Kris Wolfe runs an online men’s magazine called Good Guy Swag, which receives over 2 million hits per month. Kris is also a key influencer in his community, leading a guys group in LA for those working in the entertainment industry. I asked several inspiring gentlemen, including Kris, to explain their perspectives on real masculinity — Mr. Wolfe’s response is one every authentic man should hear. Check it out below. Hope it helps!
– Mike Zeller, Creator of Resurrecting the Modern Gentleman & Founder of TRIM
“A real man is a man who is real.”
The authentic man defines the true modern man. There are five things the authentic man knows, that I wish I would have known when I was younger.
In high school I believed I had to wear the right clothes, be good at sports, date the popular girls, and drive a sweet car to fit in. But after I checked off all the boxes, I still didn’t quite fit. I lacked confidence, so in college I started working out. I got muscular and ripped. People started noticing me, and it felt great. But despite my physical strength gains, I still lacked strength in myself. Somehow, and maybe subconsciously, I believed my identity as a man could be achieved by focusing on what it looks like to be a man. If I could achieve a manly appearance, and do all of the things a man does, then I could be a man by everyone’s standards- then perhaps I would see myself as a man.
The biggest lie I believed was that I had to do it all alone. Life throws curve balls, hurdles, and addictions, and it’s too much for one guy to handle by himself. Alone one night, I broke, or more aptly, exploded. There was a great deal of pent-up bitterness and hurt. I’d spent so much time focusing on the outside that I never paid attention to the poison growing within my heart. After it all came out in a spewing rage at a God I didn’t know, a peace came over me, and for the first time, I could listen. When I finally accepted that I couldn’t handle this life alone, I was real and honest for the first time. In that moment of authenticity, I opened a space where I could join others. Of course it didn’t happen automatically, and it didn’t happen right away.
In college, I stumbled across a campus ministry. I started attending the meetings and asking questions, and I found a group of upperclassmen who wanted to take me under their wing. They were cool, confident, capable—everything I wanted to be. At first, I didn’t understand their acceptance, and I rejected it out of fear. Was there a catch? Why did these leaders who epitomized ‘modern men’ want to invest in me?
One afternoon after a game of ultimate frisbee, all of us were leaving to grab a bite to eat.
I suddenly realized my keys fell out while playing, and I told the group I’d catch them later, knowing it might take an hour or two to search the field. But before I could turn around, Tim had rallied everyone back together. The group walked side-by-side across the field, and found the keys in five minutes. I had to turn away from everyone. I was overcome. I had never experienced a group of men rallying together to help. It was powerful, and I’ll admit, emotional.
One of my favorite pictures is Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal. It features five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the U.S. flag on a mountain in Iwo Jima during World War Two. It’s iconic, and I believe it touches a deep-seated truth hidden within every man. One look at that flag and you realize any guy with average strength could have set up shop on a clear, perfect day by himself. In fact, the first time the flag was raised, it only required one man and an assistant. It was a small flag, though. A small flag just wouldn’t do. A big flag makes a statement; it can be seen miles away. In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, it took a group of men to raise a big flag and make that kind of statement.
Do you want to be known? Do you want to make an impact that will be seen and heard for miles? It takes war-torn men coming together, admitting they have a need, and helping each other to be the men they are called to be. When was the last time you heard a guy say to an- other, “I need you”? Authenticity allows us to accept the fact we need others, and with their help, we claim the small victories along the way. Together we celebrate them. In essence, we set up a flag indicating we’ve taken the high ground.
When I was in high school, I focused too much on outside appearance and appealed to an ego that wanted to save face. But in college, I surrendered that cause. With the help of God and men I began seeing my authentic self. What makes an authentic man?
5 THINGS THE AUTHENTIC MAN KNOWS
1. An authentic man knows who he is: Part of knowing who you are, is knowing whose you are. Last weekend, at a men’s retreat, we were asked to list the full names of our father, our grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. It was sobering. I didn’t know my great grandfather’s first name, much less his full name. But it was revealing as well. I am not just a product of myself. I was formed by many generations who came before me. How can you know yourself if you don’t know what stock you have come from? Even if you come from a background that you may not be proud of, there are still talents and gifts you hold on to. How you use them is up to you.
2. An authentic man knows how he feels: When you lack confidence in yourself, you won’t listen to your gut. You’ll mistrust yourself and your emotions. The modern man knows when to step away, and understands the benefits of spending time alone and in prayer. People feel safe with him because he conveys how he feels out of strength, not weakness. If he doesn’t feel a positive gut reaction to a decision, he doesn’t make it. He trusts his instincts.
3. An authentic man knows what he can and cannot do: He understands his talents and limitations. He’s not afraid to objectively analyze himself. With his willingness to be vulnera- ble, he doesn’t shy away from his shortcomings either. He understands the power of delega- tion, and that also makes him a leader.
4. An authentic man knows his worth: Shame cannot hide behind vulnerability, so it cannot diminish a modern man’s self-worth. Transparency doesn’t make a man weak, it frees him to understand his true worth. He doesn’t settle for less, and he doesn’t have time for settling. He has a long-term, visionary focus and won’t let present circumstances distract him or keep him from his calling.
5. An authentic man knows he needs someone at his 6: In the military, as you probably know, forward is 12:00, and 6 is what lies behind. The modern man knows he needs a broth- er to help protect him from what he can’t see. We all have blind spots, but a modern man has no vulnerable spots. He knows he’s covered.