Do You Have These Four Manly Virtues?

“Be a man.”

You’ve heard it before. But how?

Manliness isn’t just a thing you be. Instead, it’s having action-oriented virtues.

That’s according to Jack Donovan, author of The Way of Man.

He believes masculinity isn’t an abstract or new-age juxtaposition to femininity. In fact, women have almost nothing to do with it.

“Who we are has a lot to do with how we see ourselves in relation to other males as members of the male group…. Being good at being a man has more to do with a man’s ability to succeed with men than it does with a man’s relationship with any woman or any group of women.”

At the heart of manhood, Donovan argues, is the ability to tactically contribute to the success and survival of the group – specifically in the face of outside competition.

“Men aren’t wired to fight or cooperate, they are wired to fight and cooperate.”

He believes the historical male social circle is a gang: a small group of men, bound by honor to each other, who share a common history, culture, rituals, and aim. Competition within the gang strengthens cooperation in the face of outside dangers. You wouldn’t want weak men in your gang. In order to successfully compete against other gangs – sometimes in fierce struggles – each man must be tested and must possess core masculine virtues. Useless and detrimental men aren’t tolerated.

It sounds extreme.

It also sounds like a soccer team.

That’s not a coincidence.

For Donovan, being a man comes down to practicing four virtues: strength, courage, mastery, and honor.

On Strength

“Strength is the ability to exert one’s will over oneself, over nature, and over other people. A person who is too weak simply cannot survive. It is strength that makes all other values possible.”

It’s a basic fact that men are on average physically stronger than women. Men who lack strength are looked down on not only by other men but also by women. On the other hand, being physically weak doesn’t make a woman seem less womanly.

On Courage

“Courage implies a risk. It implies a potential for failure or the presence of danger. Courage is measured against danger. The greater the danger the greater the courage.”

“Courage is the will to risk harm in order to benefit oneself or others. In its most basic amoral form, courage is the willingness or passionate desire to fight or hold ground at any cost.”

Men are constantly testing each other for both courage and strength. They want to know, ‘if I push him, will he give way or will he push back?’ These tests allow men to size each other up. Most importantly, they are used to determine each man’s value as a member of a gang fighting against other gangs.

On Mastery

“There is no point in an adult male’s life when he can be excused from carrying his own weight, except when he is sick, injured, handicapped or old… Men want to carry their own weight, and they should be expected to.”

Mastery is the ability learn and exercise skills which contribute resources to the group.

A helpless and incompetent 5 year old is a child. A helpless and incompetent 25 year old is a liability.

On Honor

“Honor is a concern for one’s reputation for strength, courage, and mastery within the context of an honor group comprised primarily of men… To have honor is to desire to demonstrate that you are of value to the group.”

Men who don’t care about what other men think of them aren’t dependable or trustworthy. Hence, they receive no esteem from other men.

Summing up

For Donovan, qualities that “make men useful and dependable in an emergency” are the essence of masculinity.

Do you agree? If you’ve read The Way of Man, what did you think?

Action item

Think back over the past week. In which instances did you exercise one of these core masculine virtues? In your daily life, how could you demonstrate more strength, courage, mastery, and honor? If you don’t have regular opportunities to practice these qualities, what can you do to cultivate them?

Write it down, get to work.


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