I don’t have to search long on Google (such as here, here, or here) to find studies that statistically prove that men are failing. The slump of masculinity is infecting boys and men at an alarming rate. There is a virus spreading through our schools, our relationships, and our workplaces. I really worry about what is happening to the definition of my gender. Are talent, intelligence, and expertise out of style? Did the idea of winning the loyalty and love of the girl of our dreams become insignificant? Where did our desire to be connected with God go? I’ve been wondering about where the source of the outbreak lies. And I think that I’ve found it. It is a problem of vulnerability. We fear exposing ourselves to any possibility of pain, failure, shame, and discomfort. Because we fear, we retreat from the opportunity to have beautiful, life-defining experiences. In our retreat, our perception of life becomes something like the following: relationships seem forever destined for heartbreak, and separation. Professional success comes at a price too steep and a road too long. Education belongs to the geeks. Religion appears as empty as the churches on Sunday. Do we see exactly what we are doing? We’ve embarked on one big social exodus from what it has meant to be a man. The ever-progressing technology of this modern era makes the escape easier and easier. We bury ourselves in things like video games designed to make users feel invulnerable. We drown ourselves in substances like alcohol brewed to chemically dull the senses. We obsess with pornography and other kinds of sexuality to escape the vulnerabilities we feel toward women. On top of it all, we surround ourselves with groups of people who do the same thing so that we don’t notice that anything is wrong. If we could, we would see that we invest massive amounts of resources just to avoid the discomfort and pain that comes from adversity. We believe the lie that living invulnerably will allow us the most happiness. The thing about pain is that you cannot kill it without murdering your joy with it. Sorrow is directly correlated with the happiness we experience. With exposure to storms of adversity come strong character, compassion, and intelligence. If a man spends an entire lifetime trying to marinate in numbness, he will wake up one day and discover that he doesn’t know who in the world he is because he doesn’t have anything of substance by which to define his life. He will be past human feeling, godless, friendless, and completely empty. If we don’t want that kind of life, we must change how we approach living. If we – I also speak for myself – have any desire to be more attractive, confident, and/or successful, we should try better to cope with our natural vulnerabilities because in them we will find strength. Here are a couple of suggestions that may help: First: Have expectations, goals, and visions for your life. We must have a genuine awareness of what we really want. God gives us so many causes that we can define ourselves by, for example: love, achievement, creativity, world peace, leadership, service, and so on. There is no need to overwhelm ourselves; we just need a few core goals and a little balance. For me, seeing what I want in others helps me define my desires. After living in New England for two years, I absorbed much of what I consider to be my vision. I‘ve seen the kind of love I want in thriving, unified marriage relationships. From the students of Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I have adopted the hunger to learn and succeed at the highest level. Experiencing my faith in God in the capacity of an LDS missionary planted a craving for God’s continued presence in my life. Once we catch a glimpse of our vision, we must have faith that what we are looking for is available somewhere, somehow in this world. Of course we’re going to fall short. However, these goals define what kind of man we are and as we demonstrate loyalty to that definition, we will find that our fears don’t matter so much anymore. Second: Know how to handle mistakes. This is hard to know how to do because we were raised in a system that says when we do something wrong, we receive punishment. From this we learned that we should avoid mistakes at all costs. But life guarantees miscalculation in any path we take. More important than learning what mistakes to avoid is learning how to fix them, forgive, and learn. Consider the story of the prodigal son: the sinner who took a long journey through error and found the strength to come back home. He figured out how to handle his own mistakes. When a guy feels like he knows what to do when he stumbles, his own vulnerability seems less intimidating. I do not believe that we can do all of this without the Savior, Jesus Christ. He already taught us to have faith and how to handle our mistakes. With His grace, we have the promise that whatever we amount to at the end of this life will not be defined by our vulnerability, but rather by what vulnerability has made of us. With enough faith and understanding, I believe that I can become a man that God will be proud of.