Man has a problem: He does not know how to value himself.
This is, of course, a generic statement, but there are few exceptions to the rule (or at least, I’ve never met one).
First, we must address what it means for a man to “value himself”. The bare bones definition is something like “I want to stay around”. Naturally, everyone values themselves to the extent necessary to fulfill this definition. Whether they value themselves more than this varies greatly from person to person, but I believe men have the most trouble.
The extent that a person values themselves stretches between the ends of a dichotomy – “god / son of god / son of the gods” and “I’m dirt” – and, naturally, includes everything in between. It is critically important to note the ambiguity in the definitions of these two dichotomies. The first thing you may want to think is that this scale is a matter of pride. That is NOT true in the least bit, although undoubtedly pride is one path you could take between these two dichotomies. (Hence, I don’t call it a “spectrum” because that implies a single, linear relationship.)
Another way you can travel between these two dichotomies is value from an outside source. In one word: love. The usual way to feel love is to get it from another person. Love of self is not wrong, but it is something man does not merely shy away from – it is something he doesn’t think about! If he does, it usually comes out as pride.
Pride is the elevation of oneself above their recognized status. If you are a human, then you are not above any other human. You are entitled to no more than any other human. Of course, you are also entitled to no less than any other human. You are to have the full dignity of a human person, no more, no less, unless you are elevated by one of higher status than humans (and considering the nature of the physical universe (which will be discussed), only God fits that description).
Love, on the other hand, is valuing another above oneself. Everyone wants to be valued, so everyone seeks love. While both sexes seek this, it is apparent only women instinctively try to receive their self-worth from someone else. Men may try to receive value in the same way, but it is more or less as a fallback method when other methods fail, aren’t very successful, or he has forgotten about them.
In order to acquire value, man jumps from one method to another. He is not particular about the technique just so long as he feels a sense of value from it. This value can come from other men – which man discovers as a side effect of his activity and so decides to pursue to find the value it gives. It can also come from a sense of accomplishment. For example, growing a beard. The growth of the beard itself is a sense of accomplishment – it says to a man he is becoming older and therefore supposedly wiser (although this is not necessarily true). Man does not grow a beard merely to please other men. He has no reason to. In fact, most men who grow a beard find it just as easy to shave it regardless of how many people want him to keep it. The same is true when playing sports, but there is a fundamental difference: the opinion of everyone else DOES matter, and thus a man places heavy emphasis on its importance. This is way encouragement is extremely necessary. Men want to feel capable of doing whatever they want – remember, they want that feeling of accomplishment – and when they realize something isn’t being accomplished, something cannot be accomplished, or people tell them they cannot accomplish it, they become depressed. Hence, if you tell a guy he is terrible at sports, he will do one of three things: 1) brush you off; 2) not care; 3) argue with you vehemently.
Why? (1) Occurs because a) the guy doesn’t want to acknowledge he is incapable or b) he knows he’s good and your comments mean nothing (it may even make him feel proud, depending on whether he knows you root for the other team). (2) occurs for an untold number of reasons, ranging anywhere from “it doesn’t matter anyways” to “sports aren’t my pursuit”. (3) occurs because the guy is defending his ability.
Now that I’ve rambled on awhile, let’s summarize where this is going: ability. No, it’s not accomplishment. Accomplishment merely shows the man that he has ability, and encouragement shows that he is able to reach that accomplishment. Remember that man, because he has this problem of value, needs to find it somewhere. Where can one get value? The easiest answer for a man, given his nature, is from doing something. He must prove himself. He must show that he has value, that is, he is worth keeping around, which of course goes back to the root definition of value that I gave above and back to our dichotomy.
Let’s address the first end: God / Son of god / Son of the gods – a particular mentality that man finds it easiest to pursue. To the best of my memory, I cannot recall any women pursuing such titles in its wicked forms unless they were ridiculously proud. Yet even men who are not ridiculously proud might pursue such titles.
Consider, for example, Caesar. The political climate at his time was rather harsh. He had just finished conquering Gaul when he was told to disband his armies. Talk about depressing. Not only that, he could easily be picked off by an assassin. Hence, he marched into Rome and made sure he wasn’t going to lose his place in history. Was he prideful? That’s debatable. He was a man certainly proud of his work. His nephew Augustus finally took the title “Son of the Gods”, but with an understanding of his uncle’s accomplishment: he was ruler of the known world. That’s an amazing thought, and one might certainly feel like he could have only received this position if the gods had been in his favor and appointed him to this destiny – a privilege he might only receive if he were of heavenly descent.
In the crazier section of this crowd are those who, in fact, are full of pride and pursue the title from the bottom up. This bunch does NOT necessary include those who have the title or similar title – such as “Holy Roman Emperor” – bestowed on them. (And I can’t possibly address in this article every reason for man having similar or related titles.)
Ironically, there is some truth to the “son of the gods” idea, assuming you believe man came from God (e.g. “Adam, the son of God” – Luke 3:38) or wishes to adopt man into his family (“the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'” – Rom 8:15). Recall that there are multiple ways to travel between the ends of the dichotomy. In the case of adoption, our means of travel is love – that God so loves his people that we can find value in Him.
The other end of the dichotomy is total depravity. Man realizes he can find no meaning in the universe whatsoever. The reasons for this conclusion vary, such as atheism, existentialism, and nihilism, but the outcome is similar: no meaning means nothing can be valued. If we look at the pure, objective standpoint, this is absolutely correct: there is no meaning from an objective standpoint. … Duh! Value is subjective – in other words, a person is required.
Notably, then, men find it easier to become atheists.
Atheists have argued that, since our consciousness will become nothingness, the only thing we can do to last is to leave a legacy. Does this not sound like a man’s argument? Can you hear the ringing bells of “accomplishment”. If man is able to leave a legacy that lasts for centuries, he can certainly be proud of himself, no? … Hm…. Let’s think about that.
How do we leave a legacy? Fame for one thing. Fortune. If I stack millions upon millions upon myself, that not only brings value to myself in the present time, but that will also allow me to be a philanthropist and leave a legacy. Nevermind the workers I mistreated. The memory of me will live on. After all, everyone remembers Andrew Carnegie – the good and the bad – but no one remembers his factory supervisors.
In my opinion, this is as equally as pointless a pursuit as doing nothing (and many often take the latter option for that very reason). The only reason for the accomplishment in the first place was so that you could be proud of your ability, but when you’re dead, it doesn’t matter how many people remember you – you won’t be there to enjoy their memory. I suppose you could try to enjoy your work with the thought of your legacy in mind, but the only way to be sure of it would be to make an untold amount of money for a long time – and that way, people HAVE to notice you. There are no poor philanthropists.
Now that I’ve discussed the problem, how about a solution? After which, I will discuss the consequences of man’s problem and his solutions for it.
There are two solutions to the problem for a person with my worldview. If you don’t share my worldview, then only one of these applies – the first one – and the other you will have to replace with something else.
The first solution is not really a solution, but it is most often what we resort to anyways: Keep jumping. We go from thing to thing, activity to activity, person to person, looking for the “high”, the “buzz”, that feeling of gratification, which might either address the problem (by helping us satisfy our craving for value even if for a short time) or ignoring it entirely (suppressing it).
The second solution is to find a constant source, which for me is God. I know that I am valued by God, that I am beautifully and wonderfully made. He loves me more than a father loves a son, and treasures me exactly as he made me. Every inch of me (“every centimeter” for those of you using in metric), every facet, is valued. There are things in my character, for example, that he did not make – and some need to be changed – but those were dynamic aspects to begin with.
If you do nothing about a problem, it may eventually come back to hurt you. There is that lucky percentage you might be in, but in this case… well, let me put it this way: What are the odds you (yes you, the person at the screen reading this now) can’t see?
Okay, so if a guy doesn’t value himself, what happens?
Rape. That’s one thing. Any form of adultery really, from premarital sex to porn. Because men don’t value their bodies as something valuable (and in the case of Protestants – don’t even consider their bodies as WHO they ARE), they feel they – and those around them – are disposable objects. Consequently, they feel the same way about women. Hence, it’s relatively easy for a man to both have sex and talk about it. (INSERT: Also note that murder is easier because of the absence of respect for the dignity of human life.) This is also why homosexuals are more public about their relationships when they are male. There is a lack of shame.
One might argue that there is rape and porn because men are attracted to the opposite sex and to the pleasure of being with them and having relations with them. This is certainly true, but please be aware: that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the ease in man’s mind concerning these matters, NOT his motivation for pursuing them. While a man might pursue women, both culture and shame are what prevents him from mistreating them.
From a Christian standpoint, shame is a defense mechanism built into humans to remind them to protect their inherent dignity from God. From my experience, women are more susceptible to this feeling from a very young age, and the feeling only wears out with cultural shaping. Shame comes in two ways: when one is on the defense and when one is on the “offense” or “seeking” end, as I’d rather term it (since it can be either good or bad, depending on the viewpoint of the individual). Both are pretty much the same: preservation of dignity. This might be done by retaining one’s virginity and wearing modest clothing. Christ extended it even further by calling his followers to preserve their innate dignity and the dignity of the people around them by maintaining purity of heart and not looking lustfully at one another. To maintain the dignity of the human person, you have to view them as a person – a creature blessed and loved by God – and not merely a toy for your own satisfaction.
An analysis of shame and human dignity was done by John Paul II in his doctoral thesis, Theology of the Body. This article takes some stuff from that, though I did start off by talking from my own experience and perspective as a man. If you haven’t read Theology of the Body, you should. Even if you aren’t Catholic, it offers a very in-depth look at human nature and dignity, and I’m sure you can glean some interesting ideas from it.
It is interesting to note that this problem of man leads to such a variety of outcomes – and outlets – including those we see prevalent in modern times: empires (these days, usually commercial), millionaires, philanthropy, adultery of every kind, homosexuality (in men), romantic music (the “you left me” songs especially), competitions (spanning from local to international, including sports and the Olympics) and games (board games, video games, etc.), and a host of other things. Some problem man has, huh?
In conclusion, I’d say that the problem hasn’t made any progress. It hasn’t gotten worse (how much lower can you go than dirt?) and it hasn’t gotten any better (how much better can you be than God?). The point is: men have a problem, and it hasn’t gone away.
I did speak alittle bit about women in this article. Needless to say, I have no experience being a woman. (*Bdum Bah!*) /humor What is in this article is what I’ve gathered from observing, listening to, and conversing with woman. That’s my disclaimer.
Also, I feel like I’ve somehow misstated something in this article and probably won’t catch it until after I’ve published the article and received some snide response. My apologies in advance.