. Continue reading

Be Better Than Your STEREOtype

For the past two-weeks, things have been pretty deep, as we have taken a short trip into the esoteric abyss of what we believe. As I have said, I won’t necessarily move on, but rather take a short break. My sincere belief is that until you answer The Big Four, in a consistent and coherent way, cognitive dissonance will eat away at your manhood little-by-little until there is nothing left at all. We have some battles to fight, and these battles can only be fought by those readied by absolute believing. One such battle will be discussed this week and so it begins … Continue reading

Believe Something Revision

As I look at my own journey and think about where things really went wrong, the root cause of so many of my bad choices, were a few foundational things I had out of order and inconsistencies in my beliefs. But, just because they are foundational, doesn’t mean they are easy; In fact, they are intensely hard to deal with. There is a reason why so few males ever really deal with these fundamental issues, because they are so very difficult. It’s easy to focus on the outward, to get educated, build a career, to stop using naughty words. However; to take a deep dive into your very own soul and sort things out is daunting and it seems that many males put it off as long as possible, and never get around to dealing with them until pain or circumstance make it impossible not to.  It’s why many males never make the trip to manhood and so many that do, do it much later in life.

I find it odd that for all the toxins we are being warned against, there remain so many that we are not dealing with at all. Of all the influences we have declared war on, from trans fat to high-fructose, we seem to readily accept, dare I say embrace, some of the most toxic things … cognitive dissonance being the one I have decided to take on in this post.

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable and unnatural psychological state that we all seek to eliminate as we drive towards internal consistency.  Perhaps it is best explained with an example.  If I am a staunch environmentalist but drive a Cadillac Escalade and never recycle, I have created for myself a dissonant situation. This situation creates unresolved internal conflict between the things I believe and the things I do. Worse still is the sort of dissonance that comes from conflict between the very things that one believes.  So if I, for example, held to a naturalistic world view, was an atheist, and believed in evolution as the origin of man and, at the same time, believed that man is subject to some kind of given moral law that requires him to be “good”, I have created a cognitive dissonance of the highest order.  A nagging inconsistency that eats away at me from the inside.

In his essay entitled, “What is Enlightenment?”, written in 1784, Kant wrote, “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another.”   Rousseau said, “We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason.  All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education.” I quote these two specifically because, in many ways, these, and a handful of other thinkers, shaped the way the postmodern world thinks, that means the way you think – whether you know it or not.  We certainly don’t lack education, yet, as you have seen in my prior posts … we do indeed lack men.  We live in a world of relativism and pragmatism of belief, we see it everywhere.  The problem is that as males, and to be men, we must have cohesion of thought and belief; our logical nature craves it! The object of our male intellect is truth and we are intellectually emaciated and cognitively constipated. I would present to you that postmodern, relativistic, and pragmatic thinking are to blame.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”  That is precisely where we are today, we believe anything and wonder why we are incapable of doing anything. We are infected with cognitive dissonance of the worst sort and it is eating away at us from the inside out. Worse still, many don’t even know that is what at the root of many of our societal ills.  You see, I strongly believe that men were not made to be relative at all; we are designed to be absolute.  We need the absolute like we need food and water, yet somehow we’ve gotten to the point where we believe that the more open-minded one is the more intellectually astute one is.  Open-mindedness, seems to me, to be a mask worn by those who choose not to wrestle with the hard things.  For those who would rather believe anything than seek out and firm up what it is they themselves believe. Of course, that is to say that being closed-minded and being judgmental are two different things. The more I study, think, and ponder, the more closed minded I become, yet the more close minded I become the more accepting of others beliefs I become.

Our world today preaches a kind of open-mindedness that says you believe what you want to believe and I’m going to believe what I want to believe and all of our beliefs can be fluid and fluctuating and incoherent and self contradicting all at the same time and that’s just okay because it’s all relative.  A thinking man simply cannot accept this kind of incoherent worldview without taking on a great deal of uncomfortable and life-draining dissonance.  I’m not telling you what to believe.  I have my own belief system that is historically trustworthy and naturally cohesive, when taken literally and completely, and that is of great comfort to me.  So how can I proclaim to be a reformed evangelical Christian, yet seem so relative in this statement?  It’s simple; I have a deep trusting faith and deeply believe that that object of the intellect is truth.  When then intellect is truly freed it will seek out and land on truth.  I can be perfectly comfortable in this because I have explored many of the popular worldviews in earnest and found them lacking in cohesion and consistency.  I can trust that if the “men in training” among us, free the intellect from the cholesterol of relativism and pragmatism, these visages of the enlightenment, truth will be found.

But for goodness sake man, shut off the television and go on a journey find out what you believe, test it, refine it, make it consistent, and be able to defend it.  It’s time to man up and think for yourself … but think well.  That is what being a man is all about. So here is my call to action, Men … if indeed you want to be men, you need to figure out what exactly you believe. Start your journey to root out dissonance by relentlessly seeking cohesion in your beliefs. This will be the hardest part of your journey, if you don’t bother with it; there really isn’t much hope for you to make the male to manhood trip.  A real man knows what he believes and is able to defend it.  A real man holds to a core set of beliefs and will die for them if he has to.  That kind of belief leads to resolute thinking and absolute living.  No more can there be an “it depends” for us, we know what we believe and we know what we need to do.

Being on this journey is the most important phase of your metamorphosis from male to man, and it will take time. Let me tell you, things will get worse before they get better as you come face to face with inconsistencies in your current beliefs.  It will get hard when you come face to face with the absolutes that you have been running from. Choices that you have to make and stand firm to.  Relativism and flexibility can be a great comfort for guys who want to live in perpetual puberty. You will have to allocate time, time to read, time to think, and time to wrestle with life’s four hardest questions:

  1. Where did I come from (Origin)
  2. Why am I here (Purpose)
  3. What are the rules (Morality)
  4. What happens next (Destiny)

Living without these questions answered is meaningless. Living with these questions answered incoherently will fill you to the brim with toxic dissonance and a deep deep unrest.  Men were made to seek … so seek my friends … seek.

Blame It On The Bronies

Welcome to the second blog post!  Last weeks post was the initial introductory post, really to introduce myself and start to frame out how I see things.  This week’s post will start the process of accomplishing two major goals.  Firstly, to convince you that real manhood is eroding and that that erosion is negatively impacting the world around us.  Secondly, to begin the process of painting a picture of what real manhood might look like.  I’m purposefully using some loose language here because there is no way I can paint a picture of manhood in one setting, and have no idea how long it will actually take.  It is more likely that today’s post will be a general overview … a single stroke of the brush, a swatch of color, on the canvas of that picture.

For some time now, I have been exploring ideas about what it means to be a real man and how different that is from the examples and pictures of men I see in the world around us.  And it’s not just me, there is something terribly wrong in the world today and it could very well be the undoing of our society, as we know it.  For over two years now, I have been reading, researching, and writing, but keeping it to myself really, for the most part, except my poor wife … she’s had to hear it all.  Several weeks ago, I saw an article that stated,  “the internet has a new kind of hero, a pony-loving kind” which went on to exclaim, “bronies are redefining fandom and American Manhood”.   In case you don’t know, bronies are grown males who like to get together and play with little plastic toy ponies.  They brush their hair, dress them, and have devised a whole little board game around it.  Having been pushed over the edge when the article identified them as heroes, I launched this blog and began to organize all of my work over the past few years into a form that it can be shared over time.

Bronies are simply a symptom of a greater illness, and that illness is killing manhood.  Dr. Zimbardo is a psychologist and a professor emeritus at Stanford University, part of the secular academy, and while I don’t agree with much of his worldview, we see eye to eye on this issue.  In his TED talk, The Demise of Guys, he quickly paints a scary picture of the state of things and ends by saying:

But who should care? The only people who should care about this is parents of boys and girls, educators, gamers, filmmakers and women who would like a real man who they can talk to, who can dance, who can make love slowly and contribute to the evolutionary pressures to keep our species above banana slugs.

Ouch!  So how bad is it really?  Before digging in to some alarming statistics, think about your own experiences.  Simply look at the world around you, the men you interact with, and the ones you see portrayed in the movies and television.  My gut tells me that your own experience will bear out the current state of manhood in the west without me ever quoting a single statistic.  But the statistics are alarming indeed.  Males are now thirty percent more likely to drop out of school and thirty-five percent more likely to commit suicide.  Two-thirds of all special education students are male and men are diagnosed, and treaded with powerful mind-altering drugs, for ADHD five-to-one.  As I make this case, I will continue to quote secular academic sources, lest anyone think this is a religious or ideological stance. A recent Psychology Today article, sums things up surprisingly well:

Overwhelmingly, the portrayal of men and male identity in contemporary western societies is mostly negative. Men today are extensively demonized, marginalized and objectified, in a way reminiscent of what happened to women. The issue of the male identity is of crucial importance because males are falling behind in school, committing more suicides and crimes, dying younger and being treated for conditions such as ADHD more than females. There has also been a loss of fatherhood in society as artificial insemination by anonymous donors is on the rise. Further, medical experiments have shown that male sperm can now be grown artificially in a laboratory. There has been a rise in divorce rates where in most cases, child custody is granted to mothers. Continuous negative portrayal of men in the media, along with the feminization of men and loss of fatherhood in society, has caused confusion and frustration in younger generation males, as they do not have a specific role model and are less able to define their role in society. From once being seen as successful breadwinners, heads of families and being respected leaders, men today are the butt of jokes in the popular media.

And now, as the pièce de résistance, pardon my French; we can simply look at a startling difference in the very definition of the word.  I had to go pretty far back into the Webster’s archives to find a definition of man that even closely resembled my understanding.  The 1828 Webster’s dictionary, definition number two, to be precise, which states:

(2) Bearing the sense of a male adult of some uncommon qualifications; particularly, the sense of strength, vigor, bravery, virile powers, or magnanimity, as distinguished from the weakness, timidity or impotence of a boy, or from the narrow mindedness of low bred men.

Now fast forward and see how the dictionary defines the word man today:

(c) A bipedal primate mammal (Homo sapiens) that is anatomically related to the great apes but distinguished especially by notable development of the brain with a resultant capacity for articulate speech and abstract reasoning, is usually considered to form a variable number of freely interbreeding races, and is the sole living representative of the hominid family; broadly: any living or extinct hominid

(d)(1) One possessing in high degree the qualities considered distinctive of manhood

(d)(2) [Obsolete] The quality or state of being manly

So we have gone from strength, vigor, bravery, and virility to a “bipedal primate mammal”.  But here is the best part, look at definition D, sub-definition 2; “The quality or state of being manly”, and what is that [Obsolete] in brackets?  Decidedly that definition, according to Webster, is obsolete, men still have a ways to go but we are rapidly heading that direction.   You may want reject the notion that manhood is approaching the end of the downward slope, I know I did; however, the reality is everywhere around us.  The average young male has played 10,000 hours of video games by the age of twenty, two-thirds of that in isolation, the average man views fifty pornographic clips per week and reads an average of 1.5 books per year, women outnumber men in the workforce, testosterone levels and sperm counts are at historic lows … can I stop now?  We’ve fallen asleep in the sirens lap of some tropical dream and time is marching forward without us.  WAKE UP … WAKE UP … WAKE UP!

I’ll stop here, for a moment of clarification, lest any of you jump on this bandwagon without first having a sense of where this thing is going.  In future articles, I will cover the topics of feminism, male and female differences, roles, and so in, in detail, but for now let me clearly state a few things.  I affirm much of what has gone on in the realm of women’s liberation and feminism and think that much of what Judaism, Christianity, and Islam call “complementarianism” is just misogyny in a prettier package.  I absolutely and whole heartily support the rights of women and the beautiful ways in which they are so different from us, but it stops when feminism becomes anti-masculinity, and sadly that is where we are today, and we have no one but ourselves to blame.  Unlike the women’s lib movement, we can’t look to the opposite sex and blame them for oppressing us … no friends, the problem and the solution both lie with us.

Up to now, the point has been to raise the issue, and I’m not done yet.  Over the next few posts, I will continue to raise issue after issue that I believe are fundamentally destroying our kind.  The mind numbing effects of gaming.  The links between alcohol and male estrogen increases.  Weight gain and decreased cerebral blood flow.  Porn and the rewiring of the brain.  These are issues that we need to carefully understand and make some decisions to do something about.  It’s that that will separate the males from the men.

When you are born, you are born either male or female.  There is no middle ground here.  If the sperm carrying an X chromosome fertilizes the egg, a female will be born.  If the sperm carrying a Y chromosome fertilizes the egg, a male will be born.  Gender is either male or female, even in the rare hermaphrodite, the genetic composition is either XX or XY … female or male.  “Gender issues” simply don’t exist; this is one of the few areas of life that really is very simple.  I’m not talking about sexual orientation, there’s plenty of blogs you can go read on that … I’m talking about basic gender.  But, to be male and to be a man, are two different things.  It is that distinction that will be the focus of our discussion here. It is a journey that I am still on myself, it has been the hardest most wonderful thing I have ever done, and I hope you will join me in a journey that is all your own.

Next week, I have two different posts in the works.  One is short and practical, the other a bit more in depth.  The Friday post will be called, “Believe Something” and will address, what I believe, are foundational issues in what we have been programed to believe.  I will address specifically how relativistic and naturalistic world views are systematically attacking manhood and how dissonance of belief is eating away at us from the inside out.  I can’t think of a better, or more important, place to start.

Don’t forget to follow the blog, invite your friends, and find some way to man up this week.

The Obligatory Introductory Post

Several years ago I set out on a journey to grow up once and for all and was faced with the daunting reality that I wasn’t really sure what that looked like.  The more I discovered the more I realized how vastly different true manhood is from what we have been lead to believe by the world around us.  I realized that the media has it all wrong, the academy has it all wrong, industry has it all wrong, and sadly so do most of the religious organizations.

This blog isn’t about me, but since I am the author, you’ll want to know a thing or two about me; at least enough to have some context as to what shapes my thinking on things.  There are a few basic things you should know.

I’m married to the most amazing woman in the world, she is good from the inside out, and has stood by me through it all. Each of you will need to find what I call “anchors” and “motivators”, concepts that I will define in several of my first few posts to this blog.  For me, “because she deserves to be married to a real man” serves in both categories.  I understand that not every reader is married and some who are, may have difficulty finding anchorage or motivation there; however, stick with me and you may find your eyes being opened to possibilities you never before considered. Together, this woman and I, have added three precious souls to this planet.  They are still young, which also deeply shapes my views on things.

I am a businessman, for almost twenty years now, a leader, coach and entrepreneur.  I have experienced a great deal of success in this realm, and great disappointment as to the lack of satisfaction that came along with this success.

I am not perfect, never have been and never will be.  I have made so many mistakes in my life which is partly why I haven’t shared my mantastic discoveries publicly until now.  I felt totally unqualified to bring this message forward until I read this quote by Soren Kierkegaard, where he takes on the piety of the clergy:

Parsons who live by presenting the sufferings of others; and that is regarded as religion, uncommonly deep religion even, for the  religion of the congregation is nothing but hearing this presented.  As a religion … just about as genuine as tea made from a bit  of paper which once lay in a drawer beside another bit of paper which had once been used to wrap up a few dried tea leaves  from which read had already been made three times. 

There is a lot you’ll need to know about Soren Kierkegaard, an awkward man he was, but a man’s man indeed, and the topic of a whole series of blogs I have planned some time in the future.  In this quote, he was taking issue with preachers who built entire religions by preaching on the suffering of others, while having none of their own.  Soren likens that to making tea from a piece of paper that had once been used to wrap up a few used and dried tea leaves … not tea at all really!  As I read this, I realized, who better to explore manhood than someone who has mucked it up entirely, gone round, and began to discover a set of truths that work.  I accept that there will be a tinge of hypocrisy in these writings, and I, at the same time, loath hypocrisy; however, I have resolved these things in that I am writing about idealic manhood.  I know I fall short of it myself, but know all too well how much we all need an ideal to which to strive.  In my writings I affirm to ideal as well as my personal commitment to it, but make no claims that I have arrived.

I am a spiritual person and much of my discovery of what it really means to be a man is inseparable from my spiritual journey.  My spirituality can best be categorized in the Judeo-Christian vein and further as an evangelical Christian.  I cringe even as I type those words because of what those words have come to mean and how they have been abused in the world today.  Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians – you are not like him”.  Nonetheless, the reality of Jesus and His teachings, and the teachings He inspired, are worked into every nook and cranny of my views on manhood. I understand that not all readers will approach things from this particular world view and that is okay.  We don’t have to believe the same things, on all things, to discuss the journey to manhood; however, to understand much of my views on things you do have to be, at least, neutral with regards to Jesus.  If you do not believe in His Deity, as I do, that is okay; however, if you reject Him, wholesale, many of these concepts may not resonate with you.  The same can be said of The Holy Bible.  I’m not asking for you to believe, as I do, it the total sufficiency, inerrancy, and perspicuity of it; however, if you reject it, wholesale, I’m afraid that, for you, reading on might be a waste of your time.  Along with the Bible, much of my views have been shaped from antiquity, and I will periodically call on literature from Beowulf to Bronte and Lord Byron to Thoreau.  Old books can tell us a lot about what manhood has looked like over these many thousands of years. 

I am endeavoring to write in this way because I have come to deeply believe that true manhood is in grave danger.  In danger in America and in danger in The West as a whole.  The situation would be dire, or down right hopeless, except that by all definitions “the west”  includes Australia and New Zealand.  I suspect that the “real men per capita” (a metric I have just now invented but fully intent to qualify and quantify), is being propped up by Australia and New Zealand despite the attempts of Europe, United States, Canada, and Latin America. Of all of the battles that we have taken on so far in the twenty-first century, none, to my mind, are as important as the battle to protect a true and right definition of manhood.

And with that, I come to the end of the obligatory, first blog, for which I am so very glad.  This post was important because it has started the process to set a stage, a foundation, upon which I can build out for you some of these concepts in ways that you may not have previously considered.  The next several posts will continue to build the framework so be sure to click the FOLLOW button, at the bottom of the page, so that you will receive notifications of new posts by email.  I will also be posting notes on Facebook and Twitter as I make new entries.

My next post will be titled, “Blame It On The Bronies” and will explain the genesis of this blog, expound on why I believe manhood is in danger, and provide a practical test for maleness that I call the “full right hand test”.  You won’t want to miss this next blog.   Post number three will be titled, “Believe Something” and will address, what I believe, are foundational issues in what we have been programed to believe.  I will address specifically how relativistic and naturalistic world views are systematically attacking manhood and how dissonance of belief is eating away at us from the inside out.

I’m excited about this journey and look forward to hearing from you along the way.

-S