Or a proper woman, of course.
Up until political correctness enfeebled the West, we used to talk about things that “separated the men from the boys.” And however poorly the phrase may have been used, it had a legitimate point: It’s one thing to be male, it’s quite another to be a proper man.
The same obviously applies to women: It’s one thing to be female and quite another to be a proper woman. We used the male version of the phrase because most women’s roles were different (necessarily different) in the days before reliable birth control.
But on whichever side of the biological divide you find yourself, it’s suffering for righteousness that confirms you as legitimate, solid adult… as someone to be taken seriously.
Either You Haven’t Or You Have
There are all sorts of ways to make a show of being a legitimate adult: You can be a frightening brute, you can display your intellectual prowess, you can hold up your wealth, status or beauty, or you can threaten others with power that stands ready to avenge you. But none of those things make you a real man or a real woman. They are shows, not substance; they are ornamental plumage.
Being a real man requires you to suffer for righteousness. Not merely to suffer – everyone suffers – but to suffer because of your personal, moral devotion to something. That shows there is solid ground in your soul.
So, either you’ve taken a principled risk, suffered for it, and held your position; or else the rest of us can’t be sure of you: Either you’ve suffered for something you thought was right, or you haven’t.
Let me restate that for clarity:
Until you’ve suffered for righteousness, there’s no incontestable reason for the rest of us to take you as a serious adult.
And more than that, you have to suffer as an individual. You can be one of many who make a similar choice, but you have to face personal consequences, not collective consequences. Until you do, the rest of us have no way of being sure. Going along with a group, even a minority group, is not the same thing as making a costly individual choice, and until that happens, the rest of us lack a reason to trust you as an individual.
Being Right Isn’t Exactly The Point
It may seem that my use of the word “righteousness” makes being proven right a necessity, but that’s not actually the case. The core of this is having the strength to do what you believe is the right thing, in the face of contrary power.
If, believing yourself to be right, you make a hard choice and suffer for it, you’ve shown yourself to be a man or woman, even if you later learn that you were mistaken. What needs to be demonstrated is an honest and strong soul, not factual precision. The best explanation of this I know came from Thomas Jefferson:
Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable, not for the rightness, but uprightness of the decision.
It’s the uprightness and courage of what you do that matters. Your uprightness is the fundamental, not your rightness.
The truth, of course, is that people willing to suffer for righteousness are far more likely to be right than those who follow the crowd, but that’s not the core issue.
Do Hard Times Make Hard Men?
The belief that hard times make hard men is an old one. I tend not to hold that belief, because our development doesn’t actually require darkness, and because brutally hard times turn boys and girls into broken men and women. If we rely upon brutal times, we doom ourselves to heavy damage.
Still, there’s some truth to this, because hard times force people into suffering for what is right. And we’re seeing this right now.
And so the question becomes, who is suffering for righteousness right now?
Homeschoolers have been suffering in that way for quite some time. They’ve been called everything, made the butt of endless jokes and barbs, and worse. Likewise Bitcoiners; they’ve been called fools, suckers, crazies, and so on at length. Things are changing a bit now, but in both of these arenas courage was required; if you couldn’t muster it, you fell away.
We’re now seeing the same and worse directed at people who don’t want the quasi-vaccines officialdom is demanding. These people are being broadly and profoundly discriminated against. Huge numbers of them have been fired from their jobs, forbidden from stores and restaurants, fined and threatened with jail time.
These people are suffering for righteousness; they are showing solid ground in their souls. And it doesn’t matter whether or not the statistics bear them out five years from now. The fact that they are standing for what they think is right, and bearing personal costs, is enough.
The same is true for the protesting truckers: They are taking risks for what they believe, making themselves respectable men and women. This moment is creating people who are solid. They will certainly continue making errors – we all do – but they are not to be confused with empty conformists.
What Was Your Rite of Passage?
Suffering for righteousness is a rite of passage… a marker… and we need these; not only to prove things to others, but to prove them to ourselves. In other words, you need to know that you’ve done the hard things, suffered for them and stood to the challenge. Yes, other people need to see that in us, but we also need to see it in ourselves.
Markers of passage are necessary. They have to be hard; they have to cost you in some significant way. In a perfect world things might be different, but this isn’t a perfect world. If you can’t think of your own passages, you had better start taking the question seriously.
Being a non-conformist comes with a price attached, but paying it transforms us into something more. It’s a price we all need to pay, and hopefully sooner rather than later.
Suffering is not a virtue of itself, but suffering for righteousness illuminates the fact that we are more than placeholders… that we are upright men and women, to be taken seriously.