“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
This morning, I was reading through one of my favorite books; Wild at Heart, by John Eldridge. While I still wrestle with the fact he plagiarized most of John Bly’s Iron John: A Book About Men, the book contains many truths about manhood.
For most of my life, I’ve wondered what it meant to ‘be a man’, and wanted to be seen as one. As with most things, I didn’t have my priorities lined up as I attempted to figure out what it mean to ‘be a man’ in today’s world. As a teenager, I wanted so badly to have facial hair – thinking a scratchy face would somehow make me more manly. Instead, I remember shaving a baby face with the Mach 3 razor I begged my parents to get me for my 13th birthday.
I felt a sense of disappointment, post-shave, when I realized my skin felt no different than it had before using that magical razor. It didn’t stop me from using my Dad’s aftershave, or making a daily practice of shaving…
That disappointment carried on as I grew older, and realized many of the ‘men’ I looked up to weren’t what I thought they were. A married president getting blow jobs in the oval office, wolves on Wall Street – or Dublin, OH – and realizing the tithe money given to my pastor went to a purple Cadillac…
As a teenager, I listened to Project 86’s Your Heroes are Dead, and realized my own sense of hero, or man, was dead with it. What is the point of growing up if I’m just going to turn into a deadbeat, loser, liar, and failure? I wondered.
I started to realize that manhood would by my own personal journey, struggle, and discipline. If I was to break the mold of the men I saw in my life, I’d have to do things my own way, and learn the lessons along the way as I grew older.
Entering college, I quickly saw my peers – seen through the lens of a fraternity – struggle to embody what it meant to be a man. I’d hear the ‘locker room talk’ during our meals, watch as my brothers endlessly tried to get laid, and hit the gym to ‘look’ like a man. I tried a few of these hats on for size, but never felt like I fit in. Rather, I felt gross and ashamed of my actions. I cried more tears in that fraternity house than I care to admit, while passing on the opportunity to take steroids, sleep with drunk girls, or pick fights outside of bars at 2am.
Looking back, I think that most of my life has been spent trying to figure out what this ‘man’ thing is, and how to be one. Now 33, I realize that I am, in fact, a man. And I’m one that I can learn to be proud of, despite my shortcomings, failures, and mistakes.
As I prepare to be a father, I see a tremendous responsibility to live a life that my son will observe, firsthand. It’s going to my my responsibility to be a man and show him what it means. The things I know will matter most are matters of the heart, depth of character, and – most importantly – being a man of my word to him, my wife, and those around me.
The things that matter are things that money can’t buy; quality time, accountability, respect, trust, and faithfulness. These values can be met with the same bravado was one has for a fight – because they require that level of go-hard-or-go-home commitment in order to become attributes – instead of aspirations.
Today, I’m thankful for the life I have. I’m thankful to look in the mirror and see a man I can be proud of; myself. I know there are many areas in my life where growth is required, and only time can bring the seeds in my soul to flourish into strong trees that will last for generations beyond my own life. That journey is one I can commit to, every single day.
Nate often tells me that life is ‘like a mountain’ – you will encounter many people in your life during your ascent. Some stop and make their home in the base camp. Others begin the climb but stop before they reach the summit. And then there are those you meet along the way, often during moments of your climb where you feel alone, who encourage, uplift, and encourage you to keep pressing toward the summit. That climb…the climb to the top…is worth every breath you have.
Don’t quit, man.