To me, being masculine is doing what you should do as a man. Sometimes being strong and brave help you do those things a man should do, but there are many other important things that require none of that. If a man were caring, thoughtful, loving, conscientious, and kind, masculine may not be the first words you hear from someone describing him. But these are the characteristics of a man who tends to and fulfils his responsibilities.
The question becomes, “what are the things a man must do to be a man?” This is precisely the question that is rarely ever asked, directly, and is a painfully missing lesson for most boys and young men. There is no set list of things a man should do as a man because it can vary from culture to culture, family to family, situation to situation. Also, almost anything you would list as general requirements could also apply to a woman, such as being confident in his (her) body, being honorable to the opposite sex, non-abusive, and sexually responsible.
There are, however, certain traits attributed to males that many think make them masculine, but are actually traits the should be avoided. Included in the things a man must NOT do to be a man are the following.
1) A man cannot and should not prove his manhood by keeping a scorecard of how many women he has slept with. I’ve known men who have claimed to be accomplished in that area, but they are not necessarily attractive, engaging, or successful in life. There are even women who sleep with women, so indiscriminately sleeping around does not make a man.
2) You cannot be a better man by constant competition with other men. Out-drinking, out-scoring, out-womanizing doesn’t make you a man. It makes you a drunk woman chaser who can shoot a basketball (but obviously not all at the same time). Neither are you a man by envying or bringing down the men that ‘out-do’ you.
3) Being in control does not make you a man, unless you are in control of yourself. It is likely that the more you need to be in control of others, the more insecure you are. To conquer and control is good in war, but too often we confuse everyday life as the same as war. Being a domineering husband or father is not a man. Often, powerless men who need control of something, try to control women.
Avoiding the activities above are important in being a real man, but you’re not there yet. A real man also has these characteristics.
1) Caring--Someone who cares about others, especially family. A provider and guardian.
2) Dependable--Someone who others can trust and rely on when needed. Someone who says he will do something, and does it.
3) Consistent--Someone who is predictable in an emergency, constant in their emotions, fair in their reactions and judgments of others.
4) Responsible--Someone who is accountable for their actions and not afraid to be in charge. A person with character who will take calculated risks to do the right thing.
Again, these characteristics are important for a woman also, so what makes a man a man? Well, just being male will take care of the biological, physical, and emotional differences. Those came about without any work on your part. The difficult part of being a man is doing the right things, and not doing the wrong things.
Simply, a man is a male who carries himself well. This is the example boys and young men need to see. A man teaches other males by his example. These males eventually and desperately need to be anointed by a respected man, hopefully a father, as meeting that requirement—of carrying ones' self well.
In his Introduction to his book “Man Enough: Fathers, Sons, and the Search for Masculinity”, Frank Pittman writes, “Masculinity is supposed to be passed on from father to son. Women, no matter how wonderful, no matter how loving, can’t teach it to us. If we don’t have fathers, we should have grandfathers, uncles, stepfathers to raise us from boys to men. If we don’t have men in our family, then our need for mentors begins early. If the males we know are the other teenaged boys or the macho heroes from the movies, we may get a distorted, exaggerated concept of masculinity.”
If you are a male, then being a man means avoiding the behavior that can lead you to false notions of masculinity, and embracing the values that bring respect to you. Nature will take care of the rest. So just remember this; a man is a male who carries himself well, and who passes the lessons and the torch of manhood on to his sons. If this isn’t done, they may learn from other confused/knuclehead males and/or the false images of masculinity which can pass on generation to generation, until a real man intercedes.