Before a man can be truly godly, he must be manly; before a woman can be truly godly, she must be womanly. There can be no true goodness apart from moral strength. Simpering, pretense, artificial behavior, flattering, insincerity and smiling hypocrisies—let these things be forever destroyed and banished from our minds. Evil is inherently weak, ineffectual, and cowardly. Good is essentially strong, effective, and courageous. In teaching men and women to be good, I teach them to be strong, free, and self-reliant. They will greatly misunderstand me and the principles which I enunciate who imagine that because I teach gentleness, purity, and patience I teach the cultivation of an effeminate weakness. It is only the manly man and the womanly woman who can properly understand those divine qualities. No one is better equipped to achieve the Life Triumphant than they who, along with active moral qualities and a high sense of purity and honor, are also possessed of the strong animal nature of the normal man.
That animal force which, in various forms, surges within you, and which, in the hour of excitement, carries you blindly away, causing you to forget your higher nature and to forfeit your manly dignity and honor—that same force controlled, mastered, and rightly directed, will endow you with a divine strength by which you can achieve the highest, noblest, most blissful victories of true living.
The savage within you is to be scourged and disciplined into obedience. You are to be the master of your heart, your mind, yourself. Man is only weak and abject when he gives up the reins of government to the lower, instead of directing the lower by the higher. Your passions are to be your servants and slaves, not your masters. See that you keep them in their places, duly controlled and commanded, and they shall render you faithful, strong, and happy service.
You are not "vile." There is no part of your body or mind that is vile. Nature does not make mistakes. The Universe is framed on Truth. All your functions, faculties, and powers are good, and to direct them rightly is wisdom, holiness, happiness; to direct them wrongly is folly, sin, and misery.
Men waste themselves in excesses; in bad tempers, hatreds, gluttonous, and unworthy and unlawful pleasures, and then blame life. They should blame themselves. A man should have more self-respect than to abuse his nature in any way. He should command himself always; should avoid excitement and hurry; should be too noble to give way to anger, to resent the actions and opinions of others, or fruitlessly to argue with an abusive and cantankerous assailant.
A quiet, unobtrusive, and non offending dignity is the chief mark of a ripe and perfect manhood. Honor others and respect yourself. Choose your own path and walk it with a firm, unflinching step, but avoid a meddlesome interference with others. In the true man opposing qualities are blended and harmonized; a yielding kindness accompanies an unbending strength. He adapts himself gently and wisely to others without sacrificing the steadfast principles upon which his manhood is built. To have that iron strength that can go calmly to death rather than yield one jot of truth, along with that tender sympathy that can shield the weak and mistaken enemy, is to be manly with a divine manhood.
Be true to the dictates of your own conscience, and respect all who do the same, even though their conscience should lead them in a direction the reverse of your own. One of the most unmanly tendencies is to pity another because he chooses opinions or religion contrary to those of one's self. Why pity a man because he is an agnostic, or an atheist, or a Buddhist, or a Christian? Because he does not hold this opinion or that belief? Such pity should be rightly named contempt. It is the office of pity to feel for the weak, the afflicted, and the helpless.
Pity never says "I pity you"; it does kind deeds. It is superciliousness that professes pity for the strong, the self-reliant, for those who have the courage to mark out their own path and to walk it boldly. Why should he be forced to hold my opinion or yours? If what I say and do appeal to his reason and conscience as right, then he will be one with me and will work hand and hand with me. But if my work be not his work, he is nonetheless a man. He has his duty, though it not be my duty. When I meet one who is self-respecting, and who dares to think for himself, I will salute him as a man, and not harbor in my heart a contemptible pity for him, because, indeed, he rejects my conclusions.
If we are to be responsible, self-acting beings in a law-begotten universe, let us be masters of our own wills, and respect the free will of others. If we are to be strong and manly, let us be large-hearted and magnanimous. If we are to triumph over the miseries of life, let us rise superior to the pettiness of our nature.
Men weep in their weakness, and cry out in misery of heart and degradation of mind. How plain, then, is the way of emancipation; how sublime the task of triumph! Be master of yourself. Eliminate weakness. Exorcise the mocking fiend, selfishness, in whom is all weakness and wretchedness. Do not pander to unnatural cravings, to unlawful desires, or to morbid self-love and self-pity. Give them no quarter, but promptly stamp them out with disciplinary decision and strength.
A man should hold himself, as it were, in the hollow of his hand. He should be able to take up and to lay down. He should know how to use things, and not be used by them. He should neither be the helpless captive of luxury nor the whipped slave of want, but should be self-contained and self-sufficient, master of himself under all conditions. He must train and direct his will in the way of self-mastery which is the way of obedience—obedience to the law of his nature. Disobedience to law is the supreme evil in man, the source of all his sin and sorrow. In his ignorance he imagines he can triumph over law and subdue the wills of others. He thus destroys his power.
Man can triumph over his disobedience, over ignorance, sin, egotism, and lawlessness. He can conquer self; and herein lies his manly strength and divine power. He can comprehend the law of his being, and obey it as a child obeys the will of its father. He can sit the crowned king of all his functions and faculties, using them wisely in unselfish service, and not as instruments of selfishness and greed. There is no bad habit that he cannot uproot, no sin that he cannot subdue, and no sorrow that he cannot comprehend and conquer. "Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity boy or an interloper, in the world which exists for him."
A manly self-reliance is not only compatible with, but is the accompaniment of, a divine humility. A man is only arrogant and egotistic when he usurps authority over others. He cannot claim nor exercise too great an authority over himself. Strong self-command, with gentle consideration for others, combines to make the truly manly man.
To begin with, a man must be honest, upright, and sincere. Deceit is the blindest folly. Hypocrisy is the weakest thing on earth. In trying to deceive others, a man most of all deceives himself. A man should be so free from guile, meanness, and deceit as to be able to look everybody in the face with a clear, open, unflinching gaze, free from shame and confusion, and with no inward shrinking or misgivings. Without sincerity a man is but a hollow mask, and whatsoever work he attempts to do, it will be lifeless and ineffectual. Out of a hollow vessel nothing but the sound of hollowness can come; and from insincerity nothing but empty words can proceed.
Many are not consciously hypocrites, yet fall victims, thoughtlessly, to little insincerity which undermine happiness and destroy the moral fabric of their character. Some of these people go regularly to their place of worship. They pray daily, year after year, for a purer heart and life, yet come from their devotions to vilify an enemy, or, worse still, to ridicule or slander an absent friend for whom, when they meet him or her, they will have nothing but smiles and smooth words. The pitiful part of it is that they are totally unconscious of their insincerity, and when their friends desert them, they speak complainingly of the faithlessness and hollowness of the world, and of people generally, and tell you sadly that there are no true friends in this world. Truly, for such there are no abiding friendships. For insincerity, even if not seen, is felt, and those who are incapable of bestowing trust and truth, cannot receive it. Be true to others, and others will be true to you. Think well of an enemy, and defend the absent friend. If you have lost faith in human nature, discover where you have gone wrong yourself.
In the Confucian code of morals sincerity is one of the "Five Great Virtues," and Confucius thus speaks of it:
"It is sincerity which places a crown upon your lives. Without it, our best actions would be valueless; the seemingly virtuous, mere hypocrites; and the shining light which dazzles us with its splendor, but a poor passing gleam ready to be extinguished by the slightest breath of passion...To be pure in mind, you must be free from self-deception—you must hate vice as you would a disagreeable odor, and love virtue as you would some beautiful object. There can be no self-respect without it, and this is why the superior man must be guarded in his hours of solitude.
"The worthless man secretly employs his idle moments in vicious acts, and there is no limit to his wickedness. In the presence of the pure he plays the hypocrite, and puts forward none but his good qualities. Yet how does this disguise hide him when his true character is revealed to the first scrutinizing glance?
"It has been said that there is a strict watch kept over that which is pointed at by many hands, and gazed at by many eyes. It is in solitude, then, that the upright man has the greatest reason to be guarded."
Thus the sincere man does not do or say that which he would be ashamed of were it brought to light. His uprightness of spirit enables him to walk upright and confident among his fellow men. His presence is a strong protection, and his words are direct and powerful because they are true. Whatever may be his work, it prospers. Though he may not always please the ears of men, he wins their hearts; they rely on him, trust, and honor him.
Courage, self-reliance, sincerity, generosity and kindness—these are the virtues which constitute a robust manhood. Without them, a man is but clay in the hands of circumstances; a weak, wavering thing that cannot rise into the freedom and joy of a true life. Every young man should cultivate and foster these virtues, and as he succeeds in living them will he prepare to achieve the Life Triumphant.
I see coming upon the earth a new race of men and women—men who will be men indeed, strong, upright, noble; too wise to stoop to anger, uncleanness, strife, and hatred—women who would be women indeed, gentle, truthful, pure; too compassionate to stoop to gossip, slander, and deception. From their loins will proceed superior beings of the same noble type; and the dark fiends of error and evil will fall back at their approach. These noble men and women will regenerate the earth. They will dignify man, and vindicate nature, restoring humanity to love, happiness, and peace; and the life of victory over sin and sorrow will be established in the earth.
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.