Being Good at Being a Man or Just Being a Good Man

Throughout my reading of books and articles for content on my God Buddies blog, there is a quote from Jack Donovan that keeps popping up: 

Read it again.

Read it slowly this time to really get both parts of the quote.

“There is a difference between being a good man and being good at being a man.”

The Way of Good Men

This quote comes from the introduction of Donovan’s book, The Way of Men and encapsulates two of his arguments: 

  • That guys admire men who are good at being a man more than they admire those who are just being a good man
  • When it comes to defining what it means to be a man, the only opinions that matter are those of other men.

Now, don’t underestimate our female counterparts on that second point though. Women will see through any “B.S” that determines if a guy is a good man or if he is only trying to prove he is a man. 

Good at being a man vs. being a good man. Are you still with me? 

On Being Good Men

Tom Matlack is co-founder of the Boston-based Good Men Foundation, a non-profit that supports men and boys at risk. He is also the author of the book, The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Frontline of Modern Manhood.

Matlack says the increasing expectations of men as fathers and husbands are just some of the challenges modern we face.

He writes, “We see that men, like women for the last 25 years, are having trouble juggling this myriad of expectations. So men are kind of waking up, looking in the mirror and saying:, ‘Who am I and what’s important?’ “

Matlack says many men are at an inflection point in their life, trying to figure out what’s important but many are asking, “What does it mean to be a good man? 

Well, he says there is no one right answer. Each person has to find his own answer and learn from the stories of others. For him, being a good man means loving his wife, taking care of his kids, and doing good deeds for others. But it took him time and self-reflection to come to that realization — and some wrong turns. “This idea that we as men have these conflicting expectations and have trouble coming to truth about it is a common theme,” he says. “It was true for me. If you look around, you see all these men who have public success and private failure.”

Matlack concludes, “our culture doesn’t encourage men to talk about the difficulty in defining their role in modern society”. “We don’t need to be silent anymore. We can actually talk about what’s important.”

Good Men vs “Real Men” 

In this article, Raise Your Son to Be a Good Man, Not a ‘Real’ Man, Michael Kimmel contrasts the differing viewpoints on how men learn to become a good man.

Photo: Lambert/Archive Photos

Over the years, Kimmell has asked the question: “What does it mean to be a good man?” to thousands of young men and boys around the world from all-male schools in Australia and a police academy in Sweden to former soccer stars at FIFA and the cadets at West Point. 

He noticed that the answers rarely varied and most believe being a good man requires:

  • Integrity
  • Honor
  • Being responsible
  • Being a good provider, protector
  • Doing the right thing
  • Putting others first, sacrifice
  • Caring
  • Standing up for the little guy

But then he asks, “Where did you learn this?”

The guys all look confused until someone eventually says, “Well, it’s everywhere.”. Kimmel suggests everyone agrees these characteristics are needed to be a good man and we learn them “through osmosis in our respective cultures.” 

Matlack then changes course and says, “Now tell me if any of those same ideas or words or phrases occur to you when I say, ‘Man the f**k up! Be a real man!’”

The guys are startled and almost instantaneously respond, “No, wait, that’s completely different!”.

He then asks what it means to be a “real” man. The shortlist of their answers includes:

  • Never cry
  • Be strong
  • Don’t show your feelings
  • Play through pain
  • Suck it up
  • Power
  • Aggression
  • Win at all costs
  • Be aggressive
  • Get rich
  • Get laid

Finally, when asked, “And where did you learn this?”, they say, in this particular order:

  1. Father
  2. Coach
  3. My guy friends
  4. My older brother

Surprisingly, Kimmel states that if they mention women at all — and they rarely do, it’s “Mother.” and she comes in at about No. 6, even after they say “Teacher”.

All this implies that men learn from other men how to be a man.

The Danger of Just Being Good Men

Jack Donovan says “being a good man has to do with ideas about morality, ethics, religion, and behaving productively within a given civilizational structure”.  Its the tactical or behavioral aspects of being a man.

But he also says only “being good” limits men.

Donovan continues that “Being good at being a man is about showing other men that you are the kind of guy they’d want on their team if the ‘shit hits the fan’.”.

The World Needs Good and Godly Men

As you probably realize from reading along in this blog, I believe the world needs men who are godly men who understand how God originally designed us and that He designed us uniquely as male and female but in His image.

Godly men know how to use both their masculine and feminine traits properly for His greater purposes.

Essentially, God wants men who are both “good men” but also men who are “good at being a man”. 

The God Buddy Principle

Of course, I believe God Buddies can help each other become good men who are also good at being men. God Buddies also help us become more godly men.

In my opinion, though, being both good AND godly encapsulates the tactical aspects of being good as a man with the moral, ethical, and spiritual aspects of being a good man.

See the difference?

Being a good man is important, for sure. It requires that we demonstrate integrity, honor, doing the right thing, putting others first, sacrificing, and caring and standing up for others.

Just as important is being good at being a man, which means you accept your responsibility as a man and are accountable to higher standards. It means you provide and protect. It means you preside and lead. It means you study God’s Word and follow Jesus. All this demonstrates that you are becoming both good as a man and good at being a man, while also becoming a godly man.

Men, do not let the culture define what it means to be a “real man” to the boys and young men. Let’s show them and our wives and daughters what it means to be “good and godly men”, which is the topic in my next post.


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