A Man's Life, On Manhood

What Does It Mean to Be a Man? 80+ Quotes on Men & Manhood

When putting together our two paperback books, we sought to pepper the text in each with quotes about men and manhood. What we quickly discovered was that no comprehensive source for such quotes existed. You could find a few on general quote collection sites, a smattering on other websites, and some in books. But there was no repository that brought them all together. I finally decided to create such a collection myself, and below you will find the result.

When it comes to quotes about manhood, you could conceivably include ones that touch on the different qualities of manhood, i.e., quotes on courage, strength, resolution, etc. But what we have aimed to do here is to limit the collection to quotes that reference manhood itself. We hope you enjoy the quotes and perhaps find a few that will illuminate the meaning of manliness and encourage you to embody it.

Day16

“To have done no man a wrong…to walk and live, unseduced, within arm’s length of what is not your own, with nothing between your desire and its gratification but the invisible law of rectitude—this is to be a man.” Orison Swett Marden

“You have to be a man before you can be a gentleman.” –John Wayne (McLintock!)

Day11

“Because there is very little honor left in American life, there is a certain built-in tendency to destroy masculinity in American men.” Norman Mailer

“A male was transformed into a man by the willful expenditure of energy. Above all, a man willed himself to be expendable. Like the sun, a man fed the fire of his honor on his own substance. The magnus animus, the animus virilis, squandered itself in contempt of its own dear life.” Carlin A. Barton

Day24

“He understood well enough how a man with a choice between pride and responsibility will almost always choose pride—if responsibility robs him of his manhood.” –Stephen King

“There is a constantly reoccurring notion that real manhood is different from simple anatomical maleness, that it is not a natural condition that comes about spontaneously through biological maturation but rather is a precarious or artificial state that boys must win against powerful odds. This recurrent notion that manhood is problematic, a critical threshold that boys must pass through testing, is found at all levels of sociocultural development regardless of what other alternative roles are recognized.” David Gilmore

Day3

“A man’s ledger does not tell what he is, or what he is worth. Count what is in man, not what is on him, if you would know what he is worth—whether rich or poor.” –Henry Ward Beecher

“We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life.” –Theodore Roosevelt

Day17

“The major break in the understanding of manliness is not between, say, the nineteenth century and any particular preceding era but between my generation of Baby Boomers and the entire proceeding complex of teachings. In some ways, TR and Churchill have more in common with Homer and Shakespeare than they do with us.” –Waller Newell

“Contemporaries appreciate the man rather than the merit; but posterity will regard the merit rather than the man.” –Charles Caleb Colton

Day4

“It is not what he has, or even what he does which expresses the worth of a man, but what he is.” –Henri-Frédéric Amiel

“Relieved of moral pretense and stripped of folk costumes, the raw masculinity that all men know in their gut has to do with being good at being a man within a small, embattled gang of men struggling to survive.” –Jack Donovan

mailer

“Who—only let him be a man and intent upon honor—is not eager for the honorable ordeal and prompt to assume perilous duties? To what energetic man is not idleness a punishment?” –Seneca

“Private and public life are subject to the same rules—truth and manliness are two qualities that will carry you through this world much better than policy or tact of expediency or other words that were devised to conceal a deviation from a straight line.” –Robert E. Lee

Day7

“Men have discovered their distinctive virtues and vices through grappling with the perennial dilemmas and demands of love, courage, pride, family, and country—the five paths whose proper ordering gives us the key to the secret of happiness for a man.” –Waller Newell

“It is of dangerous consequence to represent to man how near he is to the level of beasts, without showing him at the same time his greatness. It is likewise dangerous to let him see his greatness without his meanness. It is more dangerous yet to leave him ignorant of either; but very beneficial that he should be made sensible of both.” –Blaise Pascal

Day6

“The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between men—between the feeble and the powerful, the great and the insignificant—is energy, invincible determination—a purpose once fixed, and then—death or victory! That quality will do anything that can be done in this world, and no talents, no circumstances, no opportunities, will make a two-legged creature a man without it.” –Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton

“We don’t need to reinvent manliness. We only need to will ourselves to wake up from the bad dream of the last few generations and reclaim it, in order to extend and enrich that tradition under the formidable demands of the present.” –Waller R. Newell

Day22

“The way of a superior man is three-fold: virtuous, he is free from anxieties; wise, he is free from perplexities; bold, he is free from fear.” –Confucius

“How poor, how rich, how abject, how august, how complicate, how wonderful is man! Distinguished link in being’s endless chain! Midway from nothing to the Deity! Dim miniature of greatness absolute! An heir of glory! A frail child of dust! Helpless immortal! Insect infinite! A worm! A God!” –Edward Young

Day31

“This is the test of your manhood: How much is there left in you after you have lost everything outside of yourself?” –Orison Swett Marden

“For the man who makes everything that leads to happiness, or near to it, to depend upon himself, and not upon other men … has adopted the very best plan for living happily. This is the man of moderation; this is the man of manly character and of wisdom.” –Plato

Day2

“Civilization comes at a cost of manliness. It comes at a cost of wildness, of risk, of strife. It comes at a cost of strength, of courage, of mastery. It comes at a cost of honor. Increased civilization exacts a toll of virility, forcing manliness into further redoubts of vicariousness and abstraction.” –Jack Donovan

“If unwilling to rise in the morning, say to thyself, ‘I awake to do the work of a man.’” –Marcus Aurelius

Day25

“Manhood is the defeat of childhood narcissism.” –David Gilmore

“What a man knows should find its expression in what he does. The value of superior knowledge is chiefly in that it leads to a performing manhood.” –Christian Nestell Bovee

Day28

“Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor are the alpha virtues of men all over the world. They are the fundamental virtues of men because without them, no ‘higher’ virtues can be entertained. You need to be alive to philosophize. You can add to these virtues and you can create rules and moral codes to govern them, but if you remove them from the equation altogether you aren’t just leaving behind the virtues that are specific to men, you are abandoning the virtues that make civilization possible.” –Jack Donovan

coleridge

“Manliness means perfect manhood, as womanliness implies perfect womanhood. Manliness is the character of a man as he ought to be, as he was meant to be.” –James Freeman Clarke

“The amiable is a duty most certainly, but must not be exercised at the expense of any of the virtues. He who seeks to do the amiable always, can only be successful at the frequent expense of his manhood.” –W.G. Simms

Day12

“Here is the manliness of manhood, that a man has a good reason for what he does, and has a will in doing it.” –Alexander MacLaren.

“…the samurai ethic is a political science of the heart, designed to control such discouragement and fatigue in order to avoid showing them to others. It was thought more important to look healthy than to be healthy, and more important to seem bold and daring than to be so. This view of morality, since it is physiologically based on the special vanity peculiar to men, is perhaps the supreme male view of morality.”
–Yukio Mishima

Day29

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a God.” –Shakespeare

“A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.” –John Wayne

Day9

“A man is one whose body has been trained to be the ready servant of his mind; whose passions are trained to be the servants of his will; who enjoys the beautiful, loves truth, hates wrong, loves to do good, and respects others as himself.” –John Ruskin

“Isao had never felt that he might want to be a woman. He had never wished for anything else but to be a man, live in a manly way, die a manly death. To be thus a man was to give constant proof of one’s manliness–to be more a man today than yesterday, more a man tomorrow than today. To be a man was to forge ever upward toward the peak of manhood, there to die amid the white snows of that peak.” –Yukio Mishima

Day14

“When men evaluate each other as men, they still look for the same virtues that they’d need to keep the perimeter. Men respond to and admire the qualities that would make men useful and dependable in an emergency. Men have always had a role apart, and they still judge one another according to the demands of that role as a guardian in a gang struggling for survival against encroaching doom. Everything that is specifically about being a man—not merely a person—has to do with that role.” –Jack Donovan

Day8

“It is not the situation which makes the man, but the man who makes the situation.” Frederick William Robertson

“The test of every religious, political, or educational system is the man which it forms.” –Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Day5

“Men cannot be men—much less good or heroic men—unless their actions have meaningful consequences to people they truly care about. Strength requires an opposing force, courage requires risk, mastery requires hard work, honor requires accountability to other men. Without these things, we are little more than boys playing at being men, and there is no weekend retreat or mantra or half-assed rite of passage that can change that. A rite of passage must reflect a real change in status and responsibility for it to be anything more than theater. No reimagined manhood of convenience can hold its head high so long as the earth remains the tomb of our ancestors.” –Jack Donovan

Day13

“The search after the great men is the dream of youth and the most serious occupation of manhood.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In the meanest are all the materials of manhood, only they are not rightly disposed.” –Henry David Thoreau

Day19

“Stand true to your calling to be a man. Real women will always be relieved and grateful when men are willing to be men.” –Elisabeth Elliott

“A man should be able to hear, and to bear, the worst that could be said of him.” –Saul Bellow

Day20

“The chief constituents of what we call manhood, are moral rather than intellectual.” –J. S. Kieffer

“There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble.” –Sam Keen

Day23

“A woman simply is, but a man must become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved by a revolt from woman, and it confirmed only by other men. Manhood coerced into sensitivity is no manhood at all.” –Camille Paglia

“Adversity toughens manhood, and the characteristic of the good or the great man is not that he has been exempt from the evils of life, but that he has surmounted them.” –Patrick Henry

Day15

“Men of ideas and men of action have much to learn from each other, and the truly great are men of both action and abstraction.” –Jack Donovan

“It is a grand mistake to think of being great without goodness; and I pronounce it as certain, that there never was yet a truly great man, that was not at the same time truly virtuous.” –Benjamin Franklin

Day1

“[the difference between the old and the new education being] in a word, the old was a kind of propagation—men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.” –C.S. Lewis

“There is a difference between being a good man and being good at being a man.” –Jack Donovan

Day18

“History is strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world have a chance for it.” –Walter Bagehot

Life is too short to be little. Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly, and expresses himself with frankness and with fervor.” –Benjamin Disraeli

Day27

“It is very sad for a man to make himself servant to a single thing; his manhood all taken out of him by the hydraulic pressure of excessive business. I should not like to be merely a doctor, a great lawyer, a great minister, a great politician. I should like to be, also, something of a man.” –Theodore Parker

“The man who is deserving the name is the one whose thoughts and exertions are for others rather than for himself.” –Walter Scott

Day30

“When someone tells a man to be a man, they mean that there is a way to be a man. A man is not just a thing to be—it is also a way to be, a path to follow and a way to walk. Some try to make manhood mean everything. Others believe that it means nothing at all. Being good at being a man can’t mean everything, and it has always meant something.” –Jack Donovan

Day21

Update: Below are additions from the comments.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” –The Bible

“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” –Malcolm X

“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself, depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength” –Jack Kerouac

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” –Marcus Aurelius

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” –George Washington

“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine!” –The Count of Monte Cristo

“To be a man is, precisely, to be responsible.” –-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“The Strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special exertions but by his habitual acts.” –Blaise Pascal

“The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.” –John Walter Wayland

“No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.” –Abraham Lincoln

“And a man, a man provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.” –Breaking Bad

“To be a man requires that you accept everything life has to give you, beginning with your name.” –Burl Ives

“I learned that he that will be a hero will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work is sure of his manhood.” –George MacDonald

What are your favorites in the list? Do you know of another quote about men and manhood that should be included in this collection? Share it in the comments and if it’s worthy, we’ll add it in!

 


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