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

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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.

“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!)

“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

“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

“A man’s ledger does not tell what he is, or what he is worth. Count what is in man, not what ison 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

“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

“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

“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 though 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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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.

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