I wrote this a few years back with the idea of submitting to This I Believe. For some reason or another, I never ended up sending it in. However, this one essay has been my core thought for a long time and is the basis for others. It is referenced in my piece on the Three Marks of Humanity. This is my analysis of what it means "To Be a Man."
The essential definition of a man is “a rational animal.” This definition applies to all of mankind; the young and the old, male and female. Yet what does it mean to “be a man?” This I Believe, that to “be a man” is to be a hero, a model for society. If we were to ask a boy what he would want to be when he grows up, he would give you anything from a career, to a superhero, to even his own father. All of these are to a boy, men. They are heroes, and through them one can see what it means to be a man.
Being a man does not lie in strength. It does not lie in intelligence. Nor does it lie in street smart. All of these things are characteristics. They are pieces of a man but do not completely define a man. The keys to becoming a man lie in virtue. Virtues are these characteristics that define a hero. They range from all over, from prudence to kindness, from courage to temperance, from love to faith. These are what make a man great. They are what make a man a hero.
The core virtues that make a man heroic are the four cardinal virtues. They are Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. When we look up toward our heroes, they generally display at least one of these four. A man must be Just, knowing what is right and wrong. He must be Prudent in going about action. He must persevere against the evils that threaten. And he must be in control of his passion.
Perhaps passion is the greatest evil to face. It is naturally inside us all. We use it to define ourselves. It expresses our desires, our hopes, our dreams. Yet they also express our fears, our despairs, our anger, our sadness. How can one control such passions? How does one deal with a world full of disappointments? To try so hard, but in the end fail. How does one bear these pains over and over with no comfort? What about those who try to do what is good, but are always treated with contempt? This is where the true strength of a man lies. Where there appears to be no hope, he still goes on. In these cases, it his mind and will that pushes him to hold on.
The greatest hero whom we can follow must carry all of these virtues. Many heroes do as we perceive them. While none may be perfect in any, our perception and ideals is what we need more. Even if we find that our hero is not who we thought he was, that image we had is what we needed the most.It does not matter what career one goes into. It does not matter how much education one receives. It does not matter how strong one is. In any path that one takes he is given a choice; to be a model or not. This choice is the first step in what it means to be a man. This is what I hold, that Men are Heroes.