We are a very competitive nation; from our sports, to our business, to our hunting activities, and even our politics, we compete in many facets. We find ways of measuring everything from the size of car engines to deer racks.
America is one giant competitive engine in motion. With that competition cycle, there are winners and losers. For every winner, there is a line of losers in the wake. And in America, we don’t like to lose.
I believe in every one of us, especially as men, there is a question that we ask ourselves: “do I measure up?” How do we figure out the answer to this question? Well, we do what Americans do. We compare ourselves and compete for it with other men. As a rather small and underdeveloped freshmen walking through the halls of high school, the answer I knew was that I was not big, strong, or significant enough to measure to up what was around me. This body, this mind, this person; I was going to have to earn this in time.
I’ve noticed something in my 30’s that can get you in trouble. When you don’t quite have a sense of who you are, you take that ideology and use it against others. You throw yourself in the area’s of business, sports, women, you name it, and see how you compare to others. I remember a few years ago being called out by a mentor. “When you feel small, you have to make other men feel smaller.” Listening to it, I wanted to react sharply: heck no. That sounded horrible. But it hit me; I do that. In fact, the whole goal was really to out-compete other men. From close friends to random folks I met, I was internally checking myself with a question: “am I better?”
There is a sense that if I can test myself and win over the next guy, well, then somehow I am stronger. If I can win, then there is something inside that says, “you do measure up.”
But what a trap. If we compare ourselves to others, we are only as great as our success is over them. We are (either verbally or mentally) saying to those around us, “I need to be greater than you.”
Envy is the monster there. We can live our lives being jealous and threatened by anyone. We either spend our lives trying to prove ourselves against larger challenges, or we might find men that we know we can “beat.” This is where it gets us in trouble: we can easily find ourselves around people that don’t challenge us in good ways. We create small men in our minds to make us feel big.
Competing against others diminishes your identity because it’s admitting that someone else can give or take away a good trait within yourself. The truth is, we all have different strengths, different displays of masculinity, and it requires us looking inward rather than projecting this onto others. Our family, our past, our journey of people who have brought us into those places; those are gifts from God for us to discover. I believe part of the journey is weeding through all this and turning from outwardly focused to inwardly. And in some ways, laying down our competitive arms against each other, and finding the greater battles.
And yet, taking that path is a harder journey. I am convinced all of our strengths never diminish another man’s gifts. Your greatness should not threaten my own. We can discover our truest self without making someone else smaller. If iron sharpens iron, strong men strengthen strong men. Here is the challenge: When we shine, we become a threat to that competitive system. It requires other men to either accept that uniqueness and greatness or judge it and compare to their own. It puts contention on the plate.
So here is my suggestion: a simple way of honoring both yourself and another man.
Consider celebrating the success of another man’s accomplishments.
It does a few things…
1. That man will be grateful that someone sees him and recognizes him without that threat. Your friendship will grow closer.
2. It could be difficult because it is what you are deeply looking for from another man. We tend to hold back what we want ourselves. But by offering it, your expression will more than likely pay off. Others will desire to give back, maybe even to you.
3. It will be a good step in breaking the cycle of envy and help you find yourself amongst other strong men.
I’m starting to think you can know a truly confident man by his circle of friends. Do they bow down to him? Do they become small in his presence? Are they equals and are they invited to stand as peers amongst one another? Does that man invite others to be strong for him? Or does he always have to be the strong one? When we stand together, that sharpening of character and class is being shared amongst us all. In some ways, we can use that masculine aggression and fight far greater battles than fighting to win glory from each other. The battles that our families and our country need us to fight.
About the Author: Xan Hood is a dreamer and builder. He is primarily focused on entrepreneurial ideas in concepts with mission and business. He has written several books on leadership and started a non-profit leadership program in Colorado called Training Ground. He is the founder and owner of Buffalo Jackson Trading Co. A lifestyle clothing brand and leather goods company.