Nothing wrong with being tough – it’s a mean old world, but the definition of manhood is much more than brawn and sex.
Joe was a hard man – a brazen, no nonsense stern man. He was a man shaped by the school of hard knocks, and believed that he who did not get his own lesson in it was a “mama’s boy.” He went for bad. He made his own rules and lived by the creed “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” In his presence you did nothing to come across as weak, a sissy, or a punk – he’d embarrass you big time.
Joe felt a sense of self-validation and laughed when he heard that old satirical song by Johnny Cash called “A Boy Named Sue,” a poem written by Shel Silverstein made popular by Cash. It seemed to justify the roughness, the cold-heartedness he’d shown to his own sons before he abandoned them. The character in the song – knowing that he would not be around – named his son “Sue,” reasoning that a name like that would surly get him into many fights that would toughen him and make him strong. The song corroborated Joe’s belief that manhood was all about strength and might. He also condoned the notion that manhood was about getting all the sex you could and tallying conquests like a gunslinger etching a notch on his gun for each man he killed.
There’s a lot of brawn on the football field, but the abounding testosterone is harnessed through coaching and playing smart. It’s like the strength of a mighty horse being harnessed and under control by the tiny bit that’s in its mouth. That’s power under control.
Today there are a lot of young men who go for bad because that’s all they’ve learned from so-called authority figures in their lives, or what they’re constantly bombarded with in the media. The aggression, the bravado, the machismo that is imprinted on their young under-developed minds can cause them to act it out in a number of scenarios, and without having learned how to mitigate a negative situation without taking a hostile posture is a recipe for disaster. For example: An argument ensues simply because someone accidentally stepped on another’s foot, a young man may hear echoing in his mind something he’s heard repeatedly – “don’t let nobody punk you out” – and rather than backing down or walking away, the scene escalates into an altercation where someone is seriously injured or even killed. Our prisons are filled with young men who acted hastily and unwisely in one unguarded moment that will sadly cost many lost years of their lives. If only someone had taught them that sometimes it’s okay to just walk away if you can. There are no winners – the injured, the perpetrators’ lives and those of their families are seriously impacted in many ways, on many levels.
These are hostile and contentious times we’re living in as evidenced in the blogosphere. People are anxious for many different reasons. They are angered, misled, and misinformed. Each day we leave our homes is like going into shark-infested waters and it takes the cleverness of a serpent and the gentleness of a dove to navigate and negotiate through it. It’s hard enough for adults – how much more for our children? Doctors measure our Body Mass Index (BMI), but for our children, are we building and measuring their Body Mass Intelligence? If we’re raising them to appear strong and mighty on the outside but investing nothing on the inside, we are setting them up for failure and potential disaster. To borrow an old saying, “It’s a beautiful house, but ain’t nobody home.”
Naming your boy “Sue” – an analogy for not being there – is a cop out. Let’s teach our children love, honor, respect, and to seek wisdom and understanding. Look at it in terms of if something were to happen where you could no longer be there for them, have you given them true survival tools they’ll need to work with? Proverbs 4: 7-10 says [Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you. Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many.]
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Amazon) www.larrybuford.com firstname.lastname@example.org