What Makes a Man

What Makes a Man


What makes a man? That is a question that has been asked from the beginning of recorded history until the present day. Since this is not an article about gender studies or any of the other hot button topics, let us rephrase the question in two parts. What makes an individual an adult? What makes an adult a good person?

The philosophers of ancient Greece even went so far as to debate “What is good”?

I ask again, what makes a man, excuse me an adult?

What Makes a Man

We all have trials and obligations. It is how we stand up to them that matters.  Do we do more than our share, or as little as possible?

Many years ago I signed up for an extended class in attitude and ability developement. The class started with every student being cut off from everything they knew.  Within twenty-four hours no one even had the clothes they brought with them. The dormitories were huge with no partition walls or privacy allowed. Each dormitory held could hold up to 120 students, but averaged about 85 through most of the testing.

Not one of use was allowed to do our own thing. We did everything together.  Attended classes, ate, exercised and more. We even showered and went to the bathroom at the same time. Since there were no stalls it was a little awkward at first.

Upon arrival we were divided into growth and philosophy teams that competed against one another. We were team 3106 and before it was over we excelled at every subject presented during attitude and ability testing.

We learned team building skills and so much more. The most important thing we learned was how to work with and depend upon one another regardless of race, cultural differences or any of the other debris of society that separated us before arrival.

Not everyone who enrolled was able to finish this grueling and demanding curriculum. Some failed because of lack of ability. Some failed because of a lack of trying. The teachers never failed. They would work with the students and work with them no matter how bad they were at something. The instructors only stopped if the student decided to quit.

The school is still there and it is open to all. If today I had the youth and health that was available to me back then I would do it again without a second thought. It made me dependable. It started the process of turning a young man with no ambition into an adult.

That begs the question. Can you be depended upon? What tests and struggles in your life have helped shape you into the person you are today? Do you shirk responsibilities or can you stand up and be counted upon no matter what?

What makes you an adult is doing what is required, without being asked and without needing praise and attention for your works. It is not a matter of nature over nurture. It has nothing to do with how much ability you have. It has nothing to do with your height, weight, eye color hair color, skin color, sex or sexual orientation. Being an adult does not consider the number of chronological years you have logged since birth. Age really does not matter. Being an adult is a choice.

Have you chosen to do the right thing?

The difference between a man and a boy is not whether or not they can shave. Many of the greatest Native American warriors had no facial fair. The difference is whether they can accept responsibility for their actions and bear the consequences as well.

Every healthy male and female has been born with the genetic material to continue the species and create offspring. Not everyone stands up and becomes a worthy father or mother. The only reason it takes a village these days is there are so many young boys running around taking no responsibility for their actions.

What can you do? What Makes a Man / Adult

Like everything else in life there is a top  ten list of things you can do to be an adult.

  1. Take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually. Get 20 minutes of exercise each day, eat right, get outside and get a little vitamin D from the sun and commune with whatever your higher power is.
  2. Take care of your family. If you have a spouse and children – Provide for them. Don’t forget your parents and extended family as well. If providing means working two jobs while living in a tent, don’t worry about what color the tent is. Do not be envious of another’s apparent prosperity. They could be living above their means just to impress everyone else.
  3. Be good to your neighbor. Lend a hand once in a while. Avoid provoking them. Don’t feel you are entitled to something and have a point to prove.
  4. Practice ethical and moral behavior in all you do. Not just friends and family but your clients, tenants even total strangers. You never have to apologize for doing the right thing.
  5. Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability. Remember the only one you must overcome is yourself. So be a team player and work for the common good.
  6. Never enter into a relationship, personal or business, with someone who is not an adult. If they cannot grasp the basics of being an adult, when it falls apart many will blame you. Avoid that trap.
  7. Take the time to improve yourself. When you get better, you have the opportunity to bring up everyone around you.
  8. Stand up and protect from evil and tyranny those who cannot protect themselves. Understand that  there is evil in this world. Be prepared to stand against it. You cannot compromise with evil. Compromise only makes evil stronger.
  9. Guard your tongue. Never tell a lie. It will eventually come back to haunt you. Never gossip half of all gossip is made up of lies. If you can say what is needed without hurting another you should do so. Otherwise wait until you can.
  10. Practice patience and compassion with those with whom you disagree. You could be wrong.

The is one other thing that will help you. Learn to distrust the crowd. Those shouting the loudest are frequently agents of evil promoting their own agenda. Be wise and kKeep you own council. Make informed decisions before embarking on a path.

Go out and make this country a better place, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks. Improve your part of it.

This poem by Rudyard Kipling gives a glimpse into what makes a man. It was given to me on a card just before I went to attend the extended class in attitude and ability developement. It still inspires me.

        IF   By   Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:


If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:


If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


Give this poem your sincere attention. It answers the question, “What makes a man or adult”.

Although written for boys this poem applies to your girls as well.

I would like to close this post with long overdue special thanks to my teachers and classmates who participated in the extended class in attitude and ability development: Drill Instructors Ramos, Schmidt and Martell along with Platoon commander Sergeant Robinson of Platoon 3106, K Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego which graduated December 17th, 1975 just one month after the 200th birthday of the United States Marine Corps.

Semper Fi!

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