I went to Xavier High School in New York City. Despite it being an all-boys private high school, I have come to love my alma mater for one simple value it taught me in life- be a man for others.
Albeit the fact that Xavier’s creed reads, “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” or “For the greater glory of God.” Xavier’s impact on my life can easily be traced back to one of its simpler, yet meaningful, mottos: “Men for others.”
Adopting the doctrine behind these three words completely changed my life and I want to share with you why I think you should adopt this motto in your life.
Defining manhood can be a unique challenge for any boy or man. Not to be mistaken with “masculinity” manhood is literally defined as “the state or period of being a man rather than a child.”
Rhetorically, this seems like an easy concept to grasp, manhood is when a boy makes a shift in attitude and behavior that no longer resembles that of a child. However, as many of us know, manhood is much more complex than this straightforward definition.
What this definition fails to communicate is that manhood is a state of maturation that comes about from persevering through various challenges over time, almost like an equation: adversity + perseverance over time = manhood (through a male lens, at least).
Of course, this equation is a bit rough around the edges and not universally true, but there’s still some accuracy to it.
Everyone’s experiences differ, but the process of becoming a man stays the same. To be a man, a boy must continuously overcome adversity, take responsibility for his actions, and acknowledge that his existence is without purpose until he commits his life to others. Here’s a short anecdote that will put things into perspective.
Roughly five years ago, I was suspended from the University at Albany. I won’t go into detail as to why I was suspended but I was suspended for a year and a half.
As a naïve and self-centered 20-year-old boy, I got myself involved in some matters that weren’t exactly the worst of on-campus offenses but certainly some of the more swiftly-dealt-with offenses according to the student handbook (especially in New York).
At this point, I’m losing it. The reality of my situation settles in all at once. I felt like I’d just been slapped in the face. I’m suspended from college for roughly 14 months, there’s no way I can tell my family about this, and this offense stays on my transcript until 2019.
Despite my suspension and the toll it took on me, it was the kind of adversity that I needed in order to realize that my decisions in life do have consequences, that I can be, and will be, held accountable for my actions, and that my existence is not solely about me or my motives.
My suspension put me in a position where I was forced out of my sheltered reality. My everyday dilemmas went from worrying about studying for an exam and performing well in my rugby matches to hiring a lawyer, doing community service, and finding more positive and fruitful ways for me to be a better person in life.
Fast forward roughly five years from when I was suspended; I returned to the university, received Dean’s List of Distinguished students within the first year of returning to college, received a D1 All-Conference award 2 years in a row, captained my college rugby team, served the on-campus community in various roles, graduated from college with a degree in English and Philosophy, moved to California after I received my diploma, and recently just started to establish myself as a professional writer, an active member of my community, coach, athlete, mentor, and employee.
This is not to say that my life is picture perfect now. I mean c’mon! I have heaps of loans to pay off, a substantial amount of fees to pay for a credit card, mouths to feed, bills to pay, and so on. Everyone’s bound to struggle no matter what. But! My point is much bigger than that.
Not everyone will have the same resources or support system that I had going through that whole painful, yet much-needed, quandary.
I truly understand and acknowledge how fortunate I am. However, there are three things that I hope you took away from my personal story that might change your perspective on what it means to be a man, especially a man for others.
Think of no challenge too great or burdensome for you to overcome.
While this is a message for men, women, boys, and girls, it’s specifically targeted towards today’s men and young men.
You should never feel like you can’t do something to make your life more meaningful and positive. In fact, always feel like you have the agency to change your life for the better, even if it means in the smallest way imaginable!
Also, don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes, adversity is a natural part of life, but always remember that to mature and grow as a man (or for anyone, really), you must overcome adversity and learn from your mistakes.
Always take responsibility for your actions.
If there’s one thing that helped me reach this point of manhood and maturation, it’s that I understood and continue to understand that no one was or is accountable for my actions but me.
Don’t be afraid to look yourself in the mirror and say. “I fucked up, but now it’s time to fix it and learn from my mistakes”.
Always — I repeat — always keep in mind that your existence cannot be measured by what you do for yourself but what you do for others.
While this may sound a bit idealistic, I’ve found it to be spot on. Only when I whole-heartedly committed myself to serving others and my community did I genuinely find meaning in my life. Think of it this way, your legacy isn’t defined by what you did for yourself.
Your legacy defined by the impact you had on other’s lives.
If you took away any of these three morals from my story and even make the smallest effort at applying them to your life, you will truly see a difference in the quality of and meaning in your life.
You will begin to understand what it means to be a man, but most importantly, you will have started your journey to being a man for others.