Updated: January 20, 2014 8:15AM
A male reader writes in response to my recent reflections on real men, “…For whatever reason, you have joined the Terry McMillan club, where all men are trifling and dogs. Brother, you could not be further from the truth.”
Truth, my brother? You want truth?
Truth is, I am not in that club. Truth is, some men are trifling and dogs.
Truth is that as a man, I get to choose whether to be responsible, trifling, or even a dog. And the truth is, all men have flaws and failings — and the man who says he doesn’t, also has among his flaws being a liar.
Whatever our shortcomings, it is critical to teach our daughters to recognize the real from the pretenders, and to teach our sons what it means to be a “real” — albeit imperfect — man. They are lessons I share with my own son. And perhaps they are lessons for all sons:
Real men don’t take life. They give life. They live life. Respect life. Cherish and honor life. They understand that true power does not lie in the hands of the man with the gun. But in the man who understands that his life is no greater than the sum of one life.
Real men are protectors, not predators. Comforters, not coyotes. Warriors, not wolves. Seek not to devour women, children — the sheep. Stand powerful, but endeavor to walk humble and meek.
Real men don’t sag or let their pants drag. They seek platinum character rather than platinum teeth. Understand that the worth of a man isn’t measured by dollars and cents but by honor and sense.
Real men bling by giving their baby’s mama a wedding ring.
Real men give more than they take. Endure rather than forsake. Build more than they break. Love more than they hate. Carry their own weight. Esteem rather than berate. Repair rather than decimate.
Real men work. They don’t twerk. They put away childish things. Embrace the wisdom that maturity brings. Speak words uplifting, seasoned with grace. Stand in their rightful place. Can afford to lose a little face because they stand self-assured without false bravado.
Real men fall but get back up. Fail but never fold. Acknowledge their faults but don’t make excuses. Have weaknesses but still stand strong. Would rather die standing for something than live 100 years standing for nothing.
Real men speak life to their children. Call them by their names. Tell them of their divine calling. Don’t condescend. Ask for forgiveness when they offend. Pass on a legacy of love, hope and faith.
Real men understand that they are depositors — of something good, or something bad.
Real men cry, feel. Sometimes hurt inside. Desire to feel whole, loved, revived.
Real men sometimes lie sleepless at night. Sometimes feel like giving up the fight. And yet, arise each morning. Choose to live. Not die.
Real men give of their presence more than their presents. Understand that material gifts are a poor substitute for their time. Realize that money cannot compensate for the priceless gift of their time spent in their children’s lives.
Real men understand that the only thing that makes a male a man is his willingness to assume responsibility.
And truth is, by that standard, some full-grown adult males have not yet matriculated into manhood. Never have. And perhaps never will.