What Makes a Real Man


Kirk Douglas as Spartacus

All of us have seen Hollywood’s versions of “real men” at the cinema – heroes played by the likes of Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Toshiro Mifune, Jean Reno, Russell Crowe, etcetera. These are handsome-baritone-voiced-tough guys who aren’t afraid of anything. They get all the girls, win all the fights, drink all the hard stuff, and sleep with one eye open.  If we fall short of this image, are we not real men?

   Some would say, “If you have to ask, then maybe you wouldn’t get it anyway.” Being an optimimist, I believe anyone can change for the better.

Please allow me to try to define what being a real man means to me. You can agree or disagree. That is your prerogative. These are the essential qualities…


The first essential quality of being a real man is to have integrity. The Google online dictionary defines integrity as,”the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.”  It takes courage to be honest and truthful, especially with ourselves. Having strong moral values is important, but what makes a real man is someone who will stand by his principles, even when a demanding situation proves that acting from principle may not be strategically advantageous. Is your word enough? Is a deal finalized with a handshake binding?I always loved Warren Buffett for this!

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

Can you do the right thing, even if you know that, on some level, the outcome may not be pleasant, or beneficial? Are your actions guided by a moral compass? Will you lie, cheat, and scheme to make some perceived gain? …such as editors of certain online magazines who once you call them on stealing your article they immediately change the publishing date to predate yours? *


Yes, to do the right thing takes courage! Courage, my next quality of a real man. How do you deal with adversity? It’s in dealing with adversity that defines the man. What is your attitude when the odds are against you?  Do you do the right thing even if it’s going to hurt you in the polls of life?  Do you “grab the bull by the horns,” or do you whine, complain, and just leave it up to the next guy?  Do you ever find yourself saying, “That’s not my problem, man.”

If someone’s drowning, do you jump in to save them, without hesitation? If a child runs out into the street after their ball, do you jump out into traffic to snatch them up? The First-Responders of 911, our troops overseas, and our NYPD come to mind.

If some drunk wants to pick a fight with you, do you obligingly meet him in the alley and beat up an easy mark? Or, do you do the right thing, knowing that he’s just had too much to drink and remain calm to diffuse the situation?


Captain Chesley

Captain Chesley Sullenberger

In the face of a difficult situation, are you able to stay calm, collected, and fully aware?  Do you have grace under fire, or do you panic?  Do you fly off the handle and commence with either verbal or physical attacks? Maybe you’re even worse – the passive-aggressive type that just simmers, knowing that there may come a time to seek retaliation. Yes, we all get angry. No one can keep anger from welling up, on occasion. But, it’s what you do with it that defines the man. Do you project your anger onto those around you, or do you accept responsibility for your actions, deal with the issue, turn the anger into determination?


The next quality of a real man is having a strong sense of responsibility. When you’ve made a mistake, do you own up to it, apologize and make amends, or do you lie, divert the blame, or even threaten a lawsuit? Can you accept your life as it is right now and deal with it, or are you blaming someone or something for your current situation?

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Can people count on you, or are you always dropping the ball?  Are you punctual? In other words, can you show up when and where you tell someone you’re going to be?  Do you have a sense of your world beyond yourself and your needs? Do you spend more time at the bar, than with your children?  If someone falls in the street, are you the first one there to help? Do you dial 911?

New Dads: Do you change your baby’s diapers when they need replacing or do you wait until mom shows up? Do you get out of bed to rock your baby to sleep, or just don’t consider it your job?

Consideration, Respect, and Manners:


Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech

Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech

Let’s continue with the next qualities of a real man: consideration, respect, and manners. When you shake some one’s hand, do you look them in the eye? Are you a loud talker in a restaurant, oblivious of other peoples’ space? Do you give up your seat for a woman, child, or older gentleman? Do you thank people for helping you?  Do you politely ask for some one’s time and reciprocate?

Do you dress appropriately for each situation, or do you wear a hoodie to dinner with your parents?

Do you sneeze into an open room filled with people, or do you use a tissue, handkerchief, or as a last resort – the crux of your elbow?

Do you sit on a crowded subway with your legs spread so widely that no one can sit next to you?

Do you drink too much, eat too much, talk too much?

Are you a gracious host? Do you welcome your guests with the offer for something to eat, to drink? To come sit by the fire? Are you a good listener, or is the conversation more about you and your agenda, your pontifications? Do you ask what you can do to help, or do you tell them what they should do?


The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama

– Do you care about and care for the people in your life?

– Do you have your co-workers’ backs, the people whom you supervise?

– Do you bring kindness when someone is suffering?

– Are you generous?

– Do you go beyond your comfort zone?

– Do you try to make the lives of those around you and in your life better?

– Can you forgive, or do you hold on to grudges?

– Do you give to charity because you care, or because you need the tax write-off?

– Are you a team player, or is it more about your personal status and reputation?

Pat Tillman (photo via Wikipedia)

Pat Tillman
(photo via Wikipedia)

These are just some of the questions that come to mind.  I’m sure that there’s quite a few more. How you answer the above questions may determine where you’re at. Maybe, this will help show where improvements could be made?  Perhaps, you’ve already arrived?

Fortunately, I have known some who have passed and some still living and breathing “real men.” These people are the salt of the Earth. They’re kind, generous, good-hearted people who might even be too humble to answer the questions brought up in this article.

To be REAL takes effort, awareness, and vigilance. We could all be better.  Let’s leave knowing that the world is a better place because we were here.

Roberto Clemente (photo via ESPN)

Roberto Clemente
(photo via ESPN)











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James Finn

Author: James Finn

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1 Comment

  1. Excellent article and perspective. A Man must become an Man, the concept in itself is very elusive and often a compilation of covered failures leading to wisdom and identity realization.

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