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The Man In The Mirror

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Recently, an unexpected encounter led me to ponder over the age-old question of what it means to be a man. In the heat of a confrontation, just before Thanksgiving 2023, I was faced with the phrase "you're not a man," hurled at me as an insult. Far from being hurtful, this statement sparked a period of deep reflection.

Growing up in a single-parent home, predominantly surrounded by women, my understanding of manhood was shaped in a unique environment. My mother, aunts, cousins, and grandmother – all leading their households – were my primary influences. The absence of men in my immediate surroundings provided a distinct backdrop to my upbringing.

From these women, I learned the essence of being a man. My father, distant in both relationship and geography, was a sporadic presence, leaving the women in my life to impart the core values I cherish as a Black heterosexual man. These values, while personal to me, are shared in the spirit of acknowledging the diverse ways individuals define their own masculinity.

Here's what I've learned and strive to embody:

  • Fulfill Your Promises: Your word is your bond.

  • Provide Holistically: Balance financial and emotional support for your family.

  • Uphold Integrity: Be honest and stand by your principles.

  • Lead with Respect: Treat others with dignity and kindness.

  • Embrace Accountability: Acknowledge both successes and mistakes.

  • Respect Women: Uphold a strict policy against physical violence.

  • Work Diligently: Strive for excellence in all aspects of life.

  • Invest Time Wisely: Cherish and prioritize quality time with loved ones.

  • Be Inquisitive: Seek understanding and always be open to learning.

  • Protect Your Loved Ones: Ensure their safety and well-being.

This confrontation made me realize that insults can act as mirrors, reflecting not just the views of the person delivering them but also their inner conflicts and insecurities. The lack of male role models in the life of the individual who insulted me might have led him to question his own masculinity, a common struggle in environments where traditional male figures are absent.

Discipline is a key determinant of character, especially in how a man navigates challenges. It takes considerable discipline to engage in a heated discussion, listen actively, and respond thoughtfully without resorting to insults. Our responses in these moments can reveal much about our inner strength and character.

The incident also highlighted the concept of projection. Often, what we criticize in others is a reflection of our own struggles or insecurities. The insult directed at me was perhaps a projection of the other person's internal dialogue about their own masculinity.

This experience reinforced my understanding of masculinity, shaped by the women in my life. True masculinity isn't diminished by the opinions of others but is built on the discipline to stay true to one's values and principles. As we navigate the complexities of identity and relationships, our reactions and responses can serve as windows into our souls, revealing our strengths, vulnerabilities, and the depth of our character. Being a man, to me, means having the discipline to reflect on these moments and grow from them.



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