What Is A Man?

Men have been under attack since at least the 1960's. At times, it has been deserved. At others, not so much. There are good men, and there are bad men. There are men's men, and then there are weak, limp wristed men. There are men of high thoughts and great ambitions, and then there are men with little thought and no ambition. And, of course, there are men stuck in between.

All the diverse sections of society have their own definition of what a 'man' is. I don't care to hear them. I don't care to discuss them. I'm also not interested in what your idea of a 'man' is. In my opinion, it's probably wrong anyway.

There is an old joke that asks, "Do you know why men die before their wives?" The comical answer is, "Because they WANT to." The reason it's humorous is because it probably has some fact to it. My grandfather on my dad's side was a good man. He worked hard and provided for his family as best he could. My grandmother was a horrid shrew who harped on him constantly. Upon my high school graduation, he came to our house while she was out. The poor man handed me a roll of dimes for a graduation present. He said to me, "I had to sneak out to give you this. Don't tell your granny I gave it to you." I heard...and I must admit I was never able to substantiate it, that he died in his easy chair while she was standing over him with one of her vile tongue lashings. He probably died because he wanted to. For those on that side of my family who might read this...keep a lid on it. She didn't like us and we didn't like her. End of story.

A man is a weak creature. Yet, he is asked to carry a large burden. I am not saying it is larger than a woman's, so don't even go there. I've already said he is weak. He may be strong physically, but he is weak, to some degree, in every other category. If you don't believe me, then stop singing the song in church that states, "I am weak, but thou art strong." Okay?

What is it that makes a man where he can look in the mirror and truthfully say, "I'm a real man." ? Now, I know that Hollywood is make believe, and people can't change their entire lives around in two hours. But one of my favorite movies of all time is 'Scent of a Woman', with Al Pacino, made back in 1992. The climax comes when Al Pacino's character, Colonel Slade, comes to the defense of a young man at a high end prep school. He has been accused of being a witness to some vandalism. His family is poor, and he is facing expulsion from the school. Pacino gives one of the most rousing speeches I have ever heard on film to save the young man's educational career. In one part of the speech, Pacino says there is one thing he knows about Charlie, and that is he won't sell anybody out to buy his future. The reason he said this is because Charlie confided in him that the Headmaster had offered him a bribe to inform on his fellow students, and that if he didn't comply, he would be expelled. But, it was the next thing he said that I believe defines a man. He said the following, "Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But, I never took it. You know why? Because it was too damned hard."

And, he's exactly right...or, at least...the screenwriter was. There are too few men today who will risk it all for what is right. They wring their hands at the hardness of it. Our world has become filled with males who will not rise up because it may mean their careers or their standing in the community. They allow tyrants, both big and small, to run over them without so much as a whimper. They acquiesce to the status quo for fear that to do otherwise might get them labeled as a troublemaker. I know a tale of two music leaders in two different churches. In one, the people murmured against their song leader...who was a long time friend of the pastor. To save his job, he let the song leader go and surrendered to the mob. In the other church, the same thing happened, but in this one the song leader wasn't a long time friend of the pastor. Yet, the murmuring didn't have any weight. The man had not done anything wrong scripturally, morally or communally. The pastor refused to make the man step down simply because he wasn't doing what the mob wanted him to do. Both of them were let go. I was the song leader in the first one...and the pastor in the second.

At one time I worked for a certain company where the President/Owner was certifiably insane. I didn't know this at first, but soon came to realize it. I won't go into great detail, but the client for the project I was managing had gotten 45 days behind on a $1.2 million dollar invoice. The President was furious that he couldn't get them to pay, so I was ordered to fly to their office and get his money. I spent three days with the client. We never argued, never yelled, never acted unprofessionally. At the end of the third day, all 1.2 million hit the bank before I boarded my plane to come home. That was on a Friday, and I thought about it all weekend. I decided that 1.2 million dollars was enough money where I shouldn't have to take any flak for just one day. I got up that Monday morning and looked my wife straight in the eye. I said, "Honey, now when I come home today...I may not have a job. At least for today, I'm not taking any shit from this guy." She advised that whatever I decided to do was all right with her. I made it until nearly 2:30PM. Not once did he thank me...ask me how I did it...or even mention it at all. I had already asked the finance manager if the president had been informed of the receipt of the money, and he said he told him the moment it hit the bank. At 2:30, he began to rail at me about something that was insignificant...as it usually was... and that's when I informed him that nothing he was saying really surprised me because he hadn't made a correct decision on this project since I had been there. That statement was when I effectively quit, but I was in for a surprise. The man turned blood red in the face and pointed at the door, screaming at me. "You wanna step outside!" I smiled and advised him that I certainly did, because I had been wanting to whip his ass for the last two months. I walked out and upon entering the hallway I turned around to see him still standing there. Except, he wasn't looking like a warrior now...he was actually trembling. He incorrectly assumed that because it was his business and he was lord of all he surveyed, that I would cower in submission upon his outburst. The fact is, one should never invite a man outside whose last name is Coward. Such a man fought all the way through school just to prove he wasn't. I said, "Are you coming?" To which he replied, "Why don't you just get on outta here."  I did, but not until I walked back in the office and shamed him with a barrage of verbal indictments and epithets. These were not spoken softly and lasted about five minutes. I called his bluff, and he turned out to be a whimp. I, on the other hand, turned out to not have a job. But, it didn't matter. We didn't starve and I ended up with a better job, anyway. What mattered was that I did not allow somebody to run over me simply because he thought he could. What mattered was the 1.2 million came with an additional price to that person. The price of treating one with respect...or suffering the consequences if he didn't. I have it on good authority this idiot stayed in his office for the rest of the week behind a closed door, too embarrassed to show his face to those that worked for him because he had been shown to be a lamb...instead of the lion he pretended to be.

I relate these stories because I live by a code. I treat everyone with respect, until I am disrespected. I don't care if it's my boss, a congregation, the client, a crowd or a mob. No man is better than me, and I am no better than any man. If doing the right thing means living under a bridge, then so be it. Now, please do not misunderstand me. I have not always done the right thing. But I try very hard to do it. There are really no grey areas when it comes to right and wrong. It is either black or white. Everything...ultimately everything...can be reduced to right and wrong. I firmly believe that.

If a man truly attempts to do that which is right, and gives it his all, no matter the possible cost or negative result...then that is what makes him a real man. He is kind when allowed to be...respectful when respected...loving of family...strong with his children...supports those who depend on him...stands by his friends...protects his own and those around him...and stands up to petty tyrants...no matter the cost. In fact...he won't even take into account the cost. He will simply try and do...what's right.