My Christmas, this year, was as many have been for the last decade. I awake early, work, read, eat, open a few things, watch family open a few things, then I flick on the boob tube and watch John Wayne movies. John Wayne wasn’t merely an actor playing many multiple roles like a chameleon going from one character to another. He was a teacher and an archetype, and he was so, purposefully. (Read This: 9 Lessons In Manhood from John Wayne)
There was a theme with all of his characters. There was congruency.
If you want to understand what a man’s role in society is, watch a John Wayne movie.
John Wayne’s “man” is always flawed in the minor details. He may have been an aloof father or a drinker or at one point an outlaw and a man that never truly reached his potential. However, he always knew right from wrong and he had the courage and the strength to right said wrongs.
He wasn’t the nicest fella, but he was the backbone of a community and of a family and his compass was always firmly set. His understanding of right and wrong wasn’t shaded in grey or marred by our present desire to understand and explain and give reasons for evil never actually calling it evil.
His idea of right and wrong were as they should be for a man and a leader, firmly set in black and white with little room for compromise or interpretation. Wayne wanted to give men an archetype for manliness. He saw that the manly virtues that bore a strong and democratic society when the world was run my kings and emperors was, and are, fleeting, and it’s by following the lead of an archetype that many men learn what a man truly is and how he should act.
He and the characters he plays are men. They aren’t victims. They aren’t deceitful or conniving. Their character and values are almost always in line no matter whom he plays or the story he tells. Thus, there are common themes within each film that can teach us how to be better men. In this article we’ll explore said themes.
What Being a Man Is According to John Wayne.
1. Know Your Values.
Few actually know what they stand for and so they stand for nothing. Standing for nothing seems popular today. No right, no wrong, what you do is what you do and that’s okay.
It’s important not just for a single man to know his values, but for a society to have some set of shared values or moral code. Where there isn’t a common culture led by the strongest of men and the strongest of women, there can be no singular pursuit. This doesn’t mean we all have to be conservative or liberal, but that our intent and our compass are fixed on similar points.
That’s why a melting pot is better than a cultural mosaic, or that those who want to immigrate to a free society should also want to adopt its customs and culture so as to maintain its sense of a common community with a common goal.
This common goal can be seen in the small town led by John Wayne who rise up against a growing evil and men who aim to hurt and take advantage of the defenseless.
On an individual level each man must know his values because it’s your values that will lead you through life. It’s your values that will allow you to thrive and create happiness and value but also wade through the tribulation that every single life on this planet inevitably faces.
You cannot, however, simply choose any list of values. They must be rooted in what being a man and being a masculine man entails, and John Wayne helps us identify these.
A man who lacks discipline can not only not accomplish anything in life, but he cannot lead. A man, at his heart, is both warrior and leader. You’re the head of your household, its defender and protector. If you lack discipline, if you’re too liberal with the drink or if you prefer ease to work, you’re rendered useless to those who depend on you, no matter your role in society.
Don’t run from discipline, instead acquire more of it. This value makes all other values and virtues possible. Without discipline you cannot be strong, game, or gritty. ( Read This: 5 Ways to Become More Disciplined)
Not to disparage women at all, that’s not my intent, nor do I think of women when the word is said. That word being, pussy. A pussy clearly does not describe a man. Actually, it describes its antithesis. A man is strong and gritty, he’s afraid but he goes forward anyway. He doesn’t complain. That’s a huge part of manliness. Without grit, you can’t really call yourself a man, instead you’re somewhere in between the worst parts of both sexes.
We cover this in more detail in a bit, but a man’s understanding of right and wrong must be knowledge, not theory. Right and wrong is easy. We all have an innate understand of what it is. You see someone strong picking on someone weak, that’s wrong. Rape is wrong. Murder is wrong. Theft, lying, cheating, and even wishing wrong on others is wrong.
Justice takes this a step further because, as a strong, gritty man, you have the ability to stop wrong and to defeat evil. Justice doesn’t mean you’re a vigilante but that you don’t stand idly by when wrong is being done. You’re a defender of the weak rather than a spectator at the crimes being inflicted upon them. John Wayne always sought justice, his characters didn’t wait for someone else to enact it and bring it about.
We’re in a society where honesty is optional. We portray lives on the social medias that are less than honest. We’re less than honest about who we are because we feel that a slightly better version of ourselves will be liked or loved or hired. We lie to improve our lives yet it’s the truth that’s founded in reality and a man not firmly set in how the world really is cannot rise and improve and grow.
There are other values that a man needs, but I thought it important to highlight those that are fleeting above all others, and gameness is an innately masculine characteristic that is dwindling. (Read This: Grit & Gameness: How to Be Good at Being a Man)
Not only are we sheltered from the rest of the world, a far more dangerous place than the attempt at a utopia that we live in, but masculinity, I mean real, raw, warrior masculinity is not only not encouraged, it’s frowned upon. Strong men are far from the norm, and men ready to fight for and defend what they’ve worked hard to earn and what men before them have fought and died for, are dangerous.
Yet, every one of Wayne’s characters have been ready to fight because that’s what men do. We don’t always need words and we know that sometimes evil men need to be killed. Gameness is jumping into the battle knowing that harm is likely but not shying away from it in the process.
2. Know Right from Wrong.
Political correctness, aka weakness, has removed the ability to have a firm notion of what is right and what is wrong, and it’s allowing evil to not only win, but thrive.
In a world where the truth can be offensive, the truth and the matter of facts must be altered and eschewed to accommodate everyone and every opinion. A man cannot get mired in the mess of the feelings of others. Feelings are arbitrary and subjective, rarely based on how things really are. Right and wrong is simpler. It’s been simple since the dawn of time because deep down we know and always have known what it is.
John Wayne’s characters are always on the side of good. But do you see what he’s constantly doing?
He’s constantly in a battle of some kind versus an evil, unjust foe. He isn’t sitting idly by, watching the events unfold or looking for someone else to take action. He’s in the arena, as Theodore Roosevelt would say, marred by blood and sweat, getting dirty, even hurt, feeling pain, doing what others are unwilling to do.
As a man, you cannot get caught up in political correctness and lose the truth. You also cannot be too nice or fearful, you have to be a man of action, a protector, someone who knows what’s right and what’s wrong and has the balls to defend the good and combat the evil.
Compassion is nice. But true compassion must coincide with action or else it’s rendered utterly useless and destructive.
3. Do What Others Are Unwilling to Do, What’s Difficult to Do.
Along with your firm sense of right and wrong and your values, a man must have courage, guts, balls, whatever you want to call it. He has to be willing to live by his code even if it means living a life devoid of ease and comfort.
We all understand what must be done, but so few of us actually do it. We see a woman being mistreated yet we don’t intervene. We rationalize our inaction by saying that their troubles are theirs and mine are mine. We see an elderly person being mistreated and we do the same.
We have an opportunity to earn more money or to gain a promotion if we go against our idea of right and wrong and our values and we jump on that opportunity without much thought about the consequences on our soul and the man we’re aiming to become.
John Wayne’s characters always defend the weak, even though it may mean their death (the Cowboys). They always work their hardest, even though there may be faster ways to wealth. It’s the honor in hard work that they crave and not merely the reward that we all want from it.
A John Wayne character wouldn’t skip training day. He wouldn’t cheat to get ahead. He wouldn’t lie to gain favor. It’s tough to stand up to his ideals but all it takes is a decision to act like a man and the steps to take are right before you.
4. A Man Is Self-Reliant.
One of my favorite books or essays is “Self Reliance”, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It’s the antithesis of what we have and who we are today.
Wayne’s characters always took things into their own hands.
I recently had a discussion with a few pals of mine and we talked about guns. A lot of these guys are completely against violence. My question was simply, would you rather have the safety of your family in your hands or on the phone?
That is, what’s more effective, a gun in hand or a cop on the phone?
A man’s answer is simple. A politically correct coward’s answer is also simple. One wants to defend, the other wants to be defended.
We live in a world, and especially in a society, that craves safety above all else. Well, guess what, the world isn’t a completely safe place. And in this quest for safety we remove personal liberty and freedom, which is something that I think is far worse than a murder rate.
And it’s men – “men” – driving this movement to remove the freedom to bare arms or the freedom to protect one’s land.
John Wayne’s words seemed like commands. It was as if each sentence was fact and had to be heard and obeyed. He didn’t speak for the sake of speaking, not in real life nor on the silver screen.
This goes deeper than words, though, but into how we broadcast our lives.
Men don’t buy things to impress people nor do we fall into the traps of society, constantly seeking things, status, aspiring to acquire rather than to be.
We don’t feel the need to publish every movement we make on facebook so the rest of the world can see what we’re doing. We don’t need that affirmation.
Our value in life isn’t dependent on the approval of others. We live our lives and we’re happy to live our lives free from rewards and awards and the approval of humans whose approve we know we don’t need.
We also don’t waste words. John Wayne was a great example of that. His opinions were stated as facts. His words had a purpose, not just to fill the void of silence.
This is something I need to work on in a big way. Listen rather than talking. Observe rather than stating. But when you do talk, make your words count.
Go about your work for the sake of the work and not for what your work will bring you when you succeed. Aim to perfect your craft, to become great at whatever it is that you’re doing and not just after the dollar bills, though the dollar bills are important.
Wayne’s characters were stoic. They were strong. Be the same.
A Man’s Gotta Have a Code
What we’ve laid out here is essentially a code, a creed to live by. It’s a set of values and principles that will be with you through hard decisions and hard times.
It’s the code that you live by that will help you stay true to who you are and who you want to be, no matter what the popular or easy decision is.
And that’s what makes men great, making the tough decisions that may not be popular or easy, they’re simply the right decision to make.
Read This: The Code of Manhood
About The Author
Chad Howse: Chad’s mission is to get you in the arena, ‘marred by the dust and sweat and blood’, to help you set and achieve audacious goals in the face of fear, and not only build your ideal body, but the life you were meant to live. He’s a former 9-5er turned entrepreneur, a former scrawny amateur boxer turned muscular published fitness author. He’ll give you the kick in the ass needed to help you live a big, ambitious life.
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