What is manliness? Some would regard it as consisting in the possession of muscle and nerve. A higher ideal makes the power of endurance and perseverance an infallible test; and highest of all comes the type of manliness that results from renunciation and self-mastery. Men who, like the good Saint Francis, renounce all temporal possessions in favor of their spiritual welfare, gain not only the homage of their fellows but they have almost unlimited power over them. The influence of a truly unselfish nature—one that can relinquish the seen for the sake of the unseen—is the most wonderful thing in the world.
But mere renunciation of things around one does not always give a strong basis to one's character. It is not so much the giving up, but why the giving-up is done that counts for strength. A yielding of what is one's just right in an easy, careless, non-resistance must be clearly distinguished from the renunciation of possessions and desires that would be harmful if indulged. The nature of true manly renunciation is well expressed by Locke:—
"The great principle and foundation of all virtue and worth is placed in this—that a man is able to deny himself his own desires, cross his own inclinations and purely follow what Reason directs as best though the appetite lean the other way."
Power to do or not to do then is the very essence of true renunciation, and Reason is the arbiter which decides whether an action shall prove a man to be a mere easy-going puppet that dances hither and thither, swayed by circumstance, or a man in the truest and is highest sense of the word—immovable as a rock because the foundations of his character are deep in the eternal mysteries; calm, because reason whispers to him revelations of those mysteries in his inmost soul; gentle to the weak, because with the sense of real power there ever grows an infinite pity for those who have it not.
Strong, wise, and gentle! Can one say more than is contained in these three words? Yet this ideal of manliness, high as it is, is within reach of all who follow it patiently. But it must not be forgotten that deeds not words are required. There must be concentration, effort, and severe self-discipline before the goal is reached. The end must not be confused with the means. "Realization is true religion, and all the rest is only preparation—hearing lectures, or reading books, or reasoning is merely preparing the ground...Intellectual assent and intellectual dissent are not religion...The kingdom of heaven is within us...It is our highest self."
There are many voices in the soul that seek to drown the voice of the highest. Ambition whispers that a man has no chance in the world unless he gains power and wealth, while all the time the highest self is saying with gentle insistence, though perhaps unheeded," A man's life consists not in the things that he possesses."
The desire for knowledge as a source of power speaks as loudly as ambition, and with a more subtle clearness. But the man who refuses to hear his higher nature that wants him to love men, his brothers, and buries himself in books regardless of their needs, grows old and withered and cynical before his time.
And after all it is the man who listens to his higher self and obeys its promptings that often gets wealth and power and learning to make his life complete. But these good things are possessed by such a man they do not dominate him. For with him truth is in the ascendant and rules the citadel of his soul. No outside foe can harm it: an awakened reason is an impenetrable armor. No treachery can lurk within, for the light of reason illuminates the whole.
This then is true manliness, true womanliness—complete surrender to the Highest, that we may be ruled, not according to the caprice of circumstance, but according to the laws of Eternal Truth and Right.