Five ways to be a Better Man in the 21st Century

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by Thomas Tighe, Benedictine College

Effeminacy according to Thomas Aquinas: “for a man to be ready to forsake a good on account of difficulties which he cannot endure”

On a bus ride during my study abroad trip to Italy, they played a film called Step-Brothers, a movie about two people who still live with their parents. This reminded me of an old story from my home state of New York. In 2018, a 30-year old man was evicted from his parents’ home after receiving multiple notices to leave. I wondered how different things would have been for him if he took the opportunity to step up to the requirements of life and do what was hard: get a job, rent an apartment, and take control of his own life. 

 For many people in today’s America, everything is convenient. Technology has given us the world at our fingertips. The abundance of food, drinks, and snacks have made us forget the gift of a good meal or any meal at all. Everything has been given to us on a silver platter. What happens when that platter is taken out of our reach? We cry. We complain that we need these goods to live well or that it’s our right to have them, because we shouldn’t have to endure suffering. We’ve all grown up in a society where everyone is “soft”, which St. Thomas Aquinas defines as “readily yields to the touch”.

But to be a man of God means to persevere through what is arduous. Men, with strong physiques, were made to sacrifice for others. Christ reminds us to take up our cross and follow Him, because suffering is not just one path, it is the only path to salvation and happiness. Society has taught us to seek pleasure in what is easy and to fear pain, but we must train ourselves in seeking what is good and embrace the challenges that come with it. 

Here is a list of tips from my experience on how to become more masculine (and for any woman discerning marriage, these are things to keep an eye out for).

1. Take Responsibility for Your Actions.

When I went sailing, our captain gave us one rule: “If you break anything on my boat, you tell me. It doesn’t matter if you screw up, it only matters what you do when you screw up.” I took that to heart, remembering countless times when I didn’t follow that advice. When I didn’t, it was easy to either blame my failures on something else or dismiss the matter entirely with a lie. “Yes, I cleaned my room”– but I really just pushed everything into the closet. “No, I was too busy to get to that”– because I was playing video games. “Yes, I read my book”– by flipping through the pages quickly. Admitting to your failures will help you to better resolve the issues: “Okay, I messed up. What do I have to do to fix it?” Once you’ve resolved the issue, you have removed a burden from yourself. Avoiding the problem can lead to unrest. As a team member, taking responsibility will help you establish trust with your colleagues. It doesn’t mean that you’ll feel any better during the grilling, but respect will be established for your honesty.

2. Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. 

Which of these tasks do you find more rewarding: taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn? We wrongly think that it is the end goal that matters and not the journey, so we seek the path of least resistance to get the pleasure. We lose the benefit of doing work that is hard. I am not saying that making things efficient is bad, it just means that we have more time to do hard work elsewhere. After spending all day in the yard, going in for dinner sweaty and tired is very rewarding for me. Take something you want or need to do and get to work. If it challenges you mentally or physically, then it’s good work. It is in exercising virtues like temperance and fortitude that you’ll find the most benefit. Practicing this in the small things now will make great impacts as you get older. The best choices you can make will be the hardest to do. 

3. Learn to Let Go

If your wife can’t speak to you about problems without making you mad, how will your family function properly? If you can’t deal with being uncomfortable, then you can’t face the hard truth. Accept reality and move on. Should conflicts arise, you have to remain calm and rational. Be patient with others since they may be frustrated, tired, or angry. Just because they’re mad, does not mean you should be too. If you can keep your cool, you may not be comfortable, but you will be clear minded. 

4. Keep Your Word

Sure it may be embarrassing, but they will appreciate your honesty. If you promise to do a favor, accomplish it as soon as possible. Taking immediate action tells people that you respect them and are going out of your way to finish it. It may be a hassle for you, but you should be willing to make the sacrifice to see the task through.

5. Have Humility and Confidence

It’s easy to think that humility and confidence are opposing qualities. The former is usually associated with thinking too lowly of yourself, the latter too highly. In reality, they complement one another. Having humility is being able to acknowledge our humanity. Nobody is perfect and we all can grow. When we face reality however, sometimes fear can restrain us from acting. Consequently, we may “yield to the touch”. Confidence helps us to overcome those hurdles. It won’t be a feeling of hope, but rather a strength for when all hope seems lost.

Normally, this is where people would tell you that if you follow these tips, life will be easier, but in reality, this is where life will get harder. It is easy to control our desires when we’re at peace, but to have self-discipline when we face danger or temptation requires perseverance, patience, and courage, virtues which can only be earned by doing what is difficult and offering it up for Him. 

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