How does one write about “men’s issues” without sounding inane? It’s not easy.
I scanned an odd website the other day that was devoted to “men’s issues”, and I stopped reading after about 15 minutes for it did not pass my smell test. I have seen and heard too much in life to buy the notion that men are victims of an anti-man culture. No doubt, men are set-upon by many things in life, but gender-bias isn’t one of them.
Rather than waste energy addressing such nonsense, I wish men would address what I think should form men in our society. I boil them down to three things – peace, responsibility, and respect. The men I admire practice all three, and the men I do not admire neglect them to one degree or another.
I think about a friend of mine named Joe (his real name, btw) who is the personification of all three of these virtues. He is a man who carries himself such that he makes kindness look manly. He takes his job, and people, seriously, and he considers everyone he meets worthy of courtesy and dignity. This may not seem complicated, but it is amazing how little I see it among the men I know.
We men are so lacking in the qualities of peace, responsibility, and respect that it has become the norm for us. We barely know what the aspects of responsibility are (both micro and macro), and we think disrespect is a form of worldly wisdom. We are responsible for so much violence and conflict in the world, both physical and emotional, that many women and children can barely stand to be in the same room with us. There are secret safe houses where they hide from the men in their lives until they can escape to a new city under a new name – we are that dangerous.
Rather than give a laundry list of tips and best-practices about manliness which sound trite next the enormity of the issue, I’ll just refer back to my friend Joe. He is a man who has embraced the practice of peace not only in his politics, but also in his personal dealings with people in his life. It was not easy for a former US Marine to do, but he did it. He understands what his yes and his no means, and will do whatever it takes to see through his commitments if he says yes. He also understands that all of us are fighting our own secret battles, and he honors the dignity of each individual person he meets as the sisters and brothers of Jesus that they are.
I would like to see more men speak of these virtues. It is an on-going conversation worth having. We need to explore more fully peace, responsibility, and respect as the groundwork for raising boys into men, and encourage other men to claim them as their own in their walk down this path called Life.
(Photos: above: Welsh miners at a union gathering; below: Million Man March, in DC.)