12 Rules for Being a Great Man
by Jed Diamond
I’ve always liked rules and I know I’m not alone. Social scientist Joyce F. Benenson says “Boys have an incredible reverence for rules. From early childhood, boys begin to generate rules, to negotiate changes in rules, and to argue over broken rules and appropriate penalties.”
She goes on to say that rules are necessary for all of society, but males have a special love of rules. “Rules have been a primarily male occupation. For thousands of years, males have constructed the rules that underlie religious, governments, economic systems, businesses, education structures, and of course judicial courts and military.”
Yet, men rarely focus their rule-making on themselves. So, before jumping into the 12 Rules for Being a Great Men, let me share a bit about my background. We are all influenced by the times we live in and our life experiences. I was born on December 21, 1943. I’m on the cusp between Capricorn and Sagittarius and according to a popular astrology website, “you are a true visionary headed toward certain success!” So, you might do well to take my rules with a grain of salt. Also, I have a son, an adopted daughter and inherited three other boys when I married Carlin 39 years ago.
When my son, Jemal, was born in 1969, I made a vow that I would be a different kind of father than my father was able to me for me and I would do everything I could to bring about a world where men got the support they needed to be truly good and perhaps, even, great. Carlin and I have 17 grandchildren and I’ll be 75 this December.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to believe there are three questions all great men can say, “hell yes” to before we die:
- Did I live an authentic life, was I true to myself?
- Did I love deeply and well?
- Did I make a positive difference in the world?
I believe the following 12 rules can help us all be successful in the game of life and I offer them to you for your consideration. I’ll offer the first six in this post and the next six in a future post.
Rule #1: Accept That You Are 100% Male
Some of us are sperm carriers and some of us are egg carriers. Twenty-two of our chromosome pairs, called autosomes, look the same in both males and females. The 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, differ between males and females. Some of us have an XY some of us are XX.
According to David C. Page, M.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), “There are 10 trillion cells in human body and every one of them is sex specific. We’ve had a unisex vision of the human genome, but men and women are not equal in our genome and men and women are not equal in the face of disease.”
Marianne J. Legato M.D is the Director of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine. She says, “Everywhere we look, the two sexes are startlingly and unexpectedly different not only in their internal function but in the way they experience illness.”
The poet, Robert Bly, captures this reality when he says that young males must spend time in the presence of older males “in order to hear the sound that male cells sing.” Being authentic means being authentically male. We are 100% male in every cell of our bodies. Embrace the gift of our maleness.
Rule #2: Remember The Glory Years at the Apex of Childhood (Age 9 to 11)
I still remember being 10 years old. I felt on top of the world. I was independent and took the bus by myself from our home in the San Fernando Valley into Hollywood. I had a group of buddies who I hung out with in Miss Bittle’s 4th grade class at Kester Avenue School. I still remember Lester, Ray, David, Jimmy, Sparky, and Jack. It’s been 65 years, but I remember Jack’s voice calling md on the phone and singing, “Heart of my heart. I loved that melody. When we were kids on the corner of the street, we were rough and ready guys, but oh how we could harmonize.”
Those years before adolescence with the hormonal changes that transform our body, mind, and soul, are magical and powerful. Getting in touch with them is necessary for embracing the glory of maleness.
Rule #3: Examine and Heal Your Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
My home life was stressful. My father has taken an overdose of sleeping pills, feeling hopeless and depressed because he couldn’t find work to support his family. My mother was obsessed with death, sure she would die before I graduated high school and worried that I was die at any minute.
Studies for more than 20 years demonstrate that Adverse Childhood Experiences are common and impact our physical, emotional, and relationship health as children, adolescents, and adults. Socrates reminds us of the ancient wisdom that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Healing our past traumas will set us free.
Rule #4: Forgive Your Parents For the Wounds You Received
For a good deal of my life I was convinced that I didn’t have any childhood wounds. “I just had an unusual childhood,” I told myself. “And everyone is screwed up in their own way.” When I looked honestly at my past, I was forced to accent that my parents did some things that caused me a great deal of pain and suffering. I became mad as hell and blamed my father for leaving the family.
“You will begin to forgive the world when you forgive your father,” Tennessee Williams’ psychiatrist was reputed to have said. I think it’s true. Once I began to see that my father’s treatment of me was influenced by the childhood he experienced, I began to recognize that ACEs go back through time. We’ve all been wounded. We must embrace our wounds and forgive our parents in order to fully recognize the gifts of wisdom we receive from life.
Rule #5: Join a Men’s Group
In 1979 I joined a men’s group. I had attended a workshop with 40 other guys with Herb Goldberg who had written the book, The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege. Following the workshop one of the organizers invited anyone interested to meet the following Wednesday to discuss forming a men’s group. 12 of us showed up and 8 decided to form a group. We’ve been meeting now for nearly 40 years. There are 6 of us now. One guy left the group and moved to Hawaii. One guy died. The rest of us have found a band of brothers and a safe harbor where we can explore what it means to be a man and how we can support each other through all the stages of life, including the final stage as we approach our death.
All guys need a men’s group. It’s part of our XY heritage.
Rule #6: Find Mentors Who Can Guide Your Journey
I’ve been blessed with some wonderful mentors in my life. I met the psychologist, Abraham Maslow, in Los Angeles. He inspired in me a passion for helping people and reminded me of my Jewish intellectual heritage and the words of Albert Einstein, “The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice, and the desire for personal independence…these are the features of the Jewish tradition that make me thank my stars I belong to it.
Some of my most important mentors for being a good man have come from women. They include my wife Carlin, my daughter Angela, and feminist writer Betty Friedan. When I read Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique shortly after I was married in 1966, it changed my life. She begins with these words, “Gradually, without seeing it clearly for quite a while, I came to realize that something is very wrong with the way American women are trying to live their lives today.” I read the words and knew that the same system that was harming women was messing up men’s lives.
We all need mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.
Let me know what you think. Check out the rest of the rules in my next post. Do you have additional rules you would suggest for being a great man?
Reprinted with permission from the author.