What Makes a Man: Part 2

Somebody showed us a cartoon the other day. They knew it would draw our ire.

It worked.

What I saw proves our enemy is real. It proves that modern man has an image problem. And like most problems of the sort… we brought it on ourselves.

The cartoon was simple – just three vertical frames.

On the left was an image depicting the earliest man. In his brain were the three words “eat,” “run” and “hit.”

In the middle was the Neanderthal man… with “hunt,” “make tools” and “build” scribbled into his brain.

Ah, but the right-hand image is what hurt. It was modern man. As a good cartoonist tends to do, the artist hyperbolized the truth. In the brain of today’s man were the words “charisma,” “image” and “sarcasm.”

Ouch. Indeed our enemy is alive.

Modern man has an identity crisis.


As we pointed out in our last essay on the topic, this sort of art is both a reflection of our kind (scientists call it mirroring) and a bit of molding (where artists and the media try to steer our views).

Surely not all men care only about their image and charisma… but many do. At least enough do that it feeds a stereotype.

That’s the trouble.

Our society has lost its definition of a modern man.

So what is it? And, more important, what should it be?

Do we need more John Waynes? How about the guy who cries in the greeting card aisle as he takes his kids grocery shopping… more of that?

Look, our modern society has a warped view of just about everything related to manliness. We think a beard punches the ticket. We think the right clothes will convince our neighbors we’re tough. Hell, we even think some ink on our arm will get the trick done.

What’s scary is it works. Well, at least until it doesn’t.

Lots of folks fall for it. But it never lasts. They’ll eventually shave their beards, toss out their clothes and move on to the next thing.

Dinty Moore poked fun at the “lumbersexual” trend last year with an ad campaign that – we must admit – made us chuckle.

It’s sad if we bother to take the time to think about it.

If we rely on these artificial means of “proving” our manliness, we’ll eventually wake up empty, confused and, quite likely, angry.

Instead, we need to rely on a much broader definition of a man.


A good man knows he’s part of something bigger. He knows he’s part of a movement that’s been building since the beginning of time.

Man isn’t a person… it’s an idea.

A very big idea.

Get this. The idea of a “modern” man is a farce. Our role in this world hasn’t changed since our long-lost ancestors first stood up.

We’re as modern today as we were centuries ago.

It’s not our new clothes or our trucks that define us. Our job as men is what defines us. And our job is simple.

We’re here as stewards of the men before us and the men after us. That’s why we smile when we hear men referring to this idea as the “brotherhood.”

Of course, as we distill the idea, we get a clearer image of just what it means to be a part of the brotherhood. It’s not easy. By the very nature of the idea, it requires men to be tough.

A man must be willing to stand up for what he knows is right. He must not waver.

Perhaps that’s the reason all those John Wayne characters were so beloved.

A man must also be skillful.

The world throws a lot of tricks at us. We must be able to overcome. What good is a man after all if he’s no good… if he doesn’t have the skills to help the brotherhood move forward?

And a man must know he’s not always right. He must strive to learn. He must cherish the idea of admitting he was wrong (and therefore learned something new). And he mustn’t be so childish he pretends he doesn’t have emotions.

Above all else, though, he must understand he’s not alone.

Every man is part of something much bigger. He was born into a club that was here long before him and will be here long after he’s gone.

Membership in that club comes with great responsibilities.

Mankind depends on it.

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