What Makes a (“Real”) Man or Woman?

Being a “Grown man or woman” is a badge of honor that does not come automatically with age. We all know people who are mature (or not) for their age, based on their experiences and personal qualities.

Have you given thought to the things that distinguish good or authentic men and women in your life? I have. In my humble opinion, to qualify as a “Real” man or woman, you must (at some time or another):

1. Have the experience of paying bills with your own money and/or contributing to running a household.
2. Have had your heart broken and have broken a heart at least once.
3. Know how to enjoy your own company.
4. Have someone that seeks your advice.
5. Be obligated or responsible to someone besides yourself
6. Be able to freely admit when you’ve been an A-hole
7. Be able to give and receive good advice.
8. Have the experience of sacrificing for someone else.
9. Appreciate the lessons your parents/mentors taught and find yourself implementing and sharing them with others.
10. Have forgiven someone that offended or disappointed you.
11. Be able to sincerely compliment and recognize greatness or beauty in someone without being jealous of them.
12. Apologize without attempting to justify your behavior.
13. Appreciate the beauty and importance of rest and relaxation.
14. Express gratitude more than you complain.
15. Refuse to blame others for problems you caused or enabled.
16. Be fully aware of your strong and less desireable traits.
17. Have experienced the betrayal of someone close to you.
18. Have the ability and willingness to prepare your own meals, wash your own clothes, and clean your own house.
19. Have the experience of doing what you need to do so you can do what you want to do.
20. Demonstrate the ability to solve your own problems without the help of others.
21. Humble yourself to ask someone for help when you need it.
22. Know when to be diplomatic and when to be blunt.
23. Be willing to take a stand/make a decision no one agrees with.
24. Acknowledge your imperfections and work to eliminate them.
25. Know your true worth and refuse to settle for less.
26. Doubt yourself, but move forward anyway.
27. Appreciate the importance of silence.
28. Care more about being respected than being liked.
29. Know the difference between friends and enemies or “haters.”
30. Be able to tell people “no” without feeling guilty.
31. Have defended someone vulnerable when you stood nothing to gain from it.
32. Be willing to sacrifice sleep to finish an important project.
33. Use time judiciously.
34. Know who is deserving of your love.
35. Be able to sever toxic and draining friendships and associations.
36. Be able to celebrate with absolutely no money.
37. Be willing to do what you need to do so you can do what you want to do.
38. Recognize, give and receive wisdom, truth and love.
39. Allow those you love the freedom and space to be themselves (without violating or sabotaging yourself).
40. Have the willingness to be an excellent student or teacher when necessary.

41. Appreciate the importance of balance and moderation.

42. Be able to enjoy yourself without feeling guilty.

43. Have undergone the experience of rejecting a good opportunity because it conflicted with your values.

44. Overcome fears or illusions that block your progress and empowerment.

Please note: I dont claim to have mastered all of these, but I work constantly to be better and do better. I’m curious to know what you think about this list. Also, what would you add?


Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment.

Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

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