This is a chapter in human history that has measured itself by its ability to accept and tolerate the beliefs and opinions of the masses.
And it’s true that these principles have been largely to credit for the massive progress we have seen in the globalization of our cultures, people, and technology. Our growth towards accepting someone as our equal even as they live a contradictory lifestyle to our own is encouraging to see, and so important as our world gets smaller, and more interconnected.
But I want to pause today, dear readers, and ask some important questions as we take these very swift steps in a direction so different from the way things have been for so many generations before us.
How does a man stand firmly on his convictions while his everyday experiences tell him that to do so is close-minded and ignorant?
How does our call to be “unwavering” and “without compromise” fit into our responsibility to accept others, hear them out, and to learn from them even if their beliefs and views differ from our own?
Let me attempt to answer these and other very difficult but critical questions as we dig into this topic together.
The modern day gentleman must always be learning, growing, maturing, pushing himself and others, and never settling for the status quo or for comfortability. Malcom X, a man of extremely strong convictions, said it this way…
“Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds. I have always kept an open mind, a flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of the intelligent search for truth.”
Though he is known to history as one of the most convicted and passionate leaders to ever live, he still recognized the importance of learning from others, and in allowing his convictions to mature and to reform over time.
I share that quote to further speak to my strong belief that we are by no means to live in such a way that shuts others out. If your belief in something is causing you to move away from or even discourage relationship with others, take notice of this pattern and act swiftly to break it. We are to press into others with whom our beliefs differ, not dart in the opposite direction.
With all of the above said, this leaves us in a really odd position. Gentlemen are to be men of great conviction and purpose…right? Men who live without compromise of their beliefs and who are unwavering in their values! You may ask, ”what kind of place does a man like that have in a society like ours? How can one be firmly convicted, but kind and accepting of those who disagree with his values?”. If not addressed, these conflicting messages can leave one feeling discouraged, or even guilty.
The message I want to share with you is one that, sadly, is not shared much anymore.
I want to speak into your convictions as a gentlemen and affirm them with loud and confident praise. There aren’t many voices out there encouraging men to stand up and speak strongly about what it is they believe. More and more we are told that unless we are willing to swing towards the middle, we are bigoted and closed minded. Let me be the voice for you today that pushes back on all that noise. Hear instead that holding strongly to your values is admirable, and indeed, something to strive for.
Believing in something without compromise is one of the most difficult tests a man can endure. He will be ridiculed, chastised, dismissed, and even hated. This has always been true. But it is true today more than ever. Tolerance, not conviction, is rewarded and praised.
Please hear these words while you remember what I wrote at the beginning of this article. We are to always be growing and learning even within our strong beliefs. Believing in something is only bigoted if it accompanies an inability to let that belief mature as we journey through the seasons of our lives. Conviction is not closed-minded. But conviction without humility and an understanding that there is always more to learn will always serve to hurt others and push them away.
Learn to grow within your beliefs while never compromising on the core values that define them, and you will be respected. Boast your beliefs and use them to demean or outcast others, and you will be dismissed as hurtful and arrogant, just like all the others who have done the same before you.
There is no doubt that it is more difficult now than ever to be a man of conviction. But I would argue that it is also more important now than ever to not allow those pressures to soften your convictions.
Yes, the world needs men who are kind, who are understanding, and who accept others regardless of their worldviews and beliefs. But make no mistake…the world also needs men who speak and act with strength and with purpose, even as they are ridiculed and disregarded.
I think it’s so important that we do not miss the value in being understanding and accepting of others. But I think it’s as or more crucial that we do not forget the importance of living a life of conviction for what we believe.
So go, gentlemen. Go and be men who know they are imperfect, and in humility learn all they can from those around them. Go and be men who respect all points of views, regardless of how they differ from their own. But just as important…go and be men who have defined their own convictions, and can speak confidently out of them.