First letter to my son(s): What makes a man?


What defines a man? A man is not defined by his material possession, nay, a man is defined by his generator; where he derives his philosophy of life, what many call his core. For a good core will generate a good man, the reverse is true. A man is not to be defined by the easy and happy times, for any fool can masquerade as a man in merry times. However, a man is to be defined by his ability to remain calm amidst chaos. To stay poised. Steadfast. The true colors of a man are revealed in times of uncertainty, times of stress, times of ridicule and defeat.

His worth will be dictated by how stoic he remains. I know the feminists will call this “toxic masculinity,” they’ll scream and wail on how a man should be “expressive,” and that he should “let his emotions show”, son, that’s nonsense. A real man dresses well on his execution day, and like a gladiator in ancient Rome, despite all his fears, tilts his head up so the sword can decapitate him in one strike. He meets his destiny with courage, pride even. I’m not saying a man shouldn’t have feelings, I’m saying he should remain unencumbered by them. His decisions should never be fettered by his shifting moods.

A man doesn’t play victim nor take part in blame game, even when others deserve the blame. He must never be shy to accept responsibility, of failure no less. He must understand that a man is moulded by failure and therefore always seek to be tested. For a man to know himself, he must be tested; no one finds out what he can do except through trial. Great men rejoice in adversity while pampered bodies grow sluggish through laziness, and their own weight exhausts them. He must remember that prosperity – that is material success – can come to any man, but triumph over adversity only belongs to real men.

A man must remain courteous to all, and especially towards the weak and less fortunate. He should never scream at the waiter over trivial things.. Oooh, there’s not enough salt here, Oooh, the table is bent, No. He doesn’t need to yell at his secretary because business is bad, or he lost a few coins last month, No. He must endeavour to remain true to his nature, calm. Before a man points out the faults of others, he must first examine what fault of his nearly resembles that which he is about to point out. For this reason, he must be slow to judge. He should try to think less of himself and never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

A man is not he who is impressed by simple luxuries of life. He is neither intimidated by suits and ties nor cars and big houses. A man is he who never forgets what really matters in life. He should keep the words of Seneca close to his heart, that “Every man, when he first sees light, is commanded to be content with milk and rags. Such is our beginning.” He therefore should always strive to tame his wants, only then will he attain true freedom.

A man knows that nothing in life is permanent, not even him. And so he takes nothing seriously, not even him. He takes defeat as he does success. He is aware that anytime his luck may run out and his fortune change. He doesn’t let his wins get to his head nor his loses to his heart. A man accepts his fate with dignity. If fate should give him power, he toils to exercise it justly. He protects the weak, and never lets his anger have the best of him.

Son, you must always understand that some men are beneath you. In fact, most men are beneath you. If a man should be so eager to show his strength through violence, consider the man beneath you. If a man should be impressed by the material world, like many are, consider the man beneath you. You should make such men the object of your scorn. The trivial cockroaches they are. If a man is to be proud of his car than the smile of his mother, son do not make acquittance of such men. Do not engage in an argument with them. They are idiots. Son don’t even hate them, that should be reserved for worthy enemies. Give them only sympathy.

A man understands, that despite the prevailing externalities, only he is responsible for his attitude. Son take seriously the advice of Viktor Frankl, that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” It is for this reason that we use adversity in judging a man.

Most importantly, as I end this letter, a man must always remember that he can never be perfect, and that this knowledge – that he can never be perfect – is his true advantage over other men. He should use this advantage to always correct himself. Son don’t take seriously anyone who thinks they are perfect. For those are fools. They are lesser men, far beneath you.

This is the first letter, I shall write to you again, in the mean time, stay safe.

About the author

Ken Juma

Thinker of thoughts, lover of life.. and death too.


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By Ken Juma

Ken Juma

Thinker of thoughts, lover of life.. and death too.

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