Though this may seem obvious, a man needs to feel valued and can only find peace with enough data that affirms him, whereas lacking that he will pursue self destructive behaviors.
A young man passes by a window and looks at himself to maybe catch his own eye. Is he narcissistic? No, he’s looking for data. Data that will affirm that he’s doing ok, that he’s on the road to respect. Self respect? No, that’s too self absorbed and lacks context. No, he’s checking in the reflection to see if he’s respectable among men, desirable among women, so that then, and only then, can he find self respect. Charles Cooley introduced the idea of “Looking Glass Self”, a concept that essentially says a man’s self-concept is an aggregation of what he thinks others think about him.
The desire to win is a desire to be seen as a winner in the eyes of others. The competitive spirit is early and often a drive to best others and receive data that validates one’s worth. Later, the competitive spirit adds the desire to self-improve and grow – initially to be a better competitor and thereby receive more validating data of superiority, but hopefully eventually just for the sake of enjoying growth. Competition in sports, economics, women, material display, intellectual ability, academic credentials at early levels are efforts to rise up in esteem so that respect is reflected in the eyes of the beholder. Self respect is derived from the aggregation.
And yet for some, for many, it doesn’t remain. Competition is a state of the environment and is unceasing. A man must “compete” for everything. A woman won does not stay won. Sure, a man and woman may remain married for a lifetime, but to win her heart for that lifetime a man must grow. He can’t stay static. He therefore must compete against his own nature of procrastination, or obstinacy, or just plain youthfulness. He must become successful in any endeavor whether in ministry, military or social service, or economics to earn her respect. And that is what he needs to be content – her respect – without which that relationship cannot thrive.
A man must compete in economics because economics never ends. To start a career is only to learn the ABCs of business and to trade time for gas money. However, contribution is about value. It only takes a few years in the economic world to have learned enough ABCs to begin to “compete for success”. The quotes mean that it’s not all about caricature money chase and cutthroat climbing. It’s about figuring out what value the world needs and how you can contribute towards that end. For me that means not competing head to head, but trying to make a better mousetrap. All told, gaining success, climbing the ladder, adding more value, earning a larger paycheck, building an enjoyable lifestyle is aggregating data towards building self respect. The man born to wealth can be challenged because the data towards self respect is warped by a sycophantic mirror. The man born to scarcity can also be challenged because the data toward self respect is tainted with bias and disrespect. And so the wealthy man and poor man who cannot gather enough data to support feeling positive about himself develops self destructive behaviors. I knew a born-to-wealthy man who literally wet himself at a party as a joke. Sad joke. And the number of stories of poor men in self-destruction mode are legion. Certainly any man who cannot find positive data in the eyes of those who look upon him will struggle.
And so, as do so many of my posts, I am led to what I think is an inevitable relationship. Though I am not evangelical in the least, I conclude that some active idea that God exists and can provide manifest guidance in this regard towards self-acceptance and eventually to self-respect. There is a secular pull that is a competition for a man’s mind that he must overcome to gain himself. The competition is amidst distraction, cynicism and faith. But faith in itself is shallow and tenuous, so therefore faith must be directed towards a higher object. It is simultaneously an internal and external search that ultimately, hopefully, lands on a relationship with God and results in self-acceptance and respect.
Ultimately gentlemen, your successes in life will have meaning only in context to your relationship with others, and yet, all the success in the world will have no meaning unless you derive self-respect as a result.
A bit deep today, but I hope there was something in it for you.