by James Silberman
“The lesson taught at this point by human experience is simply this, that the man who will get up will be helped up; and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down.”
This quote from the great 18th century philosopher, Frederick Douglass, illustrates a few things. First, for others to help you up, they have to know that you are down.
It also shows they have to see you making an attempt to help yourself up.
With feminism driving thousands of pages of literature about what it means to be a woman in today’s world, the search for what is expected of men in today’s world is being neglected. Among the few descriptions of what it means to be a man, Douglas’ hits on something that the others miss; that both mental toughness and the ability to be vulnerable with others are invaluable and inseparable when one stumbles upon difficult times.
The New York Times ran a story back in September of 2015 detailing what it means to be a “Modern Man”. Among the depictions was “the modern man cries. He cries often.” Contrast that with the stereotypical man who holds everything inside and won’t let anyone in.
Unfortunately, these depictions of masculinity are two sides of the same coin; two different versions of the same man. Neither is an effective way to respond to tough times, and neither man does anything to actually help themselves up.
The last thing I want is for this to be received as a condemnation of your manhood. It’s a very difficult thing to be confident enough in your character to be willing to be vulnerable with someone and receive help. I have, on many occasions, been a spitting image of the self-pitier, namely two-years ago as a freshman. I was equal parts ignorant of how to receive help and unwilling to to help myself.
However, this is meant to be a call for those are down to start helping themselves up. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and go be real with somebody about what’s dragging you down. Believe me, you’re going to have to do it now, or after everything falls apart and you hit rock bottom; I firmly advise the former.
The Whitworth counseling center provides six free sessions, according to the Whitworth website. Using this resource that the school makes available to us would have saved me a lot of time and upset. Yes, there is a cultural stigma around men and counseling sessions, but here’s another attribute of a man. A man doesn’t make decisions based on cultural stigmas. They do what they have to do to dust themselves off and keep moving forward. Winston Churchill phrases it like this, “A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures.”
Heed the advice of Douglas and Churchill. Be someone who looks to help others who are down, of course, but also be someone willing to receive help when you are the one in need. But most importantly, couple your acceptance of help with the willingness to help yourself. That is how a man responds to adversity.