What makes a man?
It’s not the clothes, the wealth or even the physical strength.
It’s his character and the values that drive him.
There are core values of exemplary men of integrity.
The first of the core values of men with outstanding character and exemplary conduct is honesty.
This includes complete self-honesty.
The man of integrity and character doesn’t lie to others and he doesn’t lie to himself.
This includes those kinds of white lies many of us are tempted to blurt out at times.
“Sure, I like my new job, it’s a great opportunity.”
Or, to ourselves:
“It’s fine that my friend betrayed me, I shouldn’t really be so upset about it.”
Lies are weak and cowardly. Men of integrity don’t traffick in lies.
The next of the core values of men with outstanding character and exemplary conduct is generosity.
This includes in the literal and metaphorical sense.
The man of noble character will help out those in need and care for those close to him.
He is not a moneybags individual, but he is also no miser and he likes to live with a little bit of largesse.
On the emotional level, he will give of his time and attention to those who ask and respect their need for care.
If this is in a business sense with responding thoughtfully to clients, he’s all there…
If it’s in a personal sense, in terms of cherishing his relationships and those who he cares about, he’s generous and available as much as possible…
A man who’s worth his salt has determination.
He has conquered his inner quitter, and he doesn’t give up when the going gets tough.
That’s not to say he never changes his mind, it’s just to say that he doesn’t change his mind because a project, relationship or situation has gotten difficult.
He’s not afraid to think long-term, and in a world of instant gratification, he’s looking further ahead.
He’s determined to overcome obstacles and use failure as a learning opportunity.
He’s locked in and ready to go.
People around him see that and they consequently respect and value this man, looking to him for both leadership and as a teammate.
There’s a stereotypical “nice guy” who always finishes last…
He gets the bottom of the barrel at work, in relationships and in his social life.
That’s generally because he’s far too agreeable and is repressing his assertive, masculine side.
Men of outstanding character are very nice, but they’re not “nice guys.”
They stand up for themselves and assert themselves fearlessly when necessary.
But they are also compassionate and empathetic.
They truly do care about others and their wellbeing and they do their best to help out when possible.
They do this in a way that demands nothing back. They help because they can, and because they want to.
Men of integrity are assertive.
They treat others with respect and generosity, but they’re far from a pushover.
Assertiveness is not equivalent to aggressiveness.
Aggressive and pushy men tend to be insecure and childish.
The man of character is far from pushy or aggressive.
He is calmly and gently assertive. He holds his tongue when there’s no need to speak, but if he wants something he will insist.
He’s not one to shout or be boisterous for no reason, but if there’s a need he has, he’s going to ask for it.
6) Moral courage
Moral courage is highly underrated.
What exactly is it?
Moral courage depends on the context, but it’s a definite trait that is either manifested or not.
As motivational speaker and author Sonia McDonald explains:
“Moral courage can include:
- Speaking out against injustices even when no one else does.
- Taking action when you know it will cost you personally can help others.
- Standing up for your beliefs in the face of criticism from peers, family, and friends.”
We all know people who will either do what’s right or will back down if it’s too messy.
That right there is the difference-maker between an average or low-quality guy and a truly exemplary guy.
Truly authentic and outstanding men are respectful.
This does not mean the outstanding man is a stereotypical “nice guy,” like I mentioned.
They aren’t always smiling or saying yes to everything that others ask or state.
Many times they may look neutral or even slightly serious and “hardcore.”
But an outstanding guy is respectful in the sense of his actions.
He doesn’t lie, cheat, manipulate or pressure others.
He treats people fairly to the best of his ability and expects the same in return.
One trait that’s often overlooked in terms of the core values of men with outstanding character and exemplary conduct is even-handedness.
Even-handedness is treating people equitably and with equal consideration.
Instead of openly favoring one of his kids, the honorable, stand-up guy treats them both with equal affection, time and energy.
Instead of giving preferential contracts to one client, he opens his contracts to competitive bidding and gives everyone the same shot.
The man of integrity is even-handed for a simple reason:
Because that’s how he expects others to be with him.
And he only enters into business or personal relationships with those who are just that way on a consistent basis.
The man of integrity is accountable to others, but most of all to himself.
He is honest above all else, as I noted.
But he is also accountable.
This is one step above simply being honest:
It means not only admitting to mistakes and telling the truth, but also fixing and making up for things he does wrong or inadequately.
If he runs a landscaping business and a client points out ways the job was not done to a satisfactory level, he comes back and not only does the work up to expectations but exceeds them.
If he’s late on a loan to a friend he repays with interest that his friend never asked for.
The man of integrity and character holds himself accountable because he wants to get better and be the best version of himself.
He also holds others accountable and will drop business opportunities, potential partners and interactions which display a lack of accountability.
There’s a reason I said “potential partner,” here, however…
…It’s because a man of truly outstanding character is deeply loyal.
He avoids getting into relationships or business deals with people who aren’t honest or accountable.
But if he is committed to something and the other party or partner lets him down or displays unacceptable behavior, the man of integrity will try to work it out.
He will give second chances and try to see the best in other people, even those who fall short.
He’s not liable to give third chances, but he will give second chances.
That’s because he knows we’re all human and we all fall short sometimes.
There’s no reason to ditch somebody over one mistake in most cases, and sometimes a connection gets stronger if we stick with it through betrayal or disappointment.
The next of the key core values of men with outstanding character and exemplary conduct is trustworthiness.
If you shake his hand and look him in the eye you can bet that he means every word he says.
Not only does he mean it, he’s going to see it through.
Anything he is involved in.
The man of honor doesn’t welch on his promises and he only makes an agreement or a commitment if he intends to see it through to the furthest extent of his ability.
It’s good to be interdependent and cooperate and collaborate with others.
But being codependent and relying on others is toxic and disempowering.
When we depend on others for our success or well-being, we set ourselves up for failure, heartbreak and moving at a snail’s pace.
I can’t count how many years I wasted waiting for other people to start being more interesting, more motivated, more active…
I can’t count how much time and emotional energy I completely wasted in demanding that better opportunities come my way, that I be more appreciated, that others see my value…
Waste. Of. Time!
The man of true value is self-reliant.
If there’s no good job out there for him he sheds blood, sweat and tears to create one out of nothing.
If he’s got no romantic prospects, he shapes himself into a man of steel in the meantime.
The man of outstanding character loves to work and live with others, but he never relies on them to be who he hopes them to be. He’s his own man.
Be a man
There’s a lot out there about how masculinity is “toxic” and how men should be more in touch with their feelings and sensitive.
In this article I have done my best to differentiate from that advice.
Yes, a strong and exemplary man is caring, generous and kind.
But a high-quality man of integrity is not overly nice, deeply emotional or overly vulnerable.
Like it or not, being that way will lead to personal and professional failure and misery if you are a man.
The truth is that a man of outstanding character is good to himself and those around him, but he does hold back on expressing all his emotions and sensitivities…
He does hold back on complaining, being too analytical and expressing insecurities in front of others…
He holds himself to a higher, tougher standard.
He does believe in traditional ideals of masculinity.
But unlike the distorted media portrayal of masculinity as toxic (which is aided enormously by genuinely toxic men out there), the true man is masculine and respectful.
There should be no gap between being a caring, kind man and also a strong, assertive man.
And for the true man there is indeed none.