Recently, my wife has been calling me a good man. She said to me, “You’re such a good man, Duncan!” It really struck me hard because, while some kids want to grow up to be fire fighters, or ballerinas, or astronauts, I always wanted to be a good man.
“What do you mean when you say that I’m a good man?” I ask her. I want to know specifically what she sees in my behavior that lets her know that I’m a good man. She says that I have a pure heart, that my intentions are always good, that I wish nobody harm, and that I want what’s right for everyone. She sees that I care about the greater good. She also told me that I take her needs seriously and that I don’t dismiss them as silly or frivolous. That sounds normal to me but, apparently, it’s not.
Even though it seems like it should be normal, it means a lot to me that I’ve finally made it. I’m finally a good man. I was never able to see myself that way before, but over the last few weeks it’s an identity that I’m starting to own.
Yesterday, Cindy asked me, “How did you end up a good man when you didn’t have an example of what a good man was?”
When I was 14, I remember thinking about what kind of man I wanted to be. I didn’t have a good male role-model in my life. My father died when I was eight. He was a severe alcoholic, and I hardly knew him anyway, so I decided that I didn’t want to be like him. Instead, I consciously decided that I was going to create myself from scratch.
As I grew older, I realized how difficult it is to become something without a model to follow. I thrashed around a lot in life. I succeeded in some ways while failing in others.
In my thirties I realized that I could benefit from specifically choosing mentors. I spent a lot of time, and money, with various therapists, guides, and gurus. I even travelled to Varanasi, India, and sat in a darkened room every day for three weeks with an “enlightened guru” who turned out to be homophobic, which I assume means that he was not even self-aware enough to have faced his own sexual orientation.
In each case, I learned and grew a lot, but I ultimately became disenchanted with the mentor when I discovered his hidden secrets, blind spots, and hypocrisies.
I reached a turning point when one mentor hurt me deeply, but seemed unwilling to take responsibility for it or to work with me to help me to integrate the wounding. It seems that I had triggered him even more than he triggered me, so we parted ways. I remember feeling so frustrated that I considered ending my life. It would have been an ironic attempt to receive acknowledgment from him about how much he had hurt me.
Instead, as is often the case when we turn back from self-annihilation, I killed the part of myself that no longer served me, the part that was making others responsible for my happiness. I realized that I was responsible for being hurt by this mentor because I had put myself into the care of someone who was not capable. I decided to never again have a mentor.
Since then, my understanding of mentors has evolved even further. I now receive what serves me from everyone, and leave behind anything that does not. All the male (and female) friends in my life are my mentors. I am continually looking to them to see if there is something that I can learn from them so that I can grow and become more whole.
Now that I have become a good man, I realize that I have come full circle. All that I needed in terms of mentors always surrounded me. All that I needed to change was me. I needed to take full responsibility for my life, and for my happiness.