Be a Man Project - Scott Woodruff
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
Be a Man
A portrait project redefining masculinity for today and tomorrow.
When I first heard about this project from my daughter I was humbled when she suggested that I could be a participant and offer my perspective on what I believe it means to Be a Man. I was intrigued and somewhat challenged when I first attempted to verbalize my thoughts and beliefs on this very important subject. I do have the good fortune of having lived on this earth and experienced over 72 years of a wonderful life for which I am eternally thankful. That realization led me to recall my own upbringing and the various stages of my still unfolding life.
To begin with I was raised in the 1950's when the country held an idealistic impression of life and marriage as depicted in the popular TV show, Father Knows Best. My mother was a stay-at-home mom and my father wore a coat and tie to work at his eight hour, Monday through Friday job. Our family consisted of 4 members; my mother, father, younger sister and me. My father was the alpha male of the house. He was strict, dominant, quiet and could get my sister and I to behave just by giving us "the look". He rarely if ever showed emotion and I never remember him telling me that he loved me until I was in my twenties. My father did not physically harm us but we did not hug each other in my childhood and teens. I say all of this because it is important to the impact my mother and father had on laying the foundation of the man I would become. Our family attended St Paul's Lutheran Church for as long as I can remember. My parents both sang in the church choir and they attended numerous affiliated social events and gatherings. This perspective is important because while my father taught me life lessons about work (plan your work and work your plan) and sports my mother taught me empathy and sensitivity. We are all the products of our upbringing and although I would never say I lived in the ideal household those lessons I learned in my youth would create the foundation of my idea of masculinity.
I vividly remember during my summer vacations for several years between the ages of 6 and 9 my mother would teach my sister and me a daily bible lesson. These would only last for 30 minutes but they would be the building blocks on which my idea of what it means to be a man took root. She would frequently remind my sister and me to "treat others the way you would like to be treated" and we studied the various Ten Commandments. My mother taught me to be empathetic, humble and compassionate by both her words and through her examples. I remember coming home one day at seven years old and I recited a limerick I had heard from one of my friends. It went "eeny, meany, miney, mo, catch an "n-word" by the toe. Well, after hearing me recite this limerick, my mother proceeded to march me into the bathroom where she washed my mouth out with soap. She told me how terrible that word was and I should never use it again. My mother was also an artist and I can remember looking at her portfolios as a child. She had a warm and loving approach and she taught me chivalry and how to be respectful of women and to never consider hurting another human being out of anger. I wore eye glasses at the age of five because of astigmatism and I was very self-conscious. I began to notice girls around seven and I would at times ask my mother whether she thought I was handsome. I was looking for her to give me self-confidence because of the stigma of having to wear my glasses at my young age. My mother also wore glasses and looked beautiful in them so she would always pump me up by telling me she loved me and that I was going to meet many girls in my lifetime. My attitude toward others, men and women alike, were being forged and a bi-product of those early experiences.
My parents divorced when I was 13 and my proverbial world would be altered forever. My mother went to work and she worked various part time jobs and would often work nights and weekends. I became the man of the house and had to make meals, help my sister with her homework and iron my own clothes at an early age. My mother taught me how to properly set a table, how to speak respectfully to others and how to open doors for women and my elders. She taught me that my feelings and my emotions were not to be frightened of but instead to be embraced.
My wife and I were married in our late twenties and we were blessed with the birth of our two daughters within the first 3 years of marriage. We always taught our daughters that they could achieve anything they put their minds to. We participated in both their education and extra-curricular activities. We applied some of the same lessons we learned from our upbringing to our girls. To me life can be compared to a wheel on a bicycle with 4 spokes. Those four spokes are emotion, intellect, spiritual and physical aspects of life. In order to be a well-balanced human being, it is important to keep those four spokes balanced and never allow one of the spokes to become more dominant than the others. That causes our life to wobble out of control.
Defining masculinity begins with the right foundation and then dedicating our lives to "treating thy neighbor as thyself". When we allow ourselves to put others feelings before our own then and only then can we experience the true meaning of empathy, compassion and selflessness.