06/17/2011 11:59 am ET Updated Aug 17, 2011

Why Men Don't Need To Be Ugly To Be Good

One of the most popular posts on Huffington Post this week, "Hot or Not? Why Women Shouldn't Pick Attractive Husbands,"claims that smart, beautiful, and financially independent women should resist the temptation to marry attractive and masculine men because they are, by definition, going to fail to be good husbands and fathers.

Attractive men don't make the best husbands, according to researchers. Guys who are rated as the most masculine -- a billboard for a man's good genes -- tend to have more testosterone, and men with higher testosterone levels are 43 percent more likely to get divorced than men with normal levels, 31 percent more likely to split because of marital problems and 38 percent more likely to cheat. In other words, they may be better cads than dads.

Writes author Vicki Larson before concluding:

So, now that Abedin evidently has Weiner's good genes, she can either stick it out another few years or split from Weiner now, before their unborn baby will have memories of the divorce, and while she's still young and attractive enough to snag another mate. This time, perhaps she should go ugly.

Evidently those men who are attractive, have testosterone, and are manly are inherently not to be trusted. And of course this is all written in the context of yet another celebrity caught with his pants down somehow representing all men, even those staying at home with the kids and those fighting for our country in the Middle East.

One of my favorite lines is from Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech. Facing violence and bigotry, he said on that sweltering day in our nation's capital: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The content of their character. It seems to me that goodness, as men and women, has nothing to do with looks and everything to do with the content of our character as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, as human beings. In looking for a spouse, how about looking for a human being who is a man or woman of character. Sure attraction is part of the laws of reproduction, but attraction is more than skin deep.

In my work with The Good Men Project I have spoken to literally thousands of men--from inmates in Sing Sing to a photographer taking pictures on the front lines of battle for the NYT--and their relative attractiveness never entered the equation when we talked about what it means to be good. In each case what all these men talked about was the desire to grapple with with the truth about themselves and the complex set of issues that face us as men. No it's not ugliness that makes us good, nor good looks that make us bad. It's something much more important.

Last week I was honored to give the commencement address at Pine Street Inn, a homeless shelter that serves 1,200 people daily. My talk was about success and how they, like I, know a lot about failure. We read about it every day. But success is actually much harder to define. It involves stripping away the outside stuff and facing yourself square in the mirror even after you have lost every shred of who you thought you once were. The paradox of life is that we often have to fail utterly and completely before we can truly succeed. We are told over and over again that its what you have, and what you look like, that determines success it is actually who you are that counts.

Then on Sunday I was at my daughter's confirmation and witness a Catholic priest respond to intense pressure to shun the gays in his parish despite his desire to hold a mass in their honor during gay pride week. Father Unni happens to be a man of remarkable good looks (some of the ladies call him Father "what a waste") and also remarkable courage. What he did to take a stand on behalf of all his parishioners--black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight--took my breath away.

Julio Medina the former Sing Sing inmate, Michael Kamber the war photographer, the men graduating from Pine Street Inn, and Father Unni are just a few of what I like to call my "heroes." Men who inspire me to be and do better. To live a life of goodness, service, honesty and meaning. Do they happen to be good looking? Well yeah, in my view they are all pretty damn attractive. But not just because some of them could be models, but because they have each inspired me beyond words with the way they live their lives. These are the kinds of guys I would happily have my daughter marry, not because they are ugly but because they have character deep in their souls.

The continued piling on in our popular press that men, specially successful and handsome men, are guilty of evil just because of their gender and their looks is nothing less than the bigotry fought by MLK and others during the Civil Rights Movement, by brave women who fought for Equal Rights, and currently by homosexuals seeking the right to marry.  Let's stop trying to put people in boxes and start having a frank conversation about what it means to be a good man, and a good woman.

And just because this question is so important I have agreed to continue this conversation with Vicki Larson in print on Monday -- here, at Huff, and also at The Good Men Project along with Vicki's blog, the OMG Chronicles. I look forward to hearing whether the mother of two presumably good-looking young men really meant what she said about women needing to go ugly to find men of any real worth. Stay tuned for that.