“5 Characteristics Every Man Should Have”
13 minute read
All too often I sit back and ask myself what my grandparents would make of the world if they could see it today.
More specifically, I wonder about what my grandfathers would have thought about modern men.
At one time the role of men in society was quite clearly defined. Men just went about their business, they did what had to be done, and they never had to question themselves about whether or not they were actually acting like men. They just were.
It just doesn’t seem to be that simple these days.
This is a subject that I’m going to cover in a number of different ways over the coming months. But in this very first article for The Man Cave, I thought I’d get straight down to business and explore a question that comes up all too often in the men’s personal development community.
What does it mean to be a man?
It’s quite frightening that this question seems to be on the mind of so many men, but there are a number of reasons why this seems to be the case. One of these is the portrayal of men in the media and how this influences what a man believes he should be. And another is the blurred gender lines that have come to exist between men and women, with men having become more feminised and altogether softer in more recent years.
For some people, being a man is about having a hard face and a stoic attitude, or maybe it’s about money and status. To others it’s about having a six-pack and bedding lots of women, and to others it may mean being the biggest, the loudest, and the most dominant man in the pack.
Is it all the above, none of the above, or some of the above?
When you first read the title of this article, did it in any way get your back up? Did you read those words and automatically feel as though your masculinity was being challenged? If so, then this is exactly what I’m talking about.
But before we start pushing our chests out, deepening our voices, and getting our rulers out and measuring the size of our schlongs; let’s begin to look at this from a different angle.
This article is not about pointing out weaknesses or failings, and it’s not about any kind of macho bullshit. Instead this is about exploring a certain set of characteristics that will set a man apart from the rest of the crowd. In many ways, they can be considered timeless qualities.
The importance of owning these characteristics is as important today as it was a hundred or two hundred years ago, and I would argue that they will still be as relevant another hundred or two hundred years from now. They’re not exclusive to any particular type of personality and any man can cultivate these traits.
This list is not exhaustive, and so I welcome any comments you may wish to make.
1. A man should be courageous
“Courage does not mean an absence of fear, but an ability and willingness to walk through fear”
This is one of my favourite quotes, and it has been quoted time and time again in a number of different forms. But the message here is simple; if ever you feel scared or fearful about something or someone, it does not mean that you’re weak or that you’re not courageous. To feel those emotions is human, and so true courage is to be aware that you’re in the presence of fear, but then to lift your head, push out your chest, and to carry on regardless.
Face your fears head on, and do whatever you must.
Being courageous can take a number of different forms and it would be impossible to cover them all in this article. However, for the purpose of what I feel it means to be courageous as a man…
To be courageous means doing what is right, not doing what is easy.
Do not take the easy route. Do not follow the smooth path that will cause you the least discomfort. Look at any given situation and ask yourself what the right thing is to do, and even if it turns out to be the most difficult thing (which it often is), then that is the path you must take.
Sometimes displaying courage means standing up to others. Sometimes it means walking away. And it most definitely means stepping outside of your comfort zone and walking along paths that you’ve never been down before and heading into the unknown.
This is an ongoing battle because it is human nature to seek ease, but it’s a battle that you must throw yourself into.
Anybody can learn how to become courageous. Every man can be a courageous man. It is done incrementally, and it is a habit that you gradually hone through a series of tests, starting small, and then gradually increasing them in size, and in frequency.
Once you begin, you’ll realise it’s really not as difficult as you thought.
Be a courageous man.
2. A man should be a protector
One item that I was originally going to include in this list was that a man should always take on the role of being a provider. However, things have changed significantly over the years in this respect with huge progress having been made with sexual equality. Women no longer have to be reliant upon a man to be the provider.
This is not a bad thing.
Maybe my attitude is relative to the era in which I was raised, but I think the belief that only a man can ‘put the food on the table’ is somewhat antiquated. And that’s putting it mildly. But of course this all comes down to circumstances and so if a man does find himself in the position of being primarily responsible for a family, then he absolutely must become the provider. This instinct is already hard-wired into us from our ‘hunter-gatherer’ days.
But there is one area regarding the homestead and family life which I believe should always be true; the man should always be the protector.
A real man will be there to protect his wife and children no matter what. To become the protector from physical threat is a responsibility that every man must be willing to uphold. And even though the majority of such situations can be avoided if approached in the right way, if diplomacy or walking away doesn’t work then a man must be willing to stand up and fight.
However, this isn’t just about standing up to physical threat, but also of any other kind of outside entity or hardship that could do damage to those that he loves most.
It also extends to much more discreet acts of protection in day-to-day life.
When you’re out with your children, make sure that you keep looking out for anything that could cause them potential harm. When you’re out walking with your girlfriend, make sure you walk closest to the road. If you’re out with your wife at night and encounter a group of people that appear threatening, move positions so that you put yourself between the group and your wife.
The role of protector can be in the simplest of forms and in very discreet acts and gestures.
But this isn’t just about protecting the people that a man loves most, because it is also about protecting the people in society that are weaker, more vulnerable, and who can’t stand up for themselves.
It’s not easy. It’s never easy. But a real man will stand up for what is right and will protect those that cannot protect themselves.
3. A man should have humility
The opposite of humility is arrogance. Nobody likes arrogance. Arrogant people are dicks.
Don’t be a dick.
Any man who thinks he knows everything will only end up hurting himself. When a person thinks they know everything, their mind closes up and they immediately stop learning. Their knowledge becomes stunted. Their traffic light turns red.
A man who is humble will understand that he doesn’t know everything and that he will never know everything. He accepts that no matter what, there will always be somebody that is better than him. No matter what, there will always be somebody that knows more than him. He will see these people not as a threat, but as a source of knowledge. And he will see them as an opportunity to learn and to become a better version of his current self.
A humble man will also have a positive impact upon the lives of those around him.
When a man shows humility he immediately becomes approachable. A man who displays humility will also appear more trustworthy. He is able to establish rapport quickly, because people can relate much easier to those who can admit to their flaws and to their weaknesses. But this does not make the humble man weak, because he can do all of this from a position of strength and assuredness.
The benefits of humility are endless.
A humble man will recognise that life is precious, that he is not immortal, and that life is short. Therefore he will develop a much deeper sense of gratitude and will recognise the blessings in his life. A humble man has an open mind, will notice all that surrounds him, and he is open to all that life has to offer.
The humble man is more tolerant of people because he understands that he is not perfect and that neither is anybody else. He becomes approachable and other people feel that they can be themselves around him. He also sees the strength in other people, and he helps encourage them to get the best from themselves.
The humble man has a much lesser sense of entitlement. He accepts that life itself is a gift, and that the world owes him nothing.
The traffic light stays green for the man with humility. For the arrogant man it stays red.
4. A man should have integrity
This is the most important of them all, and is what I believe to be the truly defining characteristic of a man.
And it comes in two parts.
First, a man must have a code. This code is made up of a set of values and principles that he has developed based upon his own life experiences. He will know what is right and what is wrong.
He will have tasted life and what this world has to offer, and as a result he will understand what he wants, and more importantly, what he doesn’t want. He will have experienced pain and joy, love and heartbreak, success and failures, and he will have observed both the cruelty and beauty of life.
The more a man lives, the more he will define his code.
And this brings us onto the main subject here; that a man should have integrity.
Once a man has developed a code, he will then draw a line in the sand and will know upon which side he must stand. Once he’s there, he will stay there; unwavering, and without compromise.
A man of integrity will speak carefully because he understands that he will be measured against the things that he says and the promises he makes. He will always follow through on his word; saying what he’s going to do, and then doing what he says. When a man of integrity gives his word, everybody around him knows that everything he has said will come to fruition.
A man of integrity will understand that the path towards finding long term happiness will be peppered with short term pleasures, otherwise known as instant gratification. But he understands that these things are merely temptations, distractions, and tests of character. Living by his code will enable him to stay focussed and to understand the difference between pleasure and principle.
A man of integrity knows exactly who he is and he will be unapologetic in this knowledge. He will be his true authentic self, he will live his truth, and if this means that he has to walk away from the crowd and stand alone, then that’s exactly what he’ll do.
To be a man of integrity means to be truly authentic.
Be that man.
5. A man should be a leader
This final characteristic is a culmination of all the above. If you can display courage, if you can be a protector, and if you can stay humble and display integrity at all times, then you can become a leader.
This is a difficult role to take on, but it is also the most rewarding. We all seek somebody to follow and somebody who can show us the way.
One of the biggest aspects of being a leader is having the ability to make a decision. And it can be so easy to avoid making a decision out of the fear that the decision you make will turn out to be wrong. Because of this we wait for clarity, and for the reassurance that we’re making the right call. Yet this cannot ever be the case, because a huge part of decision making is having the ability to take risks in the face of the unknown. You cannot always know the outcome, and therefore you just have to make your best choice, and to face that direction and strive forwards with full conviction.
If it turns out to be wrong, then very few will criticise a person for having made a decision, particularly if it’s come from a place of sincerity, with considered thought, and done with the very best of intentions.
In fact, only a coward will criticise another man for making a decision that turned out to be wrong.
How many times do you see a group of people facing a decision and they all look at each other with blank expressions. They go quiet, they disappear into the background, and they wait for somebody else to step up, all while trying their best to save face. And then one brave soul steps forward and agrees to be the leader. The people who were quiet all of a sudden become louder than ever, throwing forward their opinions because they feel safe in the knowledge that their head won’t be on the chopping block. And they are quicker than ever to criticise that man who had the balls to step forward. These people are gutless, and you should never fear the judgemental opinions of people like this.
But to be a leader isn’t all about taking massive risks and huge decision making. It is also something that can be practised in day-to-day life and in very simple ways. It is also very necessary in personal relationships.
If you’re arranging a date night then don’t make the mistake of trying to get your girlfriend to decide where she wants to go and what she wants to do. Yes, ask for her input and ask what kind of thing she’d like to do, but the final decision of where you’re going and what you’re going to do is yours. Too many men fear that this means being controlling, but it is not. It is about taking the lead, showing initiative, and being able to make a decision. These are all masculine qualities, and that is exactly what your partner will want to see in you.
If you have a group of friends that enjoy doing things together yet nothing ever really seems to get organised, then be that man who is willing to round everybody up and get things arranged. Be the one to set a date and to name a place.
And believe me, it is better to make a decision that turns out to be wrong than to make no decision at all.
As a leader, you can also become an inspiration to other men. Think about it. If you live your life on your own terms, devise your own game plan, and live a life with virtue; you set yourself apart from the crowd. And when you do this, when you stick to your path, and when other men see you beginning to thrive, you will then become an inspiration for these men to do the same.
Without leaders, life comes to a bottleneck and progression halts. A man will understand that to be willing to take the lead is not about controlling people, it is simply about providing direction and allowing things to flow.
Very often men find themselves trying to be something that they’re not, just so they can live up to expectations of what a man is supposed to be. They do, in fact, adopt the ‘fake it until you make it’ approach. But another way of looking at it is summed up best by the quote ‘a real man is a man who is real’ *.
But the reason why faking it doesn’t work is because sooner or later the truth comes out, and so this is why it’s vitally important for a man to be authentic and to be grounded in who he is. And just like when the winds blow hard and a tree with strong roots will still be standing when the storm clears, a man with a solid foundation and a steadfast mind will also be the man who stands the test of time.
Be your own man. Live your life and dare greatly. Know exactly who you are, what you stand for, and what you will not stand for. Be your most authentic self, because who seems most real to you? A man who follows a typical male archetype because that’s what he believes he should be? Or a man who follows his own path and does so unapologetically?
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