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What Is A Good Man?

a good man is hard to findThe chaotic universe has been pretty good to me. I’ve always been lucky enough to have strong people in my life. Men and women who are strong in every sense of the word. Not people I look up to, as I feel like people on pedestals only get dusty or knocked off, but people I am proud to know and would be happy to die with.

I usually refer to them as “good people.”

This is imprecise language, which usually doesn’t bother me too much if the point comes across. But at work I’ve spent the last year looking at the havoc that imprecise language can wreak on an organization or system.

For personal reasons I won’t go into, I’ve been thinking about the people who have influenced me for the better, and those who continue to do so. The men in particular. My dad, my grandparents, my brother, and my closest friends aside from my wife.

On Sunday I heard myself explaining to someone:  “Because they’re good people. Good men.” I’ve spent the last few days trying to decide what that means to me. If that was really what I meant. Wondering if it can be more precise than that. And so far? Not really. But it has been an illuminating experience to figure out all of the things I associate with these people that have resulted in the word “good” being applied to them in my mind.

  • If they’re married, they’re good to their wives
  • If they have children, they play with them, care for them, and are those kids’ heroes
  • They are honest
  • Their work results in progress
  • Their progress seems to be associated with their happiness
  • They can be gentle when gentleness is called for
  • They don’t make others feel small
  • They abhor bullies
  • They admit their mistakes
  • They know their flaws
  • They are always working towards the correction of the same
  • They protect those who cannot protect themselves
  • The expectations of others do not intrude on the principles they live their lives by
  • They know how to adapt when necessary
  • They don’t seem to spend much time thinking about how to be a good man. They just do what needs to be done

Now that I look at these–and there are many more–I find that Flannery O’Connor was really onto something when she called her story A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Growth takes self-scrutiny (rarely fun), consistency, and a willingness to experiment. Not innate qualities.

I have no idea if I am a good man, but I do know that I’m superior to who I was yesterday. It is a trait I do share when I think of the men in my life who are “good guys.” I think that’s all we can really ask of ourselves.

For your part: what is a good man? Is the term just too vague? Too subjective? And for you loonies thinking that a good man always knows how to bring it in the sack and there’s no more discussion to be had, get your minds out of the gutter:)


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Boris February 24, 2011, 8:16 pm

    Great post Josh. I probably try to hard to be a good man to be a good man…

  • Josh Hanagarne February 24, 2011, 8:21 pm

    No way Boris. You’re the finest fellow in town.

  • Victoria Oliver February 27, 2011, 1:38 pm

    It’s a nice thought. But you seem to misinterpret O’connor’s story. The eponymous quote is uttered by a character so confused in her moral convictions that she takes a serial killer to be a good man. And that’s the horrifying aspect, isn’t it? The question your posing is completely subjective, and no one person’s answer is more right or wrong than anothers– not to them at least, and in this world, there is no reality outside what we make of it. So there’s no hope of being able to find out who the good men really are– only the men that matter to us, that make our lives meaninful.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 27, 2011, 1:53 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Victoria. I didn’t misinterpret the story because I wasn’t trying to interpret it at all. I studied Flannery O’Connor exhaustively during my English degree and if I can ever find a reason to link to one of her books and get more people to discover her, I’m going to. The title just happened to flit through my head during the post, so in it went.

      I agree with everything else you said 100%.

  • Trish March 28, 2011, 12:42 pm

    I really appreciate this blog. And I love the defining traits you listed for good men.