Men, and Virtue, and How to Attain It

By Dave DiNuzzo Sr.

Dave works for The King’s Men. The mission of TKM: Under Christ the King’s universal call to serve, we as men, pledge to unite and build up other men in the mold of leader, protector, and provider through education, formation, action, and healing.

Dave joined the King’s Men in September 2010. When he joined, TKM had 8 weekly formation and accountability groups in 3 dioceses. Now, there are 28 groups in 17 dioceses and this number will be outdated by the end of the month! There are an upward of 500 men meeting weekly around the country.

TKM fosters a culture of authentic manliness in our overly sexualized world and they do this mainly through formation and accountability, and by encouraging men to be involved regularly with the sacraments.  One of their main events is a retreat called Into the Wild, which nearly 1,000 men have participated in since 2009. The men are led into the wild to spend three days and four nights together, where they engage in the sacraments, daily Rosary and Perpetual Adoration. TKM empowers men by combining outdoor activities with the faith. For more on this, visit the retreat website www.IntoTheWildWeekend.com. These retreats challenge men to grow in virtue, as they gather the tools to be a virtuous man, through doing what men were naturally born to do: lead, protect, and provide.

Please pray for TKM, as they are actively engaged in spiritual warfare.  In the past 5 years, TKM has been responsible for shutting down 7 sexually oriented businesses.  In addition, they were sued by Adult World in Pennsylvania for their protesting. The case was taken to the Federal Court, but thankfully, the judge ruled in favor of TKM.

TKM is also hosting a Healing Retreat in November 2012 for any man who has suffered from various forms of abuse. For more information, please visit their website.

[Ladies, this post may seem as though it is only for men, but keep reading, there’s something in this for you too.]

I feel like I’m constantly either writing or talking about virtue, but nearly every day, I realize that we all need to hear about virtue more and more.  Virtue is vital to living a Christ-centered life.  What is virtue?  In short, virtue means manliness (from the Latin virtus).  Maybe that doesn’t make sense… how can Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance (the Cardinal Virtues) mean manliness?  They don’t – they mean what they mean.  It’s the exact opposite – manliness means possessing the virtues.  Does that mean that in order to be manly, a male must be virtuous?

Precisely!  Authentic manliness is living virtue!  Plain and simple.  Alright, so how do I know if I’m virtuous (or manly)?  The definition is a good place to start: “Virtue is the habitual and firm disposition to do the good.”  So, what do you think?  Are you virtuous?  Be careful, you can’t partially possess virtue – it’s all or none.  Either I have the “habitual and firm disposition” or I don’t.  The test?… do I perform the virtue as a habit while also doing it promptly, easily, consistently and with joy?  If not, you don’t have that particular virtue.  If so, then you do.  There’s no sliding scale, no gray area, no “sorta, kinda, sometimes”.  It’s all or none.

Let me clarify… it is possible to have glimpses of virtuous behavior and not possess the virtue, so don’t get all hot and bothered thinking that what I’m writing means that you’re not a good guy.  I’m simply relaying what St. Thomas Aquinas spent much of his life working on.  For more clarity, let’s concentrate on the virtue of courage, otherwise known as fortitude.  Men want to be courageous, right?  When a man possesses courage, he “ensures firmness in difficulty, has constancy in the pursuit of good, and the resolve to resist temptations.”  When a man possesses courage, these characteristics are always present, without wavering.  What happens, then, when a male isn’t courageous?  What can he do about it?

If you want to grow in virtue, it takes two things: 1. Grace and 2. Practice.  The grace part isn’t up to you, but the practice part is.  If you want to grow in virtue, practice makes perfect!  Ask God for opportunities to practice each virtue.  If you ask (sincerely), He’ll give you the opportunity.  Try it, you’ll see.  I recommend that you think long and hard about which virtue you need/want to work on the most (and soon!) and ask God for it.

So, then does that mean that women can’t be virtuous, or shouldn’t even try to be?  No, not at all.  And it doesn’t mean that a woman who is virtuous is manly.  In the case of women, they should also be striving for virtue.  Women grow in virtue the same way men do, through grace and practice, but the natural inclinations of men and women are different.  Men and women are complementary (not complimentary, like “hey, that color looks nice on you”, but complement like two things that go well together) and our natures work really, really well together!  God intended it that way.  We are of equal dignity, but different in nature.  Men are all called to lead, protect, and provide.  “Women are called to trust, surrender, and to be receptive.

Some women hear this and become squeamish, as if this is some sort of oppressive mandate to hold them down.  Not at all!  This is intended to allow men to hold you up!  When both men and women are living virtuously, our natures are working properly and are the perfect complement!  To think that working against nature would somehow be oppressive is pretty ridiculous.  Think about it, have you ever heard a woman say, “I would hate it if a man treated me with respect, if he honored and cherished me and if he made me a better woman!”  Never!  Clearly, this is a little extreme, but it begs the point… why are these natures complementary and why are men called to live the virtues?  The answer is simple.  To be more Christ-like!  All men should all be attempting to emulate Christ Jesus, the perfect model of virtue, the perfect model of masculinity.

There’s plenty more to be said on the topic of virtue, but for a more concise explanation, check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1803-1845.

“The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” – St. Gregory of Nyssa.

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3 thoughts on “Men, and Virtue, and How to Attain It

  1. I don’t understand how as a woman I need to “surrender”. It looks like men have some advantage here and I don’t like it. Shouldn’t men be called to surrender as well, in a different capacity as women? Both men and women in my mind should both “surrender” to one another. This is the reason that the Catholic Church opposes contreception because it blocks and hinders the ability for husband and wife to surrender to one another. I also have no clue what it means to surrender. If surrender means give than this is the language we should use. Also as one who has suffered at the hands of men, I am uncomfortable with this.

  2. Jane,
    Thanks for your question. I get this question frequently.

    You mentioned that, to you, “it looks like men have some advantage here and I don’t like it.” This is not at all about ‘advantage’, I’m sorry that I wasn’t clear in my post; this is often times a difficult subject to be explicitly clear on with every point. I also want to apologize for the fact that you’ve suffered at the hands of men. This is a tragedy and it should never have happened. All the more why men should read this post!

    So if it’s not about advantage, what is it about? This topic is about men fulfilling their calling as leaders, protectors, and providers. The man’s role, when fulfilled properly, allows women, in their roles, to be fulfilled properly. (Lead:Trust, Protect:Surrender, Provider:Receptivity.) This, as I mentioned in the post, is the natural call of men. When men are not fulfilling their call, major problems arise. To boot, our culture has stepped away from this natural application of gender roles and pinned woman against man, and vice versa. We should not look at this as though we are in a battle against one another… we are intended to support, lift up, and encourage one another, never battle.

    I know that for some women who have been hurt by men in the past, it can be very, very difficult to surrender to a man’s protection. Previously, their only protection may have come in the form of abuse, ridicule, hatred, and/or exploitation. Obviously, a degradation of protection. I can understand why it is so difficult, and sometimes almost impossible, for women to surrender. This leads me to your question about what surrender means. To surrender, means that a woman is willing to yield herself to a man. This yielding is only based on a woman’s first call, to trust. For a woman to trust, it means that the man MUST BE LEADING! They work simultaneously, but with the man first fulfilling his call. If he ain’t leadin’, don’t surrender nothin’!~ (I hope this is making sense.) If the man fails to fulfill his “end of the bargain”, these relationships don’t work. This is why we have divorce. This is why we see so much domestic abuse against women. This is why we see so many fatherless children. It is not, typically, the women who are faltering. On the contrary, women are so often times the victim of this abuse and reckless behavior by men. This was the point of the post… that if males want to be men, they must live virtue. It is difficult, and VERY FAR FROM WHAT SOCIETY IS PREACHING/TEACHING OUR MALES! If you go onto my website (www.TrueManhood.com) and type “Cultural Manliness” in the search box, you’ll see tons more of what I am speaking of here. Cultural manliness is the idea that the more power, money, sex, and stuff a man has, the more manly he is. THIS IS A LIE! Only virtue makes a male manly.

    You mentioned the bit about contraception, and men and women surrendering to one another. This is different than the natural role of women to surrender. This marital surrender is a three-part relationship between man, wife, and God. Yes, they are ‘yielding’ to one another, but I think we’re getting into a misuse of the words, probably based off of popular use. The better way of saying this may not be that man and wife surrender to one another, but that they “make a free gift of self to one another.” (This would probably be more along the lines of the Theology of the Body, JPII, Christopher West wording.) Let’s also be clear that these natural roles of men and women can at times overlap. Men certainly need to trust God. Women certainly need to protect their children, and so on. To get caught up into every aspect of the use of these words misses the point… men should pray and work to attain virtues!

    Best,
    Dave

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