There is no short course in having a shepherd’s heart.
The quintessential man is a shepherd. He doesn’t need the sheep; they need him. There are blessings and rewards for getting involved, for tying yourself to their needs, but you could live without them. In fact, it’s easier to be a predator. But in the grand moral sense of how the universe operates, if you really want the best of what’s available, you’ll take up the often thankless task of shepherding.
Fundamental to the whole thing is your own sense of need. If you are needy, you are a sheep yourself. You’re a little boy who still needs his mommy, still nursing at the breast. You aren’t fulfilling her needs, because you drag on her inner resources too long and the sabbatical rest is denied. These are all symbols conveying a very deep truth beyond clinical discussion. If you haven’t taken responsibility for the things demanded of you, if you haven’t first demanded satisfaction of what you need from yourself, you can’t let go and stand alone.
If you can’t stand alone, you can’t do anything for anyone else which matters. It means you don’t matter. You’re a problem, not the solution. Being a man means having some answers which come from inside you, answers which outweigh and justify your demands. It means doing what only a man can do. Don’t mistake that for simply doing your job, honoring your contracts, etc. Those are fundamental human moral obligations, not manhood itself. Pulling your own weight is just the starting point. There is something unique in taking the responsibility for the welfare of others, but even more rare is feeling the pain of failure. It’s ownership, not of all the outcomes, but of all the losses you can’t possibly prevent. It’s the power to face the weaknesses, failures, sorrows and still willing to try again.
More, it’s the dire need to keep trying because you can not let yourself quit. You’ll always be capable of miscalculating and quitting too soon or not soon enough, but those are incidental to the inner necessity of commitment to a sense of mission you simply can’t abandon. You are saying, “Screw the cost; I have to do this.” If you can really get hold of that, let it get hold of you, then you have whatever it is manhood is supposed to mean.
This is that very something women need. This is what calls to them. It really has precious little to do with measurable accomplishments, though some are silly and shallow enough to think that’s what matters. If so, they don’t matter. Because a real woman is looking for a real man. If you can scrape off the silly Victorian and Germanic-feudal notions of “real man,” just as she must reject the same mythology about herself, you might get somewhere with this. A man does not need a woman, but everything which calls to him is exponentially better with her support. The survival imperative of passing on your genes is a poor shadow of what really matters eternally. Rising above mere instinct means you’ll draw on all of hers.
Your fire of commitment is her warmth in a cold and abusive world.
I can’t justify any of this with pure logic. If there is nothing in a man or woman to find this vision compelling, we have to let them wallow in the lies. Manhood itself includes an ineffable awareness that certain things depend entirely upon him or it all goes to Hell. He has to accept that burden as part of his redemption from the Fall. She has to get behind him, or she has no hope, but he has to be there first. Her taking the lead in deep spiritual matters is why we are fallen in the first place. It’s not her mission, not her place, not her wiring. The pinnacle of her hope is her man’s commitment, and damn the failures. Indeed, for both of them, the only thrill worth having, the only joy possible, comes from embracing this vision.
It is not just doing, because performance scores are deceptive; nor is it fitting some definition (AKA, “being”). It’s living it, something worth dying for. Live it, man.