In the media, you hear a lot about the negative aspects of masculinity, framed as toxic masculinity. This focus on the harm caused by masculinity – to both men themselves and those around them – means that it is hard for some people to come to terms with the positive attributes of manliness. Of course, anything we consider a virtue in one gender can be expressed by another gender (many men are highly sensitive and caring, and many women are assertive and competitive). Yet there are some certain qualities that the average man possesses. Also, not every quality deemed masculine is negative. There are some important behaviors and skills that can be viewed as a part of virtuous manhood.
Chivalry is defined as living up to certain standards of polite and honest behavior, it means treating a companion’s wishes with respect and being kind and courteous. In this way, virtuous manhood would involve showing manners and etiquette when dating, not ghosting dates, not pressuring women to do things they don’t want to do, and not being disrespectful if one’s expectations aren’t met (such as feeling entitled to sex). Chivalrous men do not treat women as mere objects.
We should also acknowledge that, in general, men tend to be bigger and stronger than women. Chivalrous men recognize this difference and know that hitting women for this reason, or other men who are clearly not their physical equal, is what characterizes a bully, not a good man. Chivalrous masculinity involves protecting the vulnerable, which includes looking out for women’s interests when you’re out and about and standing up for those who can’t protect themselves.
Acts of Heroism
Heroic kindness is another attribute of virtuous manhood. Acts of heroic kindness would include protecting the safety and interests of others (such as victims of crime or natural disasters). Heroic manhood involves a willingness to take risks and face danger and adversity, become stronger and more resilient by doing so, and then use these learned skills in a way that benefits others. But we should avoid the myopic idea that heroic masculinity is all about physically overpowering other men and rescuing women from danger; it should also be about standing up for others.
Indeed, men can act heroically by stepping if someone is being bullied, verbally abused, or harassed, and using their words to diffuse the situation. Virtuous men should not be afraid to act when they see injustice or cruelty taking place.
Improving the Lives of Those You Care About
A virtuous man is someone who strives to develop characteristically manly qualities (e.g. emotional control, risk-taking, self-reliance, and courage) to improve the lives of loved ones. While attaching too much importance to these qualities can sometimes harm men, virtuous men know when the time calls for such attributes to be expressed, like when one’s children, partner, friends, or parents need help and support. Virtuous men do not endeavor to be manly for purely selfish, individualistic reasons (such as career success or sleeping with as many people as possible). They want to achieve feats of manliness to benefit those they care the most about. Moreover, as a man, if you want to gain the respect of those who matter to you, then it’s crucial to be a reliable and loyal presence in their lives.
About Sam Woolfe
I'm a freelance writer who is interested in mindfulness, mental health and the evolving concept of masculinity.
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