Being a Good Man – or Good at Being a Man?

Being a Good Man – or Good at Being a Man?

At a recent assembly, Senior Boys were invited to consider what the ethos of Growing Good Men means to them.  Achila Perera of Year 10 (pictured) delivered this eloquent and thoughtful response:

The topic of a recent assembly encouraged me to ponder what it means by our own Growing Good Men project at the Senior Boys Campus.  And now I want to pose a question to you, and ask you to think about what your own answer to it is. That question is “ What is being a good man vs being good at being a man.”

Let me repeat that, “What is being a good man vs being good at being a man.”

Although this question might confuse you at first, as it certainly did for me once I first saw it, I managed to realize what this question means to me as an individual and a young man.

This question that I have posed for you all today comes from the introduction of a book called “The Way of Men” by Jack Donovan and he argues that guys admire men who are good at being a man more than they admire those who are just being a good man. He also portrays the point that when it comes to defining what it means to be a man, the only opinions that matter are those of other men.

In an article titled “Raise Your Son to Be a Good Man, Not a ‘Real’ Man”, Michael Kimmel contrasts the differing viewpoints on how men learn to become a good man.

Over the years, Kimmell has asked the question: “What does it mean to be a good man?” to thousands of young men and boys around the world from all-boys schools in Australia, to a police academy in Sweden, to former soccer stars at FIFA and to cadets at West Point. He noticed that the answers rarely varied and most believe being a good man requires classic traits like:

  • Integrity
  • Honor
  • Being responsible
  • Doing the right thing
  • Caring
  • Standing up for someone

He then asks what it means to be a “real” man. The shortlist of their answers include:

  • Never crying
  • Be strong
  • Don’t show your feelings
  • Suck it up
  • Power
  • Aggression

As you can see, there is quite the stark comparison between a good man and a real man.

Tom Matlack, the author of the book, “The Good Men Project”, says many men are at an infection point in their life, trying to figure about what’s important to them. Many are asking, “How do I go about changing my life and becoming a good man.” It is one thing to just tell men to have all the qualities that make up a good man, but it is a different story when it comes to putting it into action.

Matlack says there is no one right answer. Each person has to find his own answer and learn from the stories of others. I would like to share with you a very short story from the book I am currently reading called “Make your Bed” by William. H. McRaven that epitomizes a characteristic I believe is important in becoming a better man, and that is to give people hope.


“In Seal Training, there is a week called Hell week and it’s purpose is to eliminate the weak, those not tough enough to be SEALs. More students quit during hell week than at any other time in training. We were ordered into the mud and began a series of races and individual competitions designed to keep us cold, wet, and miserable. There was a catch though. Just five quitters and the rest of the class would be let off and have some relief from the pain. As morale started to decline rapidly, the student beside me moved toward the instructor. I grabbed his arm and held him tight, but the urge to leave the mud was too great. He broke free of my grasp and began to lunge for dry ground. I could see the instructor smiling. He knew that once one man quit, others would follow.

Suddenly, above the howl of the wind came a voice. Singing. It was tired and raspy, but loud enough to be heard by all. The lyrics were not meant for tender ears, but everyone knew the tune. One voice became two and two became three and then before long everyone started singing. The student rushing for the dry ground turned around and came back. He began to sing as well.

The instructor shouted for the class to stop. No one did.

With each threat from the instructor, the voices got louder, the class got stronger and the will to continue on in the face of adversity became unbreakable. In the darkness, I could see the instructor’s face smiling. Once again, we had learned an important lesson: the power of one person to unite the group, the power of one person to inspire those around him, to give them hope.

 If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we. If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.”


This lesson from William. H. McRaven’s experience is one that has resonated with me and taught me that being a good man means bringing hope to others, inspiring everyone around you. Again I pose the question. “What does it mean to be a good man vs being good at being a man.” The answers will vary depending on what your morals are and what you believe in, but I believe it is an important question for everyone to ask themselves to understand how they can become better men in today’s society as I am trying to do myself.

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