Respect is earned - a message to young men

Today's youth culture contains an interesting and tragic irony when it comes to the issue of manhood and respect. There is a widely held belief that respect has something to do with conquest and winning, as publicly as possible. Fame and money are seen by some kids, (and parents, for that matter), as legitimate life goals in their own right, rather than a reward for hard work and talent. Social status is commonly based on being more popular and powerful, whether physically, financially or otherwise. The irony that respect and long term happiness has always been achieved by living life by precisely the opposite values seems to elude many young men today.

The tragedy is the number of kids whose lives are ruined by those who do not understand this simple truth: Respect is earned. The media has been full of stories these past few years of young men acting like thugs and sociopaths towards others, especially the young ladies in their lives. This isn't simply another social trend, it strikes at the heart of what it means to be a civilized society. These kids, whether bullies or victims, are going to be adults before we know it, and live their lives by their dog-eat-dog beliefs, experiences and behaviours for another generation. This cannot be allowed to continue.

There have been many stories in the news of mothers who have lessons and wisdom to pass on to young women, often as a result of their brave decision to speak out after their daughters have been the victims of cyber-bullying or far worse. What I haven't seen as much of is the same sort of advice from fathers to their sons. It's past time that I put my two cents worth in on the subject. If you are a young man today, and your idea of how to treat women revolves around your own ego and social status, you have a lot to learn about what truly matters in life, and how the real world works.
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away" ~ Phillip K Dick, author of Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Total Recall, among many other books.
There are a few simple universal truths in life, and no matter whether you choose to believe them or not, they will still be true. The truth also has a troublesome habit of teaching hard lessons in life if you don't listen to it. One truth is that smart people run the world. "Smart" in this context doesn't just mean book smart, or genius, or any of the usual definitions, not at all. It mostly means people that are smart enough to realize that good is better than evil. Kindness creates kindness in return, and people of good conscience empower each other to true happiness in life, regardless of any amount of materialistic or superficial "success".

Another universal truth is that human beings need each other; being alone doesn't suit us, we need companionship. Having a posse of insecure followers doesn't cut it, neither does celebrity worship by the masses. Only through having true friendship, sharing mutual trust and respect can people thrive. The thing about universal truths is that they became recognized as such because they never change, people have known them for thousands of years. Wisdom is a powerful tool for happiness.

I cannot speak to all the forms of human companionship, I can only pass on what I know about - how a young man should treat the young ladies in his life. I suspect that the same rules hold true for establishing and thriving in any loving relationship, regardless of the genders involved. My only experience is what I have been taught by my own father and others in life. That, and my own mistakes. Here, then, is what I've learned...

Respect women. If you want to be respected, there is only one way - treat others the same way. That pretty girl you are so fond of is a human being, with thoughts and feelings, not a toy for your pleasure. If she isn't interested, accept it. Treat her as any friend would like to be treated. Real men know that friendship comes first. They don't retaliate for their bruised ego by lashing out, like cyber harassing her, or bragging and lying to friends about her. Move on. If by chance the young lady is interested...

Cherish her. If a girl puts her trust in you, she thinks you've earned it, so live up to that. Consider yourself lucky that she has chosen you; not everyone finds a good friend to become close to. Don't treat her like a prize, treat her like the intelligent, caring person she is. Remember - her body is her's alone, just because she agreed to a date or two doesn't mean she owes you a damned thing, especially not sex. That's a subject for the two of you to discuss if you become a serious, long term couple, but remember, she has the last word on the subject.

Protect her. No, I don't mean that girls are helpless and weak. The "knight in shining armor" routine can be romantic if it's done for fun, but real life doesn't work that way. Real men know that's a silly, old fashioned cliche. I mean be her equal partner. What threatens or hurts her, threatens and hurts you too; you're a team. Don't treat her like she's a weakling, talk to her, face the challenge together, that's the whole point of being together.

And finally...

Be a man about it. Stand up for what's morally right, speak up for the weaker, respect your elders (they do know a thing or two), and be honest in your dealings with others. Lying, macho stupidity and acting like a thug will only lead to one of those intelligent people that I mentioned earlier being your boss one day. That's assuming you haven't screwed your life up so much that you can't keep a good job, and a happy social life.

The new definition of "cool" is being a gentleman. Consider this - how do you think the ladies will feel about an upstanding nice guy that shows strength in ways that muscle and money can't? Stand out as a decent young man the world will respect, and you'll find that doing good attracts the best friends you could ask for in life. The girls will notice, trust me.