Guest Post by Alan Landry
What does it mean to be a man? What is a man? What is a boy? What is the difference?
These questions are the center of the argument. Are you a man or are you a boy? I don’t care how old or how young you are. I have known old boys and young men.
So what is the difference? It lies in the perspective you choose. Here are some thoughts I would like to share with you as you think about the messages across this blog space.
The journey from boyhood to manhood
We are born to our mothers and we grow to meet our future, each of us a unique creation along a unique journey. Somewhere along the way we make the decision to embrace mature adult behavior, or not. We become responsible for our decisions, or not.
We accept that for every action we choose, there are consequences. And we accept that we, not “they”, are responsible for our behaviors. We realize that there are consequences to what we do, and do not do, and we accept them without complaint. Or so it is supposed to be.
We all know others, children and adults, who spend their days reflecting on what a rotten hand they have been given, blaming everything and everybody for the failures they repeatedly experience. Their lives hang on the phrase “If only I had the luck that ______ has.” If luck is truly the intersection of preparation with opportunity, these poor souls are very unlucky, being both unprepared and unable to see opportunity when it strikes.
In short, they never grew up, and without intervention, they likely never will. Life, quite simply, owes them. These people are “takers” in the language of “Ismael,” a wonderful book written by Daniel Quinn several years ago. Others we know seem unfazed by whatever life throws at them, good and bad. They never lose perspective, and moreover, they never lose hope or faith that life is purposeful and intentional.
These people lift others up, often simply by smiling, or choosing to engage in a conversation. In Quinn’s language, they are “givers.” Obviously, if your life perspective tends toward the “taker,” the rest of this post is not likely to make much sense to you. I write for the givers of the world upon whom the burden of fulfillment and purpose largely rests.
Authenticity – what it means to be whole
My life journey has convinced me that each of us is a special creation of God, however you might define that. We are unique in mind, body and spirit. No two of us are exactly alike, and that is both comforting and challenging when we figure out what really means. Over the years, I heard a lot of people talk about integrity. The more I thought about it, I came to believe that the essence of real integrity is being whole in each of the parts of our being—whole in mind, whole in body, and whole in spirit. It follows, then, that to be authentic is to be true to that wholeness, to live our lives aligned in the unique purpose that gives value to the unique creation each of us represents. This is what purpose is all about.
I came to believe that the essence of real integrity is being whole in each of the parts of our being—whole in mind, whole in body, and whole in spirit.
Knowing beyond all knowledge that each of us has a specialness is when most of us learn that the very thing that makes us special, our uniqueness, is what sets us apart from that elusive thing called the norm. Growing up is about growing away from the norm and accepting the genuine beauty in every creation, acknowledging that there is NO normal, NO average, only unique.
What’s most important in life
I have watched the death of my brother, my parents, and several other loved ones. At the end of their days, they did not care about how much money they had, what their job title was, what parking spot they had, or how many people knew them. As a brilliant army chaplain once told me, people on their death bed only care about three things:
- Their relationship with their God
- Their relationship with their family and friends
- Their relationship with themselves
I have thought about this for decades, through the prism of the deaths of those that I loved, and I have come to believe that these three things define richness in life above all else. If true, the real measure of a man (or a woman for that matter) is in how they breathe life into each of these areas. This is not about judgment; it’s just about perspective.So I will close with these thoughts:
- Whole person concept: each of us is a composite of mind, body and spirit. Feed each in equal measure.
- Dignity and respect for all: all life is precious and God-given. None of us has the right to judge, and when we do so, we open ourselves to the same. There is no real perfection in life other than God, so we all fall short of the ideal. Get over yourself.
- Being responsible. For every act you commit, there is consequence. Own it. It really is that simple. This is what being an adult requires.
- The words we say: words have the power to lift, to elevate, to empower… or to devastate, to diminish, and to humiliate. This is about choice and discernment. It is also about tone, volume and non-verbals. If you don’t get it, ask the person closest to you to explain.
- Actions talk loudest: At the end of the day, talk if you will, but know that to the rest of the world, you are not what you say. You are what you do. Plain and simple.
This, more than anything else, defines the real difference between man and boy. These five simple concepts define the core differences between men and boys, between growing up or growing down. And at the end of life, following these five simple areas will make the difference between peace and unrest, comfort and unease, and richness or poverty. Spend your days wisely. It is now, and always has been, a matter of choice.
I met Alan when I worked for Raytheon. I invited him to write a post for this blog about the path to manhood because he is a clear thinker, an idealist, and he has the courage to speak. Too few men, in my opinion, share their experience with young men. Alan is an exception. I am especially impressed with his statement that self-reliant men “never lose hope or faith that life is purposeful and intentional.” Amen.