Two Christmases ago I gave my eldest nephew a set of books from the people over at The Art of Manliness. When they arrived, I had flipped through them and thought they looked pretty interesting, so after my nephew opened his gift, I asked to borrow the books when he’d finished reading them. I have had the books in my hot, little hands for some months now, but am only just getting around to reading them. I’m starting with Manvotionals.
As I read selections from historical figures like Marcus Aurelius and Jack London, I was struck at how so much of what these men wrote about seems to be missing from a good portion of the men now. There is an essay, “True Manliness” from “Every-day Religion”, written in 1886 by James Freeman Clarke. I encourage you all to read it in full, but a section that stood out to me were the last two paragraphs:
True manliness is tender and loving; false manliness, cold and hard, cynical and contemptuous. The bravest and most heroic souls are usually the most loving. Garibaldi, Kossuth, Mazzini, the heroes of our times; Luther, who never feared the face of man; Gustavus -Adolphus and William of Orange, are examples of this union of courage and tenderness. Bold as lions in the defense of the right, such men in their homes and their private life have a womanly gentleness. False manliness is unfeeling, with no kindly sympathies, rude and rough and overbearing. True manliness is temperate; it is moderate, it exercises self-control, it is capable of self-denial and renunciation. False manliness is self-willed and self-indulgent…….
True manliness differs also from the false in its attitude to woman. Its knightly feeling makes it wish to defend her rights, to maintain her claims, to be her protector and advocate. False manliness wishes to show its superiority by treating women as inferiors. It flatters them, but it does not respect them. It fears their competition on equal levels, and wishes to keep them confined, not within walls, as in the Mohammedan regions, but behind the more subtle barriers of opinion, prejudice, and supposed feminine aptitudes. True manliness holds out the hand to woman, and says, ” Do whatever you are able to do; whatever God meant you to do. Neither you nor I can tell what that is till all artificial barriers are removed, and you have full opportunity to try.” Manly strength respects womanly purity, sympathy, and grace of heart. And this is the real chivalry of the present hour.
As a woman, I shouldn’t need to point out how those words resonated with me. Here in the USA, and around the globe, the belief that women are inferior continues to be taught and perpetuated. Historically, life was harder and men were called away from hearth and home for various reasons, and it was the women who were left behind to manage the home, the businesses, and ventures. Women, for the most part, were looked to as competent partners, not incompetent ninnies.
The same evils which terrify one person are not formidable to another; though there are some of such an irresistible nature, as to shake the firmest minds, and to inspire fear into all possessed of understanding. But those objects of terror which surpass not the strength of human nature, differing from each other in magnitude, as well as do the grounds of confidence, courage will discriminate between real and apparent dangers and make us meet the former, as brave men aught, unshaken and dauntless, subjecting the instinctive emotions of fear to the dictates of reason and of honor. For we betray our weakness, not only when we fear things really not formidable, but when we are affected in an undue degree, or at an improper time, by objects of real danger. A brave man avoids such errors, and, estimating things by their real worth, prefers the grace and beauty of habitual fortitude to the delusive security of deformed cowardice. Yet he is not less careful to avoid that excess of intrepidity, which, being rarely met with, is like many other vices, without a name; though nothing but madness, or a most stupid insensibility, can make any man preservice, amidst earthquakes and inundations, that unshaken composure, which has been ascribed to the Celts. An overweening estimate of the causes of confidence, and a consequent excess of courage, is called audacity; a boastful species of bravery, and the mere ape of true manhood. What the brave man is, the rash and audacious man wishes to appear; he courts and provokes unnecessary dangers, but fails in the hour of trial; and is, for the most part, a blustering bully, who, under a semblance of pretended courage, conceals no inconsiderable portion of cowardice.
But the complete and genuine coward easily betrays himself, by fearing either things not formidable, or things formidable, in an undue degree; and his failings is the more manifest, because it is accompanied with plain indications of pain; he lives in continual alarm, and is therefore spiritless and dejected; whereas courage warms our breasts, and animates our hopes. Such then is the character of true courage, as opposed to audacity on one hand, and cowardice on the other. It holds the middle place between those vicious extremes; it is calm and sedate; and thought it never provokes danger, is always ready to meet even death in and honourable cause. But to die, rather than endure manfully the pressure of poverty, or the stings of love, or any other cruel suffering, is the part of a coward; who basely flies from an enemy that he has not spirit to encounter; and ignominiously quits the field, where he might have sustained a strenuous and honourable conflict.
I provide those passages as food for thought to you. Men, women, regardless of how you identify, we can all learn something from those two passages. We really are stronger together than apart. We need to know that we’re partners in life, that we have partners.
Be good to each other. Be virtuous, be courageous.