The Masculine Virtue of the Average Joe

St. Joseph was chosen among all men, to be the protector and guardian of the Virgin Mother of God; the defender and foster-father of the Infant-God, and the only co-operator upon earth, the one confidant of the secret of God in the work of the redemption of mankind.   —St. Bernard of Clairvaux

By now, most people preparing for Christmas Day have made it to the end of an Advent calendar: Only a couple more little doors and hidden chocolates remain before tearing through gift wrap and stockings.

But for those of us who mindfully immerse ourselves in these weeks of Advent, we are on a journey in preparation for the redemption of mankind. How very timely, given the current state of affairs, which tragically, appear mostly non-consensual.

During these past weeks, gathered near an Advent wreath, we first lit a Prophecy Candle and focused on Hope—on a foretelling of redemption spoken to us by sages and prophets. Next we lit the Bethlehem Candle, and spent a week dedicated not only to reflection and prayer for Peace in this world, but also in consideration of the arduous journey to Bethlehem. This past Gaudete Sunday, Joyous Sunday, marked the waning days of Advent. The Shepherd’s candle bears the light of Joy; we rejoice over our promised redemption, and rejoice in anticipation of God coming to our world as a man.

But there is another man for us to consider whose example, especially now, would be a welcome reminder of the kind of manliness we seem unable to recall or appreciate. He was a simple carpenter named Joseph, often a hidden or marginal figure in some tellings of the Christmas story but without whom we would have had no Advent or Christmas to celebrate.

Yes, it’s true: this original Average Joe was pivotal in the redemption of mankind. He was not unlike the Average Joes of today—noble men who conserve civilization and save mankind on a daily basis. This original Average Joe, the husband of Mary and father to Jesus, was a virtuous man who embraced and selflessly shared the gifts of true masculinity.

In fact, if not shouted down, one might say it is masculinity that once saved and is still capable of saving the world today.

Tragically, in our blinkered culture, masculinity is seen as something to suppress, something toxic, something that if not rooted out is destined to become abusive. None of this is true. These notions represent a disordered thinking meant to kill masculinity with shame.

Men who are angry or violent, who are sexually abusive, who degrade women, who are envious, greedy, or vain, are not masculine. They have rejected virtuous masculinity and succumbed to vices. Society is in desperate need of true masculinity, but it has been apparent for a while now that modern thinking rejects masculinity. Why? As Harvey C. Mansfield put it, “Modern thinking does not want to cooperate with manliness, and does not care for thumos.” Thumos is the spirited and bristling part of the soul. It’s the part that bristles and feels indignation. It is the part of the soul that makes men (and women, too, but especially men) want to risk their lives to protect their families, their religion, or their country.

Joseph resisted and rejected vices. He was a man who protected a woman’s honor, saving her from cruelty and likely from a stoning death—common punishment for a woman shamed by pregnancy outside of marriage. His valiant actions allowed Mary to fulfill both her human and her divinely ordered potential as well as that of her unborn child.

Joseph at first struggled to decide his course of action, tempted simply to send Mary away—not only to preserve her honor, but also to avoid his own embarrassment. But Joseph had strength, and as a man of faith and conscience, he obeyed what was asked of him by God through the message of an angel. Joseph was a law-abiding man and dutifully journeyed to Bethlehem for a census, compassionately leading his expectant wife upon a donkey to prevent her suffering from exhaustion.

Once in Bethlehem, Joseph persisted until he found safe shelter for Mary. After she gave birth, he accepted fatherhood with the intent to honor his wife and raise his son, and his mastery of carpentry skills enabled him to be a provider for his family. He was decisive and determined, courageously fleeing with his family to Egypt to escape Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. His virtuous masculinity fostered family life, without which there is no basis for community.

There are countless “Average Joes” who embrace and model true masculinity by living virtuous lives, lives shaped by and ordered toward the cardinal and theological virtues: prayerful men of faith who seek to know and do God’s will; men of Hope and not discouragement; men of charity who love God and neighbor, allowing love to order their actions toward the goodness for others; men who practice prudence, the “charioteer” of the other virtues that guides character and judgment; men who embrace Justice and respect the rights of others, leading to common good in society; men who demonstrate fortitude, the gift of strength and courage during the pursuit of good—which compels men to be defenders, protectors, even warriors when personal or common good is threatened; men who exhibit temperance, the moderation and mastery over desire and passions.  

In a contemporary code of masculinity delineated in Jack Donovan’s book The Way Of Men, there are four tactical virtues of manliness:

Strength:  physical gifts that when rightly ordered, can give a man the means to protect and defend individuals as well as our country;

Courage: to risk life and limb for the goodness of others;

Honor: the impetus to become better men, rejecting any reason to have shame; and

Mastery of Skill: not only to become a provider, but also to fulfill one’s potential in life.

Of course, there are certain men who are sexual abusers; men who lie, cheat, and steal; men who abuse power; men who are slaves to their passions; men who are egoists and vain, never directing their actions toward the common good; men who abuse strength. These men are not masculine. The growing list of sexual abusers is comprised of unmanly men who are undisciplined and weak. They give in to the much easier abuse of the intended gifts of strength and power, unable and unwilling to control and properly order those powerful forces of thumos. They lack not only discipline, but also reason. “Manliness is often aggressive, but when the aggression is tied to the concept of honor, it transcends mere animal spiritedness. Allied with reason as in Socrates, manliness finds its highest expression.”

Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner and so many more, are weak and undisciplined men who reject ordered masculine virtues. Their actions are the antithesis and the death of virtuous masculinity.  There is no such animal as “toxic masculinity” because none of the attributes of masculinity are intrinsically toxic;  Rather, ”toxic” is the rejection, defamation, and dismissal of masculinity. When news is rife with crimes of sexual misconduct and lack of virtues, there is a wrongful and hysterical trend to define masculinity itself as toxic. There is an unjust notion that, based on the immoral actions of a few, all men will succumb to immoral and criminal behavior.

The progressive and liberal notion is simply to eliminate masculinity rather than to properly order it. They seem not to understand that masculine nature cannot be eliminated. Masculinity is not destined to produce “barbarians at the gate,” nor is it necessary guard against them with a cultural castration. A masculine nature can be ordered toward virtue, though it is likely that a masculine expression of virtue may pinch the sensibilities of many leftists and feminists. Perhaps it sometimes pinches because feminine nature has its own tendencies toward vice that need directing? Hmm.

Ordered virtue and discipline can and should be modeled and taught: by men who embody and practice the gifts of true masculinity; in cooperation with women, who men were designed to honor and protect; and within civilized society where freedoms and moral principles are rightfully defended.

While the Herods of the world become front page news, with their salacious behavior and criminal actions, the stories of the good and virtuous “Average Joes” tend to fade into the background, comprising non-newsworthy corners of life. St Joseph himself remains somewhat of an enigma; though he was quietly virtuous, he was the vital foundation of the Holy Family and therefore of society itself. It is within the family where children learn “the morals which are necessary for the enjoyment of ordered liberty, the virtues which are necessary for morality and freedom to thrive.”

On Sunday we light the Angel Candle, the fourth candle of Advent that represents the greatest of all virtues, Love. Not only is Love the greatest virtue, Love is God Himself, who came into the world as the baby Jesus. What might have been lost if it weren’t for that one “Average Joe” who embodied and shared the gifts of masculinity? Real men can and should embrace their masculinity. It is not toxic. In fact, it is the thing most needful today to help redeem the world.

About Michele Bregande

Michele Bregande has a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Dallas and did graduate studies in art history and museum education at the College of William and Mary. She is a former arts and museum educator and exhibit designer. She is currently a stay-at-home mom, wife, and artist.

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27 responses to “The Masculine Virtue of the Average Joe

  • Thank you for this well-written and thoughtful praise of Joseph. A real man of God.

  • Where does Donald Trump fit into this?

    Yeah, I’m being a jerk. But I think it’s a legit question of this Trump-loving site, especially since this site also currently features an essay asserting we should be mire concerned with policies than with questions of character.

    • Well, it’s all in the balance, no? All men ( and women for that matter) need to continually work at ordering their behavior toward virtue. Forgot politics. ALL good men need to model true masculinity for the rest of the men in this world, and demand that other men order their lives in the same manner. I have no problem calling out any behavior that is brutish. Luckily, growing in virtue is a continual process, so don’t give up on the men who are still battling vices. That would be very unmanly of you. ; )

      • It is unrealistic if not unreasonable to expect virtuous actions, if not virtue from politics. As Milton Friedman posited it is most desirable to incentivise our politicians, who are often the wrong people, to do the right thing even for the wrong reasons. The right actions by the ”wrong” people doesn’t have to make them virtuous for the results to be so. I’ll take that over the virtuous making the wrong decisions.

      • … because as we all know, Jimmy Carter was the BEST president EVER. (sarcasm)

    • Your question indicates you question Trump’s character. A man’s deeds are the best expression of his character, so with all the great things he has accomplished this year alone, why?

  • “They seem not to understand that masculine nature cannot be eliminated.”

    Wuht? You haven’t heard about the Genderless Obama Bathroom Struggle™ (“G.O.B.S.”) in North Carolina and other States? Where ya been??

    • Hah! Get out your virtue and fight, It’s a battle that must be won.

  • It is odd when a woman tells men about being Masculine. Just as it would be odd for a man to tell women about being Feminine.

    • No, it’s not odd at all. Careful social observation in a historical context does not presuppose sexual apartheid. Your comment is just nonsensical.

      • not at all. The process of initiating boys to manhood is done among men and not the job of women.
        the process of girls becoming women is an act of nature. Initiation is hardly involved.

    • So an arborist would have to be a tree, an historian knows nothing unless he was actually inside that Trojan horse, no man can be an OB/Gyn and deliver babies, and we mothers of sons have nothing to do with their formation as they become young men. Perhaps we women should give birth only to daughters? because it’s incomprehensible that a female body could know anything about the gestation of a male.

      • My comment came from this point of view.
        When a girl becomes a woman it is an act of nature. With her first period she becomes a woman. No girl has control over this. For the rest of her life monthly periods, pregnancies, motherhood, and menopause are aspects of her life that nature determines.
        There is no natural process for a boy. For a boy to become a man society must step in. Through initiations boys are made into men. We do not become one. today usually that includes completion of education, Job titles, possibly boot camp, but definitely the role of Fathers, Uncles and men to help boys become men. Lacking any of this boys create their own catharsis in order to make the change. Most fail, few succeed, many die in the process. This is a simplified version.
        It is ironic you mention the Trojan Horse for Homers Iliad did not have the horse. It was Virgil’s Aeneid that introduced it.

      • Where in the world did I say anything about the Trojan horse being from Homer’s Iliad? Not a good sign that you’re a careful reader … or maybe you just need more coffee. Of course men need the initiations and role-modeling of other men in their formation of true masculinity — perhaps you glossed over that major point in my article. (BTW, I agree 100% that the role of a father is the most needed and infuential role in the formation of boys becoming men). How interesting it is that, though you think it “odd” for a woman to comment on Masculinity and vise-versa, you have a heck of lot to say about Femininity and the development a woman from puberty through menopause, and OMG, you do have your facts correct! But how sad that you think we females are merely subjects of nature; we too, need those intitiations and the roles of women in our own formation into women of virtue. But here’s some news about nature and boys: there’s this powerful chemical called TESTOSTERONE that washes over the developing brain of a male fetus, and it has kinda this HUGE role in the natural process of a boy becoming a man. The formation of men and women is dependant upon nature AND society, two inextricably connected forces. Fortunately for men, women play an important role in the development of the Masculine Virtues, for without women, men might have much less reason to practice temperance and fortitude … and that’s just for starters.

      • There is a lot of truth in what you say and I certainly agree women need guidance. But my point would explain why men dominate in every field including the founders of every major faith which plays a central role in forming the civilizational aspects of a civilization. Men are so dominant in every field (I am sure may have missed some that women dominate) across the planet and through time that we have to rule out gender bias and look for other reasons.
        my comment suggests one reason and that being Men are made by society. Which would mean men will play a greater role in the formation of that society since we depend on it so much.

      • I’m still waiting for a logical defense of your original statement … Then, regarding the above tangled mass of Christmas lights, perhaps you might contemplate that saying “Behind every great man is a woman;” (re)read Lord of the Flies; and then, just for giggles, contemplate the phrase “Behind every great man is a woman (rolling her eyes).” ; }

      • I have no defense since it needs none. It is just my opinion shared in a forum. I had no intentions of hurting your feelings or that of womanhood. But I would agree that behind every great man is a women… and not ahead of him.

      • I also want to state that in some cases behind every great man there are several women, some, due to circumstances, cannot walk straight for awhile.

      • I failed to mention that most of initiating women center around being a good daughter, wife and mother, mainly because her role as a woman is determined by nature. That even applies to Queens and Empresses. In some cases more so since marital bonds also mean the unity of Kingdoms.

      • you referred to the Trojan horse and I quote:

        “So an arborist would have to be a tree, an historian knows nothing unless he actually had been inside that Trojan horse,..”

  • Wonderful article, Michele. If man’s summum bonum is to realize his potential to the fullest, developing innate masculine traits in the service of virtue (notice the vir-) is surely part of it for us dudes. I especially enjoyed the part about thumos.

    Lack of thumos is why today’s default response to terrorist attacks is weeping and grieving, something that yesterday would have been reserved to women. I can’t imagine Roman men–or French, Dutch, or British men only 100 years ago, for that matter–responding with balloons, candles and teddy bears to existential atrocities of such moment. Aristotle placed irascibility as opposite to insensibility, stating that not to respond with anger to certain stimuli is just as unethical as doing so with excessive rage. I wonder what he would say today, could he witness what we do.

    As with all revolutions, the CultMarx revolution is trying to replace and reinvent from scratch features of society that have been matured and refined over millennia. Including gender roles. As I get older, I am becoming capable of watching this with detached amusement, while I try to live my life by the virtues I know I should be cultivating. My own falling short of them (it’s not that easy!) is becoming my shield against getting upset about things over which I have no control. “If I can’t do X as I’d like to, no point me whining about society not doing Y.” As someone famously said, il faut cultiver son jardin.

    Merry Christmas, Michele–and it’s a pleasure reading your pieces.

    • Merry Christmas – It was a pleasure reading your comment. Thank you! Balloons, candles, and teddy bears are for babies’ first birthday partiies. Most certainly it is not the commando crawl of a baby that protects country and liberty – I feel much better knowing that a virile soldier takes that role. I suggest we soundproof those “safe spaces” and call them what they actually are: cry rooms for grown children. How about a nice long “time out” for these children? They can rejoin the real world when they know how to properly behave.

      • “Cry rooms for grown children.” I’ll steal that, with your permission! :-)

  • I listened to a NEW NPR interview with the author of the book: “Latin Can Save Your Life.” Which talks about recognizing that the ancients had wisdom, and new that material good couldn’t give people a meaningful life. He suggested a combination of virtues including devoting one’s self to service to mankind. The host said that the ideas and the virtues sound, “Insane.”

    Princeton historian Anthony Grafton explains how learning conversational Latin inspired his students.
    The author said many of his students had attended a Latin course in Rome – and devoted themselves to work hard.

    This is just the author explaining his book: 5 minutes

    • These ideas and the virtues “sound insane” to those who live in a world of relativism and were taught there is no Truth. It’s as if the lack of rigor and enrichment found in classical education affects the brain as malnutrition affects the body.

  • This is excellent. I agree with you that our society abhors righteous indignation and punishment of evil. As one female to another, you are my hero.

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