Stephen Lee Mansfield quotes
born 1958; American writer, author of the New York Times bestseller Mansfield's Book of Manly
Genuine manhood, manly manhood, true manhood - is sacrifice. To do manly things, tend
your field, make manly men, and to live to the glory to God - in other words, to fulfill all the
Manly Maxims - you have to sacrifice. Sacrifice what? Everything. Anything. Not your
integrity or morality or commitments to God, but certainly your comforts, your rights, your
time, your money, your attention, and your energy. You have to sacrifice the priority of
We live in an age that defines people largely by appearance. The body is the man. The
the woman. There is almost no separating the outer from the inner, the true man from
physical vessel he occupies in his life. This overemphasis on what is seen has had tragic
consequences for some men. Some of us just don't look "manly" in the traditional sense. We
are thin or un-muscular or high-voiced or perhaps even effeminate in the way we move.
These features tempt us to believe that we are condemned to some form of un-manly, un-
masculine life. Meanwhile, our more hairy, more muscular friends are considered manly merely
for their appearance. Hear me: I don't care about your appearance. Manliness, in my view, is
The small man gossips. The average man lets him. The great man stays silent and allows
what is said of him to make him greater still.
Devotion to self-education is unquestionably one of the marks of an exceptional man. Passive
men wait for knowledge to come to them. Weak men assume what they need to know will
seek them out. Men of great character and drive search out the knowledge they need.
Manly men know themselves, work to understand their God-ordained uniqueness and their
unique brand of damage, and accept they will always be a work in progress, always be a one-
man construction project that is never quite finished in this life. They don't despair. They
A man cannot fulfill his purpose if he is living for applause, approval, and affirmation in this
Action is character. Manhood is action. Some people are going to be uncomfortable with this
conclusion. They'll want to say that true manhood comes from something else. A man
becomes a true man by recovering his natural wilderness. Or a man becomes a true man after
he finds healing for his masculine soul. Or a man becomes a true man when he starts to resist
being overdomesticated. Or a man becomes a true man by being like Jesus. Or Gandhi. Or
Bono. There is some truth in all of this. Afterward, though - after the man starts
Jesus, or is liberated, or is healed, or is unleashed - how do we know he is a true man? We
know only if he acts like one.
Manfield's Manly Maxim #2: Manly men thend their fields... It is the job of a man to know the
definition of the field assigned to him. Who "belongs" to him? What is he responsible for? What
boundaries is he guarding? What forces - physical, moral, emotional, spiritual, intellectual -
must he guard against? What needs to be done?
I learned a long time ago in my consulting work that friends are the best reflection of a man's
happiness, priorities, and health.
Forgiving is more about doing than feeling. Forgiving is primarily a decision to treat a wrong in
the same way we cancel the debt of someone who owes us money. We no longer hold the
debtor in a debtor's prison. We forgive the debt by deciding we are no longer owed anything:
an apology, an opportunity to beat the offender to death, the right to talk nasty about him
or her. Instead, we decide - not feel - the record is wiped clean.
Men are in a crisis. We know this. There are books about it, retreats about it, academic
conferences about it, and every kind of gathering where men sit around and talk about it. As
these words are being written, men lag behind women in nearly every measurable field of
acievement. If the statistics are true, and if television commercials are any reflection, men
today are unhappy, self-loathing, pleasure-addicted, juvenile, and less productive than ever.
For a man to become a great man, he will have to defeat the force of bitterness in his life. No
one escapes it.
In the wild, turkeys are amazing. When domesticated, turkeys are so stupid they have to be
kept from accidentally killing themselves a dozen different ways. Gentlemen, let's admit it:
most of us are tragically overdomesticated. We have hardly any connection to the wild or our
wilder selves. Words like adventure, exploit, and quest no longer apply to us. It is why we are
soft, whiney, and bored.
All it takes for a contagious manly culture to form is for one genuine man to live out genuine
manhood. It creates a model, something for other men to feed upon and pattern themselves
after. It also gives other genuine men a vital connection that sustains and extends who they
I believe something fairly radical: true manhood comes from doing manly deeds. It is the
mastery of a body of behaviors. By words like manly and manhood, I don't mean the kind
behavior we see in the fake masculinity that surrounds us today. There's nothing manly about
a guy downing booze until he throws up in the street. There's nothing manly about cruising
for women like some predatory beast and then devouring them for pleasure before casting
them aside. There's nothing manly about making a child but then running like a coward before
that child is born. There's nothing manly about dominating a woman or treating her like a
servant or leaving her with burdens that aren't rightly hers.
We know our flaws - at least most of them. We constantly face our weakness and our
damage. It can cause us to doubt we will ever live an exceptional life. It isn't true. If history
is any guide, struggling manfully against our deformities is the beginning of greatness.
If we asked men today to list the duties or disciplines that comprise true manhood, most
would not include learning or the acquisition of knowledge. This signals a tragic failure to
understand the traits that make a great man. The truth is most great men in history have
become great because they aggressively pursued knowledge.
The question we all face is not whether or not we have defects. We do. Everyone of us. The
question is whether we are capable of envisioning a life defined by forces greater than the
weight of our flaws. The moment we can - the moment we can envision a life beyond mere
compromise with our deformities - that is the moment we take the first steps toward weighty
Much of what a man needs to know can land in his iPad while he is sleeping, but he has to
know enough to value this power in the first place. How many men have lost jobs because
they did not see massive trends on the horizon? How many men have failed to stay
intellectually sharp and so gave up ground in their professions to others with more active
minds? How many have lost money through uninformed investments or have not taken
opportunities in expanding fields or have missed promotions because they had not bothered
to learn about new technologies or what changes social media, for example, would bring to
I believe most men make peace with their defects. They accept their flaws as simply the way
they are, and so they never declare war on those parts of themselves that keep them from
exceptional lives. Mediocrity becomes their lot in life; merely getting by their only hope.