Masculinity has been criticized as of late — the potential for toxicity, potential to be over-bearing, potential to corrupt the dominance hierarchy — but I am not here to discuss this.
There are those who will wish to obfuscate and prevaricate when it comes to speaking on masculinity. I’ll leave these things to the pundits and talking heads, for that is not the purpose of this piece.
In short, there are certain traits that remain timeless and noble and admirable, and that are portrayed by some of the greatest men who ever lived.
I’ll be discussing these today, but subtly updated for the modern era.
Take these at face value. They are not complex or controversial; rather, they are simple and necessary.
These laws are by no means found in every single contemporary man. But at the very least, they should be traits that men aspire to, traits that men can aim for to be a better version than the man they were the day prior.
These are the five most important laws of manhood of all time (updated for the modern, contemporary man).
1. Don’t be a burden to others
Aim to be the man that others lean on in times of hardship. Aim to be the man that others can rely on regardless of circumstance.
Be dependable even when it is not convenient to you.
As the classic adage goes, people will not remember the gifts you got them or the things you said, but rather people will remember the way you made them feel.
And people certainly remember the difference between those who help them, console them, and mentor them as opposed to those who are more burdensome than not.
To help others is to help yourself. To drag others down is to drag yourself down. This should be a self-evident goal to aim for and yet it is not.
Do not be a burden to others.
2. Never contribute negativity — especially online
Social media has become the modern battle ground for intellectuals and fools alike. This does not mean you have to add to it.
If, however, you do choose to partake, it cannot and must not be negative.
Think of the most admirable men you know of: how much of what they say is positive and how much is negative?
Our voices are amplified in 2020 by a bevy of online outlets and social media platforms. This potential to be “louder” in the modern era should be a deterrent to posting anything negative.
Jarring with someone online does not take courage, nor does disparaging someone from behind a screen.
This is but a modern acting-out of cowardice — a way for small people to use big and hurtful words under the protection of a screen.
A man, a gentleman, does not contribute negativity because it dampens and diminishes his own energy as well as the energy of others. Doing so from the cowardly position of behind your laptop keyboard is all the more reprehensible.
3. Take action because it is right, not because it is popular
Remember what the most in-vogue trend was in 2018? How about 2016?
Niether do I.
It feels good to do things that everyone else is doing. To participate in a hashtag or an online trend feels cool; it feels fun. But this does not always mean it is right or good.
A true man, a gentleman, takes action because it is the right thing to do, and they do the right thing whether or not it feels cool or fun.
The things that matter are not merely what is popular at the moment. The things that matter are not dictated by the trending hashtag or the raging news headlines of the day, month, or even year.
News and headlines and hashtags are fleeting, ephemeral like sunrise and sunset of each and every day. These things do not last, but they shine very brightly for the moment they peak.
Do not latch onto trends because they are popular. Instead, focus on what matters to you as a man, as a father, as a friend, as a husband. These are the things you should take action on.
The trends will flux perpetually — ignore these.
Use your actions as a reflection of your values and moral code. This is what stays with you and your family and relationships.
Act out the things that you believe in, not the transient and the popular.
4. Go the extra mile, and make it personal
The ease of access to information and connectivity is astounding. Amazing, really.
But this should not tempt you into taking shortcuts for the things that matters most.
Naturally, it is easier to send a text or an email to reach out to someone. You don’t even have to stand up from the comfort of your home or office.
To stand above and beyond the crowd — to be a good man — make a phone call or send some snail mail.
Better yet, greet the person you are reaching out to in person if possible.
Or, if you host a birthday party and receive 100 presents, this means that you should be writing 100 hand-written thank you cards.
People remember when they receive mail that is written by hand. People forget when they receive an e-mail or text message.
In 2020, it has never been easier to connect and contact other people. A true merit of manhood is not taking the shortcut, the easy way out in connecting with others.
Instead of a text, pick up the phone and call; pick up the pen and write; go and ring someone’s doorbell.
Being sentimental is okay — in fact it is more than okay; it is thoughtful and human. Making your connections personal and sentimental is important, and can make others feel valued and special.
Go the distance, go the extra mile — and make it personal.
5. Protect what matters, forget the rest
In truth, there are few things that should matter to a modern, archetypal man.
This short list starts and ends with a man’s relationships.
Family, friends, relationships.
Everything that I did not list in the above two sentences is, ultimately, secondary.
The career or job, the sports car, the expensive watch — these things should remain far below on the priority list.
To pick between a job and a spouse should be easy. To pick between spending money on your kids or your hobby should be easy. To pick between sharing a moment with your family on Christmas or in a high-stakes boardroom meeting should be easy.
To reiterate: family, friends, relationships.
Few things matter. Make these the priority above all else because, in the end, that is all that will remain.