I got a very interesting email yesterday in response to the publication of our book, The Good Men Project, and our forthcoming film. The writer is the founder of a well-traveled men's website. So I take his words very seriously. After some nice praise he came to the point:
I do have a request for your mission coming from one open heart brother to another :
Define a "good man."
In one of your videos you tell the viewer to define it for himself. I think this is an incredible disservice to our young teenage boys. They need to know exactly how to be a man and what it means to be a man.
I have thought long and hard about it. You have the opportunity to "teach" your "good man" principles to a huge number of men and even parents frankly.
I have defined what a revolutionary man is. Why? To give men guidance and some starting place. I avoided it for some time. But to me, young men need your message and they need to know what it means.
Please think about it. We need to give our young brothers some guidance. They complain of having no mentors, etc. Older men complain about younger men and their behavior.
Do you see the opportunity here?
I took some time to consider the question and thought about several of our contributors
Then responded with the following:
Your question is one I too have thought deeply about and get asked at least once a day. Publishers, of course, wanted us to have a dogmatic answer to the question. Some elevator speech about what we were trying to say about what it means to be a good man. We refused. But I sense in your questions something a lot deeper.
There have been times when I have flippantly answered the question, "What is a good man?" by saying I have no idea just to make clear that I am not going to put myself on any judgmental higher moral ground, specially after the many many big mistakes I have made as a man. But increasingly I have been answering that question more directly by talking about my own personal view, even if it is still evolving. About not being afraid to speak the truth. About being a present father and committing to marriage and about making a difference in the world. But I always make clear that is only my view from listening to men who have inspired me. And that I am very much a work in progress.
You see we have made conscious decision not to set up a universal meaning for Good Men. We just aren't that good frankly. Our view is that defining "good" is like defining God or beauty. It is crucially important but completely unique to the man and up to them to take responsibility for. Our point is that we as men have to stop being silent and walking away from it, (ending up like Spitzer, Edwards, Letterman or frankly me a decade ago).
We set up men who do exactly the opposite things with their lives, who come at the same question from opposite directions, and try to make clear through allowing each to tell their story on film or in our book that each is equally valid. You can have a CEO dad or no dad at all, you can have learned to be a man by sleeping with women or be just looking for the right gay partner, you can be an Hall of Fame Football player or a photojournalist on the ground in Iraq, and you can be a "good" and frankly heroic man despite taking opposite paths.