by Michael Maciel
Men can get nervous around other men, especially when standing in line at the checkout counter in Home Depot. Lots of “can do” types. Alphas in t-shirts and bluejeans. The thought (you know the one) seems to hover overhead, waiting, just waiting, for the first male to reach up and snag it out of the air, the thought that one man often thinks when looking at another man, especially a stranger—”Can I take him?”
Now this doesn’t happen all the time. Some days, everyone’s in a good mood—lots of fresh air and smiling and friendly banter. But it’s there, hovering. The Thought. Like a succubus sniffing out testosterone. All it needs is for some of it to collide with someone else’s, and the inner evaluation begins. Muscle size: check. Body language: check. Hands (the hands tell it all): check—the instantaneous sizing-up of the other guy that either causes your confidence to swell or makes you tense and wary.
This is what men do. And it doesn’t matter if it’s at Home Depot or the floor of the Senate. The dynamic is the same. Can I take him? Can I outsmart, outfight, outwit, out-finesse this guy? Is it overt? Not usually. It might not even be front-and-center in one’s mind, but it’s always an option. Like a gun on the hip.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
If you’re a man, and you have sometimes felt this way around other men (and what man hasn’t?), there is a way to turn this around. In an instant. Instead of looking at the other man as a potential threat, try seeing him as a potential ally. Look at him and think, “This guy would be great to work with. With our combined strength, we could really get a lot done!” You will be surprised at how quickly the atmosphere changes. Testosterone doesn’t always have to be about fighting, you know. Sometimes it can just be strength. And that’s the beauty of it. There’s nothing more manly than a group of men working together in unison, their efforts fitting together like well-hewn blocks of stone. Each stroke of the hammer gets more precise with each swing; each element of the overall plan laces together like sinew.
But when testosterone gets the better of us, it’s too easy to assume that the other man’s actions are directed against us, and we get offended. And when he sees that we are offended, he gets offended. The cycle deepens and intensifies, and soon it takes on a life of its own, and no one knows (or cares) how it got started.
It’s not that aggression itself is the problem. It’s not. Aggression can be a fabulous tool, if it’s used properly. When channeled, it can focus a man’s efforts like no other emotion. Combine it with altruism, and you get genius. No force in the universe can rival a mind with a purpose, especially and particularly when that purpose is constructive.
Goodness and strength go together like hammer and nail, joining the world together instead of breaking it apart. When men come together in focused cooperation, pursuing a common goal, nothing can stop them. And there is no coalition so diverse in its constituency that it cannot find a goal that serves everyone’s interests. No task, when performed for the good of all, can fail to bring joy to everyone involved. The only time men find satisfaction in killing other men is when they believe it to be in the name of a higher good. But the reality always sinks in. It seeps through the most carefully thought out justifications and sickens the soul. Because no one is that different in their humanity that they cannot recognize themselves in the other. Thus killing another person is killing oneself. A piece of you dies when the other dies.
This is the task laid before us—to find a way to work together instead of fighting each other. Never before in history has the world been smaller or more inter-dependent. The forces of competition can easily be turned into cooperation. It all depends on how men see each other. The more we cooperate, the more we care about each other’s interests, and the more willing we are to work towards a goal that raises everyone’s standard of living, not just our own. Because when we gain at the expense of others, something inside of us groans. We know that we have harmed ourselves. Strength without goodness will kill us. And goodness without strength goes nowhere.