There are more weak men now than ever before, and there’s no mystery as to why. At a time in which we are more connected to the entire globe than ever before in history, most of us are guilty of making our world too small. We primarily interact with the world through a screen. We talk to people through a screen. We consume information through a screen. We order food through a screen. Most of our entertainment consists of watching a screen.
We make sure that, while watching our screens, we are comfortable. Men have built the best “man caves” that money can buy so that we can be as comfortable as possible while entertaining ourselves, which typically involves watching others on a screen. Welcome to masculinity in 2017, living vicariously through others in the comfort of our recliner while eating processed crap until we fall asleep.
How Weak Men Get Created
We buy a mattress that has just the right firmness and temperature settings, and we can even to adjust those settings to suit our needs for any particular night.
We constantly adjust the thermostat in our homes to make sure we’re comfortable. We buy cars with heated seats and different temperature settings for each passenger.
We circle parking lots to try to get the closest parking spot so that we don’t have to walk more than is absolutely necessary and to avoid having a drop of water or ray of sunlight touch our skin.
Our gyms, restaurants, and medical offices are plastered with TV screens, as we wouldn’t want to be without entertainment at any given moment.
We have entire fitness chains that market to those who don’t want to work hard, punish those who exert too much effort, and serve pizza and candy (yeah, I’m looking at you, Planet Fitness).
Many of us would rather look at porn than ravage our wives. It’s easier. Less effort.
It seems as if every aspect of our lives is automatic, automated, electronic, digital, or virtual, often for the purpose of ensuring that we have to expend as little energy as possible and to achieve maximum convenience.
Weak Men = Weak Children
What’s more, we’re making our kids in our own image. The go-to child care strategy of our generation is to put a movie on the television or to hand the child a phone or tablet.
We don’t just take care of obvious needs, we cater to their every want. We hover to make sure that we can “help” the child overcome any obstacle, real or perceived. We take meal orders like we’re running a restaurant to make sure each child’s unique preferences are met.
We intervene in every argument. We give instructions for how to resolve every dispute. We promote being quiet and getting along. We believe the consequences we impose are better than those provided by the nature of our child’s actions.
We are completely risk averse. No running, jumping, hitting, or touching. Everything must be padded.
According to this report, those kids are growing up to be zombies who spend their free time in their rooms texting each other and posting on social media. It almost makes a man want to yell at them to go outside, have a beer, and make out with their girlfriends in the back seat of a car. But we don’t do that because we’ve conditioned ourselves to avoid all semblance of risk in favor of safety and comfort, both for us and our children.
My friends, WE are the softest generation. And we’re raising our kids to be worse than we are.
And I’m as guilty as anyone. I like comfortable. I like the easy road. I want to sleep in a comfortable bed and for as long as I want. I love good food and want to eat a ton of it whenever I want. I hate being cold and wet. I hate enclosed spaces. I’m risk averse. Injuries scare me. I love social media. I could spend every waking moment on Twitter.
That’s not the life men were made for. Men were made to embrace the hard road. To endure. To battle. To take risks. To fail. To get hurt. To overcome. For thousands of years, this was the man’s life.
Alas, it is no more. We’re past that. Now we clap to turn our lights on, have food shipped to us in a box, spend our days looking at memes and cat videos, and put leashes on our kids so they don’t run off. And it’s killing us. Literally. As men, our rates of suicide, mental illness, and addiction have never been higher. And for those of us who aren’t dealing with those issues, we’re still stuck wondering why we’re not happier, why we’re not more content with a life that’s filled with more comfort, leisure, and entertainment than ever before in history.
The Solution: Embracing Discomfort
As I wrote in Manhood and The Hero’s Journey, we desperately need to get back in touch with our nature as men and live the life that’s encoded in our DNA to live. That means seeking discomfort, getting comfortable being uncomfortable, embracing the suck, however you want to say it or like to think of it. We need to challenge ourselves. We need to be harder, both in our bodies and our minds. Getting stronger is certainly a start, but it’s only part of the equation.
Special forces trainers regularly talk about the “studs” who show up on the first day training who look like Greek gods chiseled out of stone. And they don’t last the first day. They tap out when the going gets tough. They have the muscles but not the heart. We need the heart. We need the grit. We need the resolve. We need the toughness. We need to be challenged.
Society is not going to challenge us. Society is going to market us to consume the latest products that can make life more comfortable. It’s going to tell us to that men are struggling because we’ve sought to achieve a standard that’s too high. It’s going to tell us that we don’t need to live up to any standard, that we’re fine just as we are. It’s bullshit. And, though it will keep you mostly comfortable, it will keep you from the life you want.
Seek the Challenge
Men long for challenge. We long to rise up. We long to unleash that primal beast inside of us. We crave the opportunity to prove ourselves. Years of being marketed a life of comfort and ease has pushed this yearning deep inside many of us, but it’s still there. As John Eldredge famously noted in Wild at Heart, “every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue”. Most of us are too damn soft to pursue any of the three. But we long for it. We won’t be content without it.
So, we have to challenge ourselves. We have to seek out discomfort and test ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll never improve and we’ll continue to be the most depressed generation of men in history. That will not be my story.
Where do we start? As I noted in this post, spending more time outside is a great start. The more time we spend outside of our temperature- controlled environments, the better off we’ll be. Mother Nature doesn’t care if you’re hot, cold, or wet. Get outside and get uncomfortable. And don’t just sit outside. Get moving. Take long hikes in the cold. Sleep under the stars. Don’t avoid rain like it’s acid that will eat away your skin. Go outside and do something the next time it rains. Go fishing or hunting in crappy weather.
Do your workouts outside. Get off the treadmill. Take your weights outside. Run. Lift. Swing. Jump. Throw. And do it all outside. Yeah, it’ll be harder. The bar will get hot. Your hands will be sweaty. Your neighbors might stare. But it will fun. And awesome. As I’ve said before, it’s amazing what sunlight, sweat, and dopamine can do for your mental state. They’ll turn a crappy day into an awesome day. Instead of depressed, you’ll feel bulletproof. Life becomes both simpler and larger.
Living through screens and in comfort makes life too small. Life can be large. It can have meaning. Such a life requires that you live in accordance with your nature and purpose as a man. Our generation is a long way from there. Most of us are no different. We need to introduce discomfort to our lives. As crazy as it sounds, misery may be the path to happiness.
So, let’s turn the tide on men being weak. No more. Not in my house. I’m in. Let’s go. This is the man’s life.
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Love this post, when I hit 50, I really decided to take charge in my health and well being.
I workout both indoors and outdoors, am workikg on my diet, and the last peice of the puzzle is to remove the remaining stressors in my life.
I’d gotten my weight under 200 lbs last year, but recently realized I’m back over 200 by a small margin, but thankfully, it’s mostly muscle. I developed a program when I was on my second tour over in Iraq with the Army, I had problems working out, but started using some joint movements I learned from various sources, and when I returned stateside, found out both of my shoulders rotator cuffs were torn, and I have arthritis and degenerative discs in the neck. After the surgery, I can workout somewhat normal, but I was refining the exercises I was using overseas and it actually was helping me build muscle. With some intermittent fasting, martial skills techniques and strength training, I’m seeing some great results and I’m working on putting it together aiming at people who have never worked out, or haven’t worked out for a good while.
The main thing is, people can blame others for where they’re at in life, but they can only complain for so long. Eventually they have to stop being a little bitch and take charge of their own well being because a person should never hand the keys of their happiness over to others.
Stephen Marshall says
First of all, thank you for your service to our country. Being in Iraq, you faced dangers that most of us will never know.
Second, you’re doing what all of us have to do: take charge of our lives and make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt. Keep pushing onward, as I’m confident you’re a blessing to those around you. Thanks for sharing your story.