“I mean to make myself a man, and if I succeed, I shall succeed in everything else.” James A. Garfield
“The courage we desire and prize is not to die decently, but to live manfully.” Thomas Charlyle
I remember something tugging at my soul sitting in that classroom as a wee lad. It was adventure, danger, pain.
Sitting in a classroom, unable to get up, run around, or even move was torture for a wee lad who just wanted a bit of excitement in his life. After years of this forced order, sitting down for hours upon hours a day became something that you just do. The adventure and danger, the gun fights, bad guy vs good guy battles I loved and love in the movies had to stay in the movies. The masculine, adventurous soul was systematically crushed, given minor outlets like sports so I wouldn’t go nuts, but I still wanted and want more.
The soul of the boy is the true soul of the man in a world where men are tempered and emasculated year after year, made to fall in line and submit. As we age we have our warrior souls dampened by rules and we’re forced to conform. This, however, doesn’t benefit society like they think it will. These desires for adventure and action, excitement and danger, are so real that if they’re not quenched on purpose, they will be by accident.
Men like action movies. We like movies with guns and violence, killing, and wars. We like danger. We try and quench this desire with the TV and the video game but it never really does what it’s intended to do, to numb the gnawing of our spirits for something beyond the desk and the suburban life that so many of us unknowingly ease into without ever really exploring that part of us that it seems can only exist outside of what a “good man” should practice.
This isn’t to say that men aren’t good, that we can’t live in a society and function as rational, good humans that benefit others. No, it’s saying that for men to be at their best, we have to feed our ambitions, those calls to adventure and danger and in not doing so we’re going to feed them through other means and methods, maybe outbursts of violence, infidelity, or porn addiction. Where this lack of adventure and physicality will show itself most, though, is in depression.
Too Busy to Be Sad
Sadness and depression are two very different things, but the idea still remains, when you’re focused on something important to you, when it takes up all of your time and effort, you no longer have the time nor the energy to reflect on how you’d like things to be, because things simply are.
Even if failure in this grand venture is the final result, the hustle and the struggle, the trials and tribulations will result in a tougher man moving forward. That’s not to say tough men don’t get depressed, far from it, but the man focused on something greater can work through anything because where he isn’t is never where his mind is focused.
There is, however, more to masculinity and this rapid increase in suicides and depression amongst men, and it has everything to do with the controversial topic of “roles”.
To See How Men Work, See Them How They Were.
Forget about goodness, for a second, and let’s talk about pure masculinity and what it is at its core if we removed all of the things we’ve now become dependent upon and were thrust back to a time when our minds and our bodies were all that helped us survive and even thrive.
Men have been warriors and protectors, hunters and conquerors far longer than we’ve been CEOs or tradespeople or 9-5ers bringing home the bacon. To be a warrior is what we’re bred for. To understand our initial purpose, and a purpose that has been who we are far longer than our modern society has existed, it helps to look at the masculine in relation to the feminine, if all of the innovation and technology that makes our daily lives liveable were to no longer exist. (Read This: 10 Qualities of a Modern Day Warrior)
Strip us down, remove our tools and gadgets and force us to fend for ourselves with only our hands and our fists and maybe a spear or two, and you’re brought to a time when survival was our greatest concern and both our bodies and our minds, our greatest ally.
Before we lived in the seas of humanity that are the modern city, we existed in smaller tribes where each person fit a specific role. If you were strong and game and courageous, you were expected to not only hunt and gather but possibly conquer and most definitely defend.
Due to the make-up of the male and the female, our different hormones and body structure, it was the men who fit the role previously mentioned. Testosterone, that wonderful hormone that we’ll soon discuss has made us bigger and stronger and harrier, though in no way “better” than those wonderful women who once served an entirely different but equally necessary purpose in the make-up of the tribe that we.
Neither is better, but we are very different. The relationship is akin to the yin and the yang, both fitting to create the whole of the tribe, but the women needed for their roles and men for theirs, without one, the tribe couldn’t grow in number, the group would be in constant chaos as men have a tendency to challenge one another and while we work very well together in small groups, the feminine energy is a needed component – look no further than the jihadists in the middle east who’ve removed the feminine from their lives, covering their faces and forbidding the female to be the female as she’s always been. Within their troops you’ll often find young male sex slaves to fill the void, and all sorts of unspeakable sexual atrocities to do the same.
Men need women, and women need men.
When women become pregnant they also become dependent for a time. They need the man close, to care for them and provide for them, for in these tumultuous months their physical prowess is minimal. As they give birth and the child grows, the relationship with the mother can’t be matched, as she’s by the child, nurturing them, feeding them, bathing them, teaching them while the male hunts and finds food and defends the tribe against men with a bit too much ambition, if there is such a thing.
The constant, though, with the roles of men and women if we are to remove the technologies and “advances” that we so closely cling to in modern society, is activity, and for both men and women this dramatic decline in activity is having incredibly dangerous and destructive consequences on our bodies, but possibly even more-so our minds.
This being a site called, Bringing Back Manliness, though, we’ll concentrate on the men, whose rates of suicide somehow triple those of women in our western society.
Strength, Testosterone & the Alpha Male
Testosterone is a wonderful hormone. It isn’t the pimple-producing steroid that you’ve been told it is. Testosterone actually has a number of benefits ranging from reducing the likelihood of cancers and diseases in men (namely prostate cancer and heart disease), but it also lowers the likelihood of depression in men.
It may not be a popular stance to say that strength is a tenant of masculinity because that automatically rules out many of us from being the best men we can become, or even good at being a man, but if you look at who men are, why we were initially here, and our roles in society if all of the stuff we’re not dependent on is removed, strength becomes very, very important as violence creeps back into our world, either violence against other men or violence against beasts that threaten our existence or refuse to lie down and let us eat them. (Try This: How to Become an Alpha Male in Modern Society)
Do you need to get stronger?
Yes. To man up is more than just rising to a single occasion, it’s to rise to the occasion that is your life. It’s to get off your ass and improve yourself, daily. It’s to train your body for war because who knows when you’ll need it to protect your tribe.
If you’re a heavier fella or a scrawny fella reading this right now and you’re pissed off because I just told you that you need to get stronger to reach true masculinity, and you scroll through examples of great men who weren’t all that strong in defiance of what I just said, stop. Don’t concern yourself with men who did great things and pick and choose who you follow or what archetypes you lay out for yourself, highlighting only those attributes that you can gain, accomplish, or learn.
You’re trying to make it easier on yourself. You’re trying to make it more realistic, to create the path of least resistance when what you need is resistance, it’s the struggle that makes you tougher, grittier, more manly, and that struggle will, in part, be a physical one, it has to be.
So yes, you do need to get stronger, leaner, and better, as do I.
If rising to the occasion, heeding this call to action is something you take seriously, if becoming a badass, a warrior, a man, then strength is the foundation that will lead you to the life you want to lead, the man you should become.
It’s men, this group of strong, dependent, handle-anything-and-everything, who are the demographic that are experiencing the greatest influx of suicides. We, on average, commit suicide 3 times more than our female counterparts.
In my fine country, for example:
“In 2009, there were approximately 238,000 deaths in Canada, of which 3,890 were attributed to suicides. This resulted in a suicide rate of 11.5 deaths per 100,000 people. During that year, a total of 2,989 males committed suicide (17.9 deaths per 100,000) compared to 901 females (5.3 deaths per 100,000). As these data show, males were three times more likely to commit suicide than females.”
Men kill themselves more than women, but when you look at the funding and attention toward diseases, the men are left out to dry because it’s perceived that we can handle ourselves, and I agree, but when our society is shaped to crush masculinity, to kill and temper our souls from a young age, we have to change how we “treat” this growing rise of depression and these astronomical suicide rates amongst men.
How I intend to deal with is, in part, by doing what every expert, doctor, teacher, professor, and likely parent, will scream and curse me out for doing; rather than coddling or condemning, the solution to the rise of men who find little meaning in their life isn’t to give them anything, but to call them to action, to tell them in no uncertain words to man the fuck up! And then show them, you, me, all of us, just how to do this.
And it starts with understanding your deepest ambitions, and the importance in following them.
To man up isn’t simply to stop complaining and to shut your mouth, bottling every fear and worry and source of depression up into a ball until you snap. Nay, to man up is to:
- Take control of your thoughts and your actions, never yielding that control to another, be it in envy or laziness.
- Do what must be done, even if that means swallowing your pride and talking to someone about what ails you. The greater good is always on a man’s mind. Is it better to bottle everything up and let it compound over time, or is it better to find a solution even if it makes you uncomfortable doing so?
- Make the tough decisions in life, to follow your true, soul-level ambitions, because it’s these ambitions that will lead you to a fulfilled life, and one that truly matters to the man in the mirror, but also to society and your family.
Society aims to crush masculinity by portraying safety as the be all end all. It crushes masculinity by tempering our wild, audacious goals and dreams and numbing our souls.
When a man does what he truly wants to do, forgetting about society’s expectations or impressions, he’s feeding his truest ambitions, or as Steven Pressfield calls ambition,
To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.
(Read This: The Beauty of Ambition)
The heart of a man is who he is, not who he’s trying to be or who society expects him to be. It’s the boy that we mentioned at the start of this article who was sitting in a classroom even when that classroom was crushing every piece of ambition his spirit tried to spit out.
A man’s heart is wild, it has to be, it always has been, and it must be fed or else it will feed itself, which is never a good thing.
Feeding Your Soul
“There is one rule, above all others, for being a man. Whatever comes, face it on your feet.” Robert Jordan
When a man is called out, he does one of two things:
He shrinks into the background, falls in line, and takes whatever comes at him lying down. He essentially submits.
This isn’t you, nor I, and if it is, by the end of this article it better not be. Which brings us to the second reaction…
b. He stands taller and takes it as a challenge.
The difference then, between a man and a man, is essentially the difference between the masses, and the warrior.
As Casteneda notes, “The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
To heed the call to man up you have to see the world through the warrior’s eyes, you have to turn your back to the ways of the ordinary man.
This means a harder life, a life filled with far more trial, tribulation, and resistance. It also means a life filled with meaning, where you automatically become a tougher, stronger version of yourself, and a life where your soul is fed daily.
I’m a Christian, a Catholic, a guy who believes in a Higher Power, in a soul, a spirit, something greater than mere organisms interacting at random and for no greater purpose, and yet I feed my soul not by going to church but by living a life in accordance to how I was created. I’m no tempered soul, I’m no submissive being. I’m a warrior, I need action, adventure, danger, and fear. I need something to work toward, I need my ambitions, those things I chase, rather, those things I create because a part of me is trying to figure out what my hands were made for and the best way to do that is trial and error, although looking back at why men are here you can’t help but think of the verse…
Praise the Lord who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.
Of course I read the Bible and pray and feed my soul that way, but that’s mine, it’s what I believe, if it’s not what you believe, if you’re a man, a guy who has that itch in his spirit for something more than the monotony of everyday life as we’ve created it to be in our society, then get outside, get ambitious, face your fears, and get active.
Get stronger, work harder, live a more physical life because the more sedentary we become the more we’re going to kill ourselves, the less meaning we’ll see in our lives, and the less masculine we’ll become.
No matter your beliefs, I’m sure you see life as a gift, a gift that can’t be wasted. Some may disagree on the specifics of what a wasted life is, but most would agree on what living a life is. And that, as Jack London said, we’re here to live, not to exist.
To feed our souls, to give our lives meaning, making depression and suicide nearly impossible acts, things clouding over our darkest days, we must provide our souls the sustenance they need to not only survive, but to thrive.
We need to feel like men, to be men.
Testosterone: The Last Straw
I want to stay away from to do lists in this article. I can’t point my finger on why but the rant that just happened can’t be squished into bullet points. The main point, though, is that we need to know why we’re here and we need to provide our spirit with the action and the adventure and the excitement, even danger, that makes us feel alive.
This isn’t to say become a criminal so you know what it’s like to be shot at, you’re not an idiot, you are a man though, and you need to do manly shit. You need to get out with your pals and go hunting. You need to go to the boxing gym and get in there for a few rounds. You need to go camping or hiking or heck, go to war.
You need to have some kind of outlet, a daily, active outlet that pumps your body full of endorphins that allow you to be the happy, purpose-driven fella you’re put here to be.
And then there’s testosterone…
We’ve kept this article almost completely about the call to action that is to “man up”. What we haven’t talked about is the hormonal decline in men that has coincided with our asses being parked in chairs typing on type writers and then computers and punching numbers. Men are actually becoming less manly.
The men of yesteryear had higher natural testosterone levels than you or I and our ancestors, those fellas that lived in caves and hunted massive beats with spears and ran dozens of miles a day in search of food were likely super human in comparison even to our most elite athletes. And they rarely sat. They rarely watched TV, unless the Flintstones is lying to me, and they even had to push their cars with their feet… more Flintstones.
Fellas, we were not meant to sit. We are not meant for monotony. You are meant to chase audacious goals and shoot for the stars, as corny as that sounds, that’s when life is exciting and that’s what it is to live, rather than exist.
To finish, as we’ve become more sedentary our testosterone levels have declined. Testosterone is linked to a decrease in depression in men, when it’s at high, optimal levels. Definitely read this: How to Naturally Increase Your Testosterone Levels.
We need to bring back our testosterone levels.
We need to bring back our sense of adventure, if it’s something we’ve ever really lost, and we need to man up, stop complaining, worrying about what isn’t and focus only on what is. It’s a lot of stuff to tackle in a wee little article but when our lives are at stake, this shit needs tackling.
When you hear someone tell you to man up, know that it isn’t degrading, it isn’t telling you to ball up and let nothing out, it’s telling you to do what you have to do to push on and push through, if that means talking to someone, then talk to someone, if that means you need a vacation, then take one, if you have an itch, a business idea that needs scratching, then have the balls to scratch it.
Whatever you face in this life, face it on your feet.