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15 June 2021
Sharing what it means to be a man
Words Dean Clarke
My friend’s 14-year-old son is involved in a school program that requires students to have an adult speak into their life as they transition into manhood. A mature male who will encourage, talk with and engage in an activity, all designed to help a teen discover how to be a good guy. And he asked me. Rather than feeling proud of how great a man I must be, I have focused on what it means to be a good man.
I don’t meet the typical standards of being a real man’s man. I drive cars but can’t fix them. I’ve ridden a motorbike but don’t have a current licence. As for home maintenance and handyman activities, I can’t hammer a nail straight, and my wife owns the hammer. I am under six foot [182cm], my hair is thinning, and, occasionally, I have to cheat to open bottles. But are these the measures of a man?
If I am not going to mentor how to dismantle and rebuild an engine, what would I share about being a man?
Love is a choice. I’ve been married for 36 years, which doesn’t just happen. Love is a decision, publicly stated on my wedding day and put into practice every day since. Most days are easy, but on some days, love is a choice. Find your love, commit and then choose to love each day. The longer I have loved, the fuller that love is becoming.
Work out to improve who you are. I’ve been at the gym and sat near the guy who picks from the heavy end of the dumb-bells while I struggle with the lighter weights. Trying to work out with their weights would be embarrassing as I can’t lift it or risk tearing a muscle. You choose the weight appropriate to you. In life, as in the gym, don’t imitate someone else but work out to improve who you are.
Learn to ask. Over the years, we have had many handyman jobs completed around our house. I can get anything done. Not by me, but by knowing who to ask. Once our TV cabinet started to collapse. We rang my friend, who offered to come around straight away to fix it, on one proviso: “Keep Dean away from it!” As Dumbledore said to his young mentee Harry Potter, “Help will always be given … to those who ask for it.”
Obviously, asking for directions is the exception to the rule. But for the rest of life, ask for help and be a helper also.
Reflecting upon what makes a good man, I realise it is not measured by physical stature, what I can create or my capacity to stand alone. Being a good man is less about my achievements and more about my being. Being an authentic version of me. I’m unlike others with my own skills, abilities and interests. I am a valuable individual because I am me.
When I was a young teen, searching for identity and my place, Terrance, an older man, made time to encourage and talk with me. He helped get a Bible in my hands, which I still own. In that Bible it says, “How precious it is, Lord, to realise that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me” [Psalm 139, verse 17, The Living Bible].
Through that older man I learned I had a place in this world as me. Created and valued by God. As Terrance invested in me, I am now going to invest in another.
Major Dean Clarke is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) in South Australia.