A lot of men struggle with what it means to be a man—and it’s hard to blame them. In an age where masculinity is crushed out of boys at a young age, where being assertive and strong are looked down upon by the masses of weak hordes, and where toxic political correctness is pushed down our throats, it’s hard for us to get in touch with our masculinity.
Our society has no coming of age rituals, it has no strong male role models, and it has no traditional gender role which men are expected to adhere to.
In other words, modern man is lost, and struggling to define himself; he is struggling to get in touch with his masculinity.
Consequently, countless philosophers and authors have written on the topic of masculinity. Some say that masculinity is having a lot of body hair. Others say it’s in how many girls you sleep with. Or maybe it’s how much you make, or how nice your car is?
None of these are true. They’re bi-products of a capitalist, consumerist society that wants men to buy the latest car, watch, or other status symbol. Here’s how to define masculinity on a primal level.
As I said before, a lot of people (both men and women included) have their opinions on what it means to be a man…on what it means to be “masculine.” Some of them bring up good points, and others are just plain wrong.
When you’re trying to define masculinity, you have to go to the root. You have to go to the source. We’ve lost touch with the source.
It’s what built us, shaped us, and molded us…without it, we wouldn’t exist. We have to go farther back than philosophy—farther back than Plato, Socrates, and even Thales.
You see a glimpse of this “code of masculinity,” that I’m referring to in ancient texts. Gilgamesh, Beowulf, even the Odyssey…but the code is only alluded to. It isn’t overtly stated.
Masculinity, in its simplest, most primal form, is the ability to protect the tribe. It’s the ability and willingness to defend those that you love, through hand to hand, physical combat. While this isn’t the limit of what masculinity is, one cannot deny that it’s an integral component of it.
In his book, The Way of Men, Jack Donovan postulates that all of this modern day masculine identity crisis is due to the complete lack of danger in our society.
It was danger that separated men from women, for thousands of years. The men were the ones who dealt with danger. Their purpose was to keep the tribe safe by confronting and eliminating danger.
Masculinity meant your ability to protect your loved ones from danger. Nothing more, and nothing less. Without danger, however, men have become practically useless—and we feel it on a very intimate level; a spiritual level. This is, perhaps, why so many men experience existential crises nowadays.
Women don’t need a man’s protection anymore—they have government welfare and the police force for that. They don’t need a man to provide for them either, they can get jobs themselves or request alimony. They don’t even need men to get pregnant! We have in vitro fertilization.
So, what’s a man to do? Where does a man find his masculinity in a world where it isn’t needed?
Jack Donovan has a no-nonsense solution. He states that to be a man is very simple: to be a man means to have Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor. For years this was the code of men, and it is still hardwired into our biology.
Without these four traits, there wouldn’t even be any philosophizing about what it means to be a man. Do you think that our ancestors contemplated their purpose or their masculinity when they were fighting alongside one another to protect the women and children from being slaughtered?
Of course not – they knew what their purpose was and they knew what masculinity was. It was to protect the tribe. It was to protect those that they loved. All of this was made possible only by Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor.
All other virtues are auxiliary. It’s nice to talk about what it means to be a “Good Man,” and what moral codes a good man should follow, but without the four “Tactical Virtues,” as Jack calls them, we wouldn’t even be alive.
“But you said there was no danger nowadays! Why does this matter, then?” I can hear you ask.
Even if we never use these traits to protect our tribe from a woolly mammoth or to protect our loved ones from invading Mongols, we can still exercise these traits in our daily lives, and thus gain a sense of meaning.
“The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.” -Henry Rollins
Strength is an integral part of being a man—it’s one of the most fundamental biological differences between us and women. Without strength, nothing else really matters; without strength, there would be no civilization. The Way of Men is to be strong.
The benefits of civilization that we enjoy exist merely because the men before us were strong—they were physically strong. They were able to wield an axe, a spear, or a club, and defend their territory. Had it not been for their strength, we would not exist.
Strength can refer to inner strength, however without outer strength it is useless. The best way to cultivate inner strength is by first cultivating outer strength.
I know that many will disagree with me here. I understand this—we live in a feminized society that idolizes emotions and “inner values,” but the fact of the matter is that your body is a manifestation of your mind.
Developing physical strength will in turn make you mentally strong, and both of these will give your life a sense of meaning. Perhaps this is why so many men work out, nowadays—they realize that physical strength is one of the few things that separates them from women anymore.
But don’t be like them, though. Don’t work out in a futile attempt to quell your insecurities.
Lift heavy ass weights and become stronger, because it will make you a better man. Your physical strength will bleed into other areas of your life—you will have strength in your romantic relationships, strength in your friendships, and strength in accomplishing your personal goals.
Having the strength to lift 500 pounds off of the ground is no small feat—it takes discipline, it takes focus, and it takes a certain mindset; it takes strength of body and strength of mind.
When you push yourself, day after day, to develop your masculinity more than before, you will also develop a very deep sense of self-love and purpose. What was hazy before will now become clear, and you will become acutely aware of what you value, and what you don’t.
This is what the journey does to you. The journey towards developing outer strength will clarify your inner values, and the lessons that you learn along the way will guide you for your entire life.
“Cowards die many times before their death.” -William Shakespeare
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” -C.S. Lewis
Without courage, strength would not matter. What good is the strength of 10,000 men if you lack the courage to use it? Courage is what motivates you to act in the face of adversity; it’s the driving force that protected civilization for thousands of years. The Way of Men is to be courageous.
Courage used to take the form of facing death. Courage used to mean being man enough to charge into battle, despite your fear, and conquer your enemies. It used to mean fighting against threats to your family and your tribe—slaying a great beast that could easily impale you with its tusk or devour you with its teeth.
We don’t have these threats anymore. We live in the comfort of civilization, because men before us overcame these threats. Our masculinity has dwindled, because of this. I see men too afraid to talk to girls, too afraid to ask for a job, and too afraid to pursue a better life. My God, what have we come to?
Now, courage takes a different form—a much more subtle form. Now, courage is standing up against social pressure and speaking your mind, it’s moving to a new location to follow your dreams, even if you’re unsure of what may happen, and it’s daring to admit to yourself that you can do better, and making the effort to change.
Despite the fact that courage takes a different form now than it did for our ancestors, men can still gain a sense of masculinity and purpose by conquering fear and developing courage.
Courage cannot be developed by sitting at home reading about it. It must be developed in the ring—only the man who acts develops courage. No amount of thinking will do so.
Maybe you’re afraid of leaving your girlfriend, because you don’t know if you could get another girl as attractive as her, so you stay in a relationship that you dislike, out of fear. Or maybe you haven’t had sex in ages, but you’re afraid to go out and try to meet women and start new relationships.
I understand that fear can be difficult to overcome. However, you must realize that nothing will change unless you have the courage to act.
Once you start to take action, and conquer your fears, it will become an addiction. You will realize that YOU have the power to change your life, and courage will become your ally, rather than fear being your enemy.
Maybe you choose to break up with your girlfriend, because she plays petty games and brings you down. It will be painful at first—maybe you’ll go for days, weeks, or even months without having sex. But this small act of courage will push you to the next level. It will develop your masculinity.
And as you refuse to put up with nonsense in your sexual life, soon it will spread into all other areas of your life.
When a man develops courage in one area of his life, it spreads into all others.
Soon, you won’t take nonsense in your financial life—you’ll have the courage to stand up to your boss if he gives you an unfair deadline or goes back on his word. You’ll have the courage to leave old friends behind, if they’re holding you back. You’ll have the courage to admit to yourself, that you need to change. And you’ll change.
It all starts with that one small step. One small act of courage will make bigger and more challenging acts of courage seem easier, until you find yourself living a life you never dreamt was possible. This is the power of having courage.
“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” -Robert Greene, Mastery
Mastery was crucial for the survival of the tribe. If a man could not master the craft of hunting, or if a man could not use a spear with brutal strength, yet deft gracefulness, his loved ones would not survive. The Way of Men is mastery.
Mastery takes many different forms—it can be the mastery of hunting, of wielding a sword and shield…or it can be mastery of computer programming, repairing cars, or self-mastery…but the common theme is that a man must take pride in his skills and hone them.
Mastery is perhaps the easiest of the three characteristics to practice today. Why do you think that men have hobbies? Men have hobbies, because they prrovide us with an opportunity to push ourselves—to improve, to struggle, to develop our masculinity, and to master a skill.
The act of attaining mastery at any craft, whether it be playing the guitar, blogging, acting, or hunting, is very rewarding to man.
I encourage you to look at your life and ask yourself: am I using my skills to the utmost of my ability? If you like to cook, do you always improve this craft? Do you constantly look for new spices, recipes, and styles of cooking to incorporate into your art? If you’re an EMT, are you constantly improving your medical knowledge? Are you striving to become a paramedic?
It is important for man to master his skills—once he stops improving, he might as well be dead. This is perhaps the single largest source of existential angst in modern day society. When men stop growing, they experience severe crises.
Men have stopped growing—they’ve become content with working an average job, getting an average home, and having an average wife. Then, to numb their pain, they watch 4 hours of television every day and drown their senses in high fructose corn syrup and processed foods.
As Friedrich Nietzsche so eloquently puts it, a fundamental part of living is to expand your skills:
“[Anything which] is a living and not a dying body… will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant – not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power… ‘Exploitation’… belongs to the essence of what lives, as a basic organic function; it is a consequence of the will to power, which is after all the will to life.” -Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
“’Honor Diversity’ is an interesting slogan, because it essentially means ‘honor everyone and everything.’ If everyone is honored equally, and everyone’s way of life is honored equally, honor has no hierarchy, and therefore honor has little value according to the economics of supply and demand. ‘Honor diversity’ doesn’t mean much more than ‘be nice.’” -Jack Donovan, The Way of Men
Honor is perhaps the most elusive and ever-changing trait of the four, and to complicate matters, it has a whole host of different meanings depending on the culture or social standing of those you ask. So I’m going to do my best to simplify it.
Honor means that you care about other men’s opinions of you, and that you hold yourself to certain standards. Honor means you keep your word, you live true to your values, and you always do what you feel is right.
Men wanted the other men in the tribe to respect them—they wanted to be seen as an asset. They wanted to do their part. This is why, when a society stops valuing honor, it begins to crumble. If a society doesn’t honor men who’ve sacrificed their lives, who’ve made difficult decisions, and who’ve worked to help others, what motivation is there to do so?
This is, perhaps, why honor is so rare nowadays. Our society glorifies celebrities and worthless socialites, while allowing veterans to become homeless and ignoring the men who’ve braved fires and crumbling buildings to save others.
Despite the difficulty to develop honor, however, you must do so if you wish to be fulfilled. Men are biologically hard-wired to crave honor. We want to be honored and respected by our peers, our friends, and our family members.
Fortunately, Jack Donovan gives some great advice on how to go about attaining honor.
It starts by building a tribe of like-minded men; a tribe of men who can help you to achieve your goals and push yourself to higher heights every day.
Men like these are very hard to find nowadays, but Jack Donovan still gives specific advice on how to do this in his book, The Way of Men. I highly recommend that you look into it if you’re trying to develop your masculinity.
If you want to learn how to build a tribe, I suggest you check out his book. It’s one of the best books you’ll ever read.
Jack Donovan offers very simple and applicable advice to every man looking to gain a sense of purpose and reclaim his lost sense of masculinity. Of course, it won’t be easy—developing masculinity when the media and its proponents has been trying to feminize us ever since we were boys is no small task.
But, I promise you, that it can be done. With some effort, you too can become strong. You can develop strength of body, you can develop courage, you can hone your mastery, and you can attain honor. You just have to put in the work.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please leave a comment below. I love hearing from my readers and I hope that you all enjoyed the article.
Jon Anthony is a dating coach, fitness expert, and self-improvement guru. He dropped out of college to start Masculine Development in 2015, and has since been self-employed, helping men across the world achieve their best lives. You can best reach him on social media, or via email for questions.
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