There are times when I know my column lacks the clarity some of you seek, and it can be frustrating. I understand you just want me to say exactly what I mean. Normally, I would say that is not my job. I am supposed to make you look at something from a different perspective, to shift the angle of your viewpoint to try to understand that each of us may not necessarily be wrong, but we are also not always right.
However, today I want to write with absolute clarity, and continue the conversation recently started on the state of manhood in our world today.
I received a mixed reaction to one of most recently articles, “We Have To Do Better,” https://bit.ly/38wvBk0. In essence, I was asked if I was calling out a particular generation for the lack of an adherence to a positive “man code.” Well, let me clear up any confusion. Yes, I was. I was talking almost exclusively to those men under 40.
When I am not writing this column, I have a real job. In that job, I have the pleasure of working with some incredible people. I also happen to work in an office that is overwhelmingly women. Most of these women are under age 40. I needed to tell you that because working in this environment has given me a different perspective and unique viewpoint I didn’t possess just a few years ago.
I don’t want to betray any confidences, but I cannot help but hear the conversations that occur in that daily work life of most people, nor can I avoid the occasional “Jeff, what do you think?” Usually, when I am asked that I immediately kick into “male survival mode,” which involves avoidance, vagueness and flight. But my judgment got the better of me one day when someone asked me “Jeff, what is wrong with men today?” There was a little voice that was screaming at me, “run!” But I didn’t.
My reply was the most confident answer I have given to any question in my entire life. I replied “you are dating men that lack a man code, and until you realize that, you are going to keep dating men who don’t respect you.” Brief silence is the best way I can describe the reaction. Then, I was asked “what do you mean by a man code?”
Curiosity is refreshing. The genuine interest in a piece of information provides the speaker with some grace, the opportunity to provide more than a one-word answer. So, I started by saying “you will know what kind of man you are dating when you judge them by eight simple words (Jeff’s man code): respect, charity, strength, humility, gratitude, grace, integrity and service. ”
Now, before I tell what I said next, I need to be clear. I don’t speak for all men, but at the moment of this conversation I realized what I was saying was something I have wanted to say for a very long time.
I continued by explaining outside of those eight words, you also need to have a conversation about the word freedom. Both men and women “want their freedom,” but what does that mean? If you want to better understand that person in your life (especially a man) ask them to share with you what freedom looks like in your relationship. Hopefully, this will be one of the most refreshing, if not eye-opening conversations you have ever had.
Left to their own devices, and lacking a code, men will define freedom very broadly, and frankly very selfishly. The best way to put it can be found in this one phrase, “doing what I want, when I want.” That sounds like a perfect life until we realize all the wonderful things we deprive ourselves of when we fail to share our life with others, and that when we approach our relationships guided by the strength of those eight words we actually unshackle ourselves from the different types of restrictions that selfishness offers.
The two words from the code that help properly define freedom would be “respect” and “gratitude.” If we do not respect the person we are with, actually value their presence in our lives, it is easy for us to only think of ourselves.
Additionally, if we lack gratitude we are blessed to have “that certain person” in our life, then we will always look at freedom from a self-centered perspective.
In the end, the code requires two people. One person must have a reason to want to live by the code, while the other person must provide that reason. Meaning that fault can be found in the men absent the code, and the women that tolerate that absence.