What makes a man?

What encompasses being a man? I remember growing up we were taught to never talk or participate in adult conversation. My father was so strong in this belief that he did not want us talking at the dinner table. After we ate we were allowed to start conversations.  Was it this way in your family? Dad seemed to have the last say in important matters. The underlining truth is mom always had influence. The patriarch ruled the family but mom ran the household.

I have always been intrigued with the American Indian. Especially The Sioux  and their philosophies. I came across an article about  Charles Alexander Eastman. He talked about what constitutes being man in the Sioux culture. I would like to share excerpts from his thoughts.

Not ‘to have,’ but ‘to be,’ was his national motto.”

The Sioux believed in the six virtues of being a man.

Education in the character traits and virtues he would need in order to one day take his place in the tribe’s circle of men. “Silence, love, reverence — this is the trinity of first lessons; and to these he later adds generosity, courage, and chastity”
virtue is essential to the maintenance of physical excellence, and that strength, in the sense of endurance and vitality, underlies all genuine beauty. He was as a rule prepared to volunteer his services at any time in behalf of his fellows, at any cost of inconvenience and real hardship, and thus to grow in personality and soul-culture. Generous to the last mouthful of food, fearless of hunger, suffering, and death, he was surely something of a hero.

We missed the boat when it came to the American Indian. The culture has a lot to offer. Instead of wishing to dominate the savages why did we not work as a community and embrace the culture? Sorry I went on a tangent.

Silence. The Sioux believed in avoiding trivialities and speaking only that which was important. The youth were not to speak to their elders at all unless specifically requested to. As Eastman explains, the virtue of silence was part of a larger standard of “Indian etiquette”. This philosophy was entrenched in my father’s attitude. Where it came from I never asked. He said it was a hallmark of being a man and would bring me respect.

Reverence. “Religion was the basis of all Indian training,” and a Sioux’s spirituality was inextricably tied into an awareness of the natural world, which he believed was sacred. All living things were thought to have a soul — not of the same kind as man, but a spirit created by the Maker nonetheless. I find this to be true in Costa Rica. I found my gardener picking up a Tarantula with the brissels of a broom. Carefully letting the spider crawl onto the broom and walking it to the outskirts of the property. In this act of kindness, he was showing me the sanctity of all life. God’s creatures big and small must be respected. All peoples must have a system of belief. It must be strong in very man. Does he need to believe in the creator or have a strong belief in what is right or wrong? What do you think?

Generosity. The Sioux believed that “the love of possessions [was] a weakness to be overcome.” Acquisitiveness was thought to weaken one’s manhood and hinder spiritual growth. This is one of the great sins of our society. We accumulate wealth at the expense of others. Dividing a gap between the rich and the poor. Making us a weaker country, producing a weaker class of men unwilling to work or fight for a greater good. Depending on the rich to support them. Instead of sharing the wealth and helping all men to be givers to the greater good of mankind. My Fathers favorite saying: ” Idle hands is the Devils workshop”. One must be generous to those in need to make them productive in society and give them the capability to thrive on their own.

“The Sioux conception of bravery makes of it a high moral virtue, for to him it consists not so much in aggressive self-assertion as in absolute self-control”:
“The truly brave man, we contend, yields neither to fear nor anger, desire nor agony; he is at all times master of himself; his courage rises to the heights of chivalry, patriotism, and real heroism. ‘Let neither cold, hunger, nor pain, nor the fear of them, neither the bristling teeth of danger nor the very jaws of death itself, prevent you from doing a good deed,’ said an old chief to a scout who was about to seek the buffalo in midwinter for the relief of a starving people.” Is this virtue true in modern society ?  The bravado to stand up to what is right. Courage to defend the weak against the strong. To hold hands with brothers of different color, to show solidarity against bigotry and hate. To marry any person we wish without the restraints of religion or political bigotry . The right to our own bodies and mind, to speak freely without fear of recrimination. This is what being a Sioux is about. How about us? What do we stand for?

The finest love a man could develop was for his fellow men; friendship was thought “to be the severest test of character”:
But to have a friend, and to be true under any and all trials, is the mark of a man! The highest type of friendship is the relation of ‘brother-friend’ or ‘life-and-death friend.’ Sometimes it takes tragedy, hardship and years to know who your true friends are. Sometimes those close are your biggest disappointments. As a young man I sometimes proved disloyal and paid a terrible price. I learned, to be a man to admire, you need to be true to friends and never succumb to weaknesses that would bring excuses for your wrong actions. Too much alcoholic consumption, abuse of drugs are easy traps to fall Prey to meanness, weakness and biligerantness. Having a friend who stands by your side in your weakest moment is a friend to hold dear. A friend who helps you through your tough time unless you wish to destroy yourself and them. One must see the virtue of helping oneself but a good friend can show you the way. The old saying goes: “I can count my true friends on one hand.” Through thick and thin they are there.

Chastity. Chastity was not only prized in a Sioux woman, but in a Sioux man as well. Certain feasts were held for the young men that only those boys who had never spoken to a girl in courtship could attend. Demonstrating one’s worth as a man was considered a prerequisite to making oneself eligible to be a suitor. “It was considered ridiculous to do so before attaining some honor as a warrior, and the novices prided themselves greatly upon their self-control.” The highest honor went to the man who had “won some distinction in war and the chase, and above all to have been invited to a seat in the council, before one had spoken to any girl save his own sister.” In today’s society it sounds like a ridiculous notion. It is because we are not a small society as the Sioux were, but the notion of restraint is not unheard of. Young people have looser morals than my era. It was not unusual for young people not to have sex in the fifties and sixties. Now it is common place. Twelve year old children are having sex. Sometimes I look back at my life and thank God I never had kids. Today’s social pressure is so high for kids. How do you parents do it?

Can the lessons of raising children by the Sioux be adaptable today? I believe it can be. Even though they were a mobile society, raised to be warriors; their moral way of life is something to admire. Is their concept of what a man should be stand up to today’s world? What do you think?

Pura Vida!



Stick tuit ness
Confrontational when needed
Unafraid to protect

Qualities to look for in friends
When you need help: they stick to you to the end
They know you and your values and are uncompromising
They voice their vision when compromised

Unafraid to stick by your side, but will let you know when you are wrong
Will hug you when yo are forlorn
They have opinions you need not hear
Options are always near

No one is perfect
Friends give you time to reflect
Together you play good music

We journey to the mountain for peace
Friends give you that release
I can count my friends on one hand
It is my favorite band


Author: tmnugent

Poet Author. Living in Costa rica Pura Vida. Love to travel, play with my dogs and write poetry. My girlfriend and I enjoy life and could't be happier living here

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