July 8, 2020

Integrity and Self Improvement: Core concepts of masculinity

We often refer to doing the right thing as staying on the straight and narrow. I disagree with this idiom. Everyone has a different path. Some men start closer to the destination. Some head south to north, some head north to south. Some men have a clear cut and well trafficked trail, and some men make their own trail, breaking brush the whole way. Some men have to dead reckon the whole way and some follow hardball roads until they are close to their point. All paths are full of switchbacks and obstacles that need conquered. The path isn't straight and narrow, it is convoluted and long, an undertaking that takes determination and perseverance.  My goal is to give men a map and compass so that they can find the path that suits them.

After significant thought, I have developed a set of guiding principles that all men can live by to become men. Good men. Strong men. These concepts are simple. A man should live his life with pure integrity, and continuous self improvement. It sounds easy enough to do this. It is, however, not easy, especially with the culture we live in today.

If you live your life according to these two simple ideas you will meet unlimited resistance from your male peers, I will not refer to them as men. 1 Peter 4:4 states this same idea: "They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you." Your peers do not want to see you raise the bar and shine a light on their shortcomings. Instead of following a path of righteousness they will stay their course away from an honorable existence, and attempt to take you with them. Do not give in. Recognize their flaws and use them as an example of what not to be. Spread this message and raise them to your level, so that we may make all males into respectable men.

Integrity has many definitions depending on what source you prefer. Merriam-Webster defines it as "the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness." The United States Army defines it as "Do[ing] what's right, legally and morally. Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. It requires that you do and say nothing that deceives others." I define it as doing what you know as right, no matter how hard, at all times, even if you can get away with doing less.

Continuous self improvement means being a better man than you currently are at any opportunity. With every decision we make, we have a choice to do something that will improve us or diminish us. Always make the choice that leads to improvement.

No person can argue against these ideas. They are not democrat or republican, conservative or liberal. What is right, and what is an improvement is personal to every reader here now. We all know right from wrong. We all know what is the right and just thing to do. We all know, with every decision we make, if it will improve our lives.

Integrity can be easy and hard at the same time. Refer to the Apostle Peter above. If you take the righteous path, you will become an outcast. You will be criticized at every corner. Those around you will try to discourage you because they feel bad for not having the integrity to do the right thing like you do. Ignore them. You are the company that you keep, and if your company has an issue with you doing what is right, they do not deserve your company. Be an example to them, and encourage them to follow you, but do not give into their discouragement. They have crab mentality and want to bring you down to their level. At the same time, you know right from wrong. Do what you know is right. Follow the voice in you head that second guesses your decisions. Listen to yourself when you weigh your moral compass against your choices.

Self improvement is not as easy as integrity. Discerning right from wrong is simple, it is black and white. Self improvement takes tremendous effort and dedication. You probably have ideas on how you can improve your life: eat well, exercise, don't drink to excess, put in the effort. It is too easy to give in and not improve yourself. As men we have a choice, either improve or deteriorate. Take the high road, the windy and difficult path, and improve. There are 7 ways we can improve as men. Those ways are: our skills, our faith, our relationships, our physical health, our mental health, our finances, and our careers. Sometimes improving our relationships may mean cutting out those that detract from our improvement. This is a difficult choice, but having integrity to do what we know is right will guide us to make the right decision. Improving our finances may mean forgoing a luxury, but again our integrity will prevail. Improving our faith and relationship with The Lord is difficult, but ultimately right, and living with integrity will lead us in the right direction. Cutting ties with those that hold us back will improve our mental health, but it is difficult to remove ourselves from those that we feel close to. Ultimately we know it is right to do, so we must do it.

Every step we take to improve ourselves is connected. If you improve your relationships, you will improve your mental health. If you improve your faith. you will improve your relationships. If you improve your physical health, you will improve your mental health. These seven areas of improvement are all inter-connected and feed off of one another.

When you realize that and areas of your life which can be improved, take action immediately. Do not wait until the end of the month, or until the new year, or until x or y or z happens. At that moment make the change. You have realized the potential for growth, do not hesitate. Every improvement you make is a building block for the next step in your improvement.

As you take steps towards improvement, realize that you will fail. You will encounter insurmountable obstacles. You will inevitably fail at your attempts. Never let this discourage you. Sucking at something is the first step at being sorta good at something. These are the switchbacks I alluded to in my opening statement. Sometimes you will feel like you are going backwards. Internalize that negativity and use that bad feeling to never fail again. Eventually progress will be natural.

We will never be perfect men. Part of being men is realizing our shortcomings and moving onward from there. As you progress you will find yourself being more critical of your own actions. That is continuous self improvement  Use your integrity to make decisions that push you forward. Never give into the pressure to be less than you can be. Realize that your potential is unlimited as long as you center your life around the principals of integrity and self improvement.