A little while ago, I was asked to be godfather to a very special young man; the ritual requires of the godparents to oversee the lad’s spiritual education. Not being a great churchgoer, I thought I’d rather leave him my thoughts on what it takes to be a good man, if not necessarily a religious one.
A friend of mine recently saw the movie ‘The Descendants’ with George Clooney. She described the main character as a ‘good man.’ It occurred to me then what an undervalued concept that seems to have become in today’s society; men today tend to think of themselves as successful or not successful, sexy or not so much, cool or nerds.
But the term: ‘a good man’ – you don’t hear that very much.
So what does it mean to be ‘a good man?’
I don’t think ‘a good man’ should be confused with ‘a perfect man’. In the movie, George’s wife and daughters certainly don’t see him as perfect; when the movie starts, he’s a workaholic who is largely clueless about the emotional lives of his wife and children. That’s why his wife has looked for attention outside of the marriage and his oldest daughter has turned to drugs.
But by the film’s end you feel that George will get there. For a start, he has good intentions; and he is no coward. At heart he’s ‘a good man’ and you just know he will turn everything around eventually.
So here is what I’d like to say to my young godson, one day. I’m still trying to learn these myself. Maybe with a bit of help from this, he’ll get there before me.
1. Try always to be kind. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re hurting; but this is the time it pays the most.
2. Do not confuse kindness with trust; both women and men should earn that from you, because some people take advantage of kindness. But this fact is absolutely no excuse for cynicism, okay?
3. A firm handshake and eye contact is important. Other men will judge you by it.
4. Never. Ever. Ever. Hit a woman or a child. Do it even once and forget about calling yourself a man.
5. Learn to manage your money, you won’t get far without it. But don’t let it manage you.
6. Play team sports. You’ll learn a lot about other blokes on a football field; it’s about friendship and character and courage.
7. Stand up to bullies. Especially when they’re picking on someone else.
8. Know what you believe in so you can stand up for it. It will also help you to know when you are wrong.
9. For God’s sake, tell the truth. Then you won’t need a good memory.
10. If someone breaks your heart, don’t play tag and pass it on to someone else.
12. Open doors for ladies. It’s what my dad taught me, and I think it’s a good rule. And don’t let a woman walk alone across a car park in the dark, even if she’s just broken up with you.
13. A gentleman walks on the outside of the footpath to protect women, children and older people from passing traffic. Sounds cheesy, but do it anyway.
14. Be good to your mother, D. You have no idea what she did to get you this far.
15. Read 14 again.
16. Pretend you live in a world where everyone has a cell phone camera. Ooops, I forgot. You will live in that world.
17. Love your wife/partner. If you don’t love your wife/partner find another option to cheating. Be a man of honor and not a man of opportunity.
18. If your kid says come and play daddy, don’t put them off. If you don’t, you will live to regret it. Guaranteed.
19. It’s not size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
20. Listen to your heart. Follow where it leads you. Don’t complain if it leads you right into the shit. Whatever goes down will still be much better than not listening to your heart and not following where it leads you. Eventually.
And to see a woman’s point of view on this, see this just wonderful post from Lisa Hall-Wilson right here: Beware of the Counterfeit Man. It’s brilliant.