We are a very competitive nation; from our sports, to our business, to our hunting activities, and even our politics… we compete. We find ways of measuring everything, from the size of car engines, to deer racks, to a person’s success.
America is one giant competitive engine in motion.
And with that competition cycle, there are winners and losers. For every chosen winner, there is a line of losers in the wake. And in America, we don’t like to lose.
I believe in every one of us, especially as men, there is a question… “do I measure up?” And “how am I doing as a man?”
We take that question out. Where do most of us decide?
Well, we do what Americans do. We compare ourselves and compete for it with other men.
I know for myself, as a rather small and undeveloped freshmen walking through the halls of high school the answer I knew was that whatever I was… I was not big, strong, or great enough to measure to up what was around me. This body, this mind, this person…. I was going to have to earn this in time and win.
I’ve noticed something in my 30’s now that can get you in trouble. When you don’t quite have a sense of who you are and you take that question to others, you take that out into all those areas of testing. You throw yourself in the area’s of business, sports, women, you name it, and see how you compare.
I can remember a few years ago being called out by a mentor. “So when you feel small, you have to make other men feel smaller.”
Listening to it, I wanted to re-act sharply, heck no. That sounded horrible. But it hit me. I do that. In fact, the whole goal was really to out compete other men. From close friends to random folks I met. I was internally checking myself with a question… “am I better?”
I think there is a sense that if I can test myself and win over the next guy, well, then somehow I am strong. If I can win, whatever area you name against that other person, then there is something inside that says… “you do measure up.”
But what a trap. If we compare ourselves to others, we are only as great as our success is over others. We are saying to those around us, maybe even friends whether we say it or just by our internal motivations… “I need to be greater than you.”
Envy is the monster there. We can live our lives being jealous and threatened by anyone.
And let that go on for awhile… and well. We either spend our lives trying to prove to ourselves by trying to go against larger challenges, or we might check out and find a pack we can try and be the top of. And this is where it gets us in trouble, we can easily find ourselves around people that don’t challenge us in good ways. We create small men in our minds, to make us feel big.
We all are unique and competing to earn that is always in some effort diminishing who you are because it is already saying that someone can either give that or take it away. Truth is, we all have different strengths, different displays of what it means to be masculine from strength to mercy, and it requires us looking inward than projecting this to others. Our family, our past, our journey of people who have brought us into those places. Those are gifts by God for us to discover, and I believe part of the journey is weeding through all this and turning from outwardly focused to inwardly. And in some ways, laying down our competitive arms against each other, and finding the greater battles.
And yet, taking that path. Well, it is a harder journey.
I am also convinced all of our strengths and gifts, never diminish another mans. Your greatness should not threaten my own. We can all by in some form our true self and our masculine spirit without making someone smaller. If iron sharpens iron, well then, stronger men come out of strong men joining together.
But here is the challenge there. When we shine, and do offer from a true place, we become a threat to that competitive system. It requires other men to either accept that uniqueness and greatness or judge it and compare to their own. It puts contention on the plate. Envy could be coming your way. Your greatness, might make other men and their insecurities feel small and all kinds of assaults thrown directly and indirectly at you. That can create confusion and envy, and then the cycle repeats. And if you are in the middle of fighting that yourself, well, the system feeds on each other. And it can get pretty nasty.
So here is my suggestion… a simple way today of honoring both yourself and another man.
Consider celebrating the success of another man’s accomplishments.
It does a few things…
1. That man will be grateful that someone sees him and recognizes him without that threat. Your friendship will grow closer.
2. It could be difficult, because it is probably deeply what you are looking for in others to do, as you give it. We tend to hold back, what we want ourselves. But by offering it, your expression will more than likely pay off with others wanting to give that away, maybe even to you one day.
3. It will be a good step in breaking the cycle of envy and help you find yourself amongst other strong men.
I'm starting to think you can know a truely confident man by his circle of friends. Do they bow down to him? Do they become small in his presence? Or are they of equals with great strength and courage and are invited to stand as peers amongst one another? Does that man invite others to be strong for him? Or does he always have to be the strong one?
When we stand together, that sharpening of character and class is being shared amongst us all. And in some ways, we can use that masculine aggression and fight for far greater battles than fighting to win glory from each other. The battles that our family and our country need us to fight.