The epitome of a good man
The epitome of a good man

As I read that title, it comes to me that I probably should apologize to Flannery O’Connor for stealing her words (but that’s another story, so to speak). Adding the qualifier “If you know where to look” to the title might not be a bad idea, either. It seems hard to find these days, but goodness is out there; the trick is knowing where to look. And, to know that, we need to know what we’re looking for. So, what does it mean,  to be a good man?

To find that answer (however subjective it may be), I think a definition of the word good is a…, well, good place to start. According to the Oxford Dictionary, it this context, it means “Strictly adhering to or fulfilling all the principles of a particular cause, religion, or party”. Dictionary.com defines it as “morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious”. While these might be excellent definitions of the word good, I think they fall woefully short of what it means to be a good man.

You’re probably wondering what the hell I mean there. Take Hugh Hollowell, for example. He is always telling people “I’m not a good man, but I want to be”. And,the above definitions, he’s really not. He doesn’t “strictly adhere” to a particular religion or party (the “cause” part of that is an exception). And, by his own admission, he is not “morally excellent” (who is?). But, if Hugh Hollowell is not a good man, then I’m pretty sure the rest of us don’t have a chance.

So, if those definitions of good don’t work for me in describing what it means to b e a good man, what does? Serendipitously, on Facebook this morning, I found a quote from Jim Rohn about leadership that I think describes a good man pretty well. He said

“…be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”

Now, I’m not saying that to be a good man, you have to be a leader. Or that, to be a leader, you have to be a man. But, as I read this quote, I saw the character traits of the best man I ever knew: my father, Tom Rieves.

Like all of us, Dad wasn’t perfect. He could be cranky and cantankerous, his temper sometimes got the best of him and he could be oh, so stubborn. Even so, to me, he was the epitome of a good man. 

At some point, on some level, every male on the planet wonders if he’s a good man. I’m not sure we can answer that for ourselves, though, because it’s hard to see your own goodness; I think it can only be measured and expressed by others. If you’re like me and have difficulty accepting praise and compliments, that can make things…, interesting. Which  is why a lot of us say things like “I’m not a good man, but I want to be”.

When it comes to the question of whether  or not you’re a good man, I’ll say this: cut yourself some slack and remember that just because you aren’t perfect doesn’t mean you aren’t good. It just means you aren’t perfect.