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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Measure of a Man*

The Vitruvian Man, from the Da Vinci Code Research Guide

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, Sunday October 12, 2008
as "Expectations of a man are many"

Copyright © 2008 by Ralph Couey
Written content only

What is the measure of a man?

A man is measured by his integrity. He tells the truth, even when the truth is painful. His word is his bond. When he makes a promise, there is never any doubt his promise is good. To quote Mahatma Ghandi, “I hold that a man, who deliberately and intelligently takes a pledge and breaks it, forfeits his manhood.”

A man is measured by his strength. Yes, he is strong, physically. But he is measured more by that strength that lies within. It is his resolution and courage, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “…of power to do without shrinking the rough work that must always be done.” In times of crisis and danger, when no one else dares to step forward and act, the man does this without hesitation. Especially when this act places his own safety in jeopardy.

A man is measured by his commitment. He takes his friendships seriously. He will support the good things, and not be afraid to call someone out who is doing wrong, even when he knows it may cost him that friendship. He treats women with respect and honor, but not obeisance. His love is not given cheaply, but must be earned. Once earned, that love will always be there, a rock to cling to no matter how terrible the storms of life. A man understands that fatherhood is the ultimate experience of manhood. He knows instinctively that he must lead, and be the unbending moral and ethical rudder for his offspring. And the clearest of all examples of what it means to be an adult. Mario Cuomo once said of his father, “I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work fifteen and sixteen hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example.”

A man is measured by the company he keeps, therefore he chooses his real friends with care. If he associates with men of strong character, high morals and ethics, and unbreakable determination, then he will also be known by these attributes. If he associates with those of dishonest, dishonorable, or even criminal character, then he will be tarred with that same brush. His honor is his most treasured possession and he knows that as his children see the behaviors that he honors in the quality of his associations, they will instinctively strive to emulate those qualities in their relationships. As Thomas Carlyle said, “Show me the man you honor, and I will know what kind of man you are, for it shows me what your ideal of manhood is and what kind of man you long to be.”

A man is measured by his discipline. He knows fully the terrible power of his anger and physical strength, and that there is no honor or justification in unleashing such power on the small and the weak. He knows that his anger, like a wild stallion, must be kept corralled and under control at all times. He knows that doing wrong is easy, and that doing right is, at times, terribly difficult, even painful. Yet, he makes these choices without hesitation, for he knows that the choices he makes not only reflect on him, but understands that his children are always watching.

A man is measured by his compassion. When he sees those in need, he steps forward. He understands the limitations of a growing child, and acts with firm patience when they stray. He will not walk away from people in difficulty, but will lend a hand whenever and wherever needed. He will always stand up for the weak, and will not tolerate abuse anytime he witnesses it. When he is asked to give of his time, talents, energies, and skills in the cause of service to others, he accepts with a willing heart and ready hands. What is the measure of a man? That which lies in the heart and soul of a man. That is the measure of a man.

A man is measured by his humility. He knows that no one, least of all him, is right all the time. He knows that being human means being capable of mistakes. When he makes a mistake, he owns up. When he does wrong, he steps up. He knows that an apology is not mere words, but a true commitment to change. When he is praised, he accepts it with modesty and gratitude. He does not blow his own horn because he knows the truth in the old Japanese adage, “A man should not speak of his deeds; his deeds should speak for him.”

As men, we will always be held to a high standard. We must choose to rise to that level and live up to those expectations. None of us live in a vacuum; there are too many others who depend upon us and look up to us and we must earn that trust and that respect.

And perhaps, when we reach the end of our days, we will be measured by the highest honor of all. That those we leave behind, whether family, friend, or foe, will say of us:

“He was a Good Man.”
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