Rosmann: Feeling competent is essential to feeling valued
Three weeks ago, my son purchased a huge, crew-cab, diesel-powered, chrome-and-white pickup truck with 30-inch-high running boards and all the latest “toys” for the dash, as well as the heaviest available suspension and the largest off-road tires that came with the vehicle.
When my wife, Marilyn, and I visited our son’s family over this past weekend, I drove the magnificent rig twice. As we rode together, my son-in-law oohed and aahed in admiration for the honkin’ big vehicle.
The morning after I drove the “guts and glory” machine, I awoke with black hair covering my usually white chest and face, my voice was an octave lower and I sprang to every task with alacrity throughout the day.
“You’re a different man,” Marilyn said, “What happened?”
“I owe it all to driving our son’s new truck,” I explained.
Ah, testosterone. It does wonders for men, so say the television and magazine advertisements that promote testosterone and which a plethora of law firms are already drooling over because of expected proceeds from legal suits that attribute physical and mental damages to consuming the hormone.
Men feel capable and appreciated more for their contributions, and the male hormone plays only a small part in their contributions.
Feeling energetic, competent and able to produce intended results are essential to feeling like a valued person, male or female. Farm men especially seek approval for producing food, safety and anything else needed for survival.
It’s in men’s genes. Males in most species have long been defenders of territories deemed necessary for well-being; farm men are responding to a genetic inclination I like to call the agrarian imperative.
Many farm men define their worth partly through ownership of land, property such as big tractors, positions of authority and other symbols that are viewed as “markers” of masculinity and leadership, like recognition as a top crop producer or livestock show winner.
Successful emulation of an esteemed elder is also deemed important, especially to farm boys. I raced the 16-year-old hero of my small parochial school one summer evening after my baseball game when I was 12 years old. I drove our farm pickup truck while he drove a hot ’57 Chevy.
He was the cool “Fonzie” all the local girls wanted to go out with and all the boys wanted to be like.
He spun so much dust on the gravel road we raced on that I couldn’t see where I was driving and caromed into the ditch.
Deep trouble. My truck didn’t roll, but it was high centered on the grassy slope of the ditch.
I prayed for divine forgiveness as I walked to my tiny town’s grocery store, hoping to ask for help from the proprietor, if he was still up at this time of night. He was!
“Your dad will punish more than you want if he finds out what you did,” this kind man said as he pulled my truck out of the ditch. He wouldn’t take the cash I offered in appreciation, but he figured I had learned something.
The real proof of potency is in giving to our families, communities, our country or the larger realm of mankind, and not necessarily by winning any kind of competition. The store proprietor helped me more than he probably ever knew, for it took me years to figure out the full value of his lesson.
When I told his widow the story some months after he died a few years back, she cried and I know she was grateful. Her husband’s act of understanding had an impact that is still spreading, more than through this article.
No one needs to know our acts of kindness and selflessness. They multiply quietly and in ways we never suspect.
The guys at the local coffee shop will discuss who the “Fonzie” was when they read this article. They will also probably figure out who taught me an important lesson that winning isn’t so important in the long run, and that it is OK.
This unassuming man might have touched some of them as well. But I’m not telling who the “Fonzie” was.
Yes, a big truck is fun. My son uses it to transport his growing family and to carry out chores for his family and community. He and I will also take it on fishing, hunting and camping excursions.
I hope I can raise my decrepit knees high enough to crawl into the truck when he replaces the off-road tires with the even bigger mudders he has ordered. Marilyn says she will need a step-stool or ladder to get into his vehicle.
My 10-year-old Jeep is fine for me and I will probably replace it with something similar when it quits running. I need something humble at this stage of my learning.
Mike Rosmann is a Harlan, Iowa, psychologist and farmer. To contact him, go to www.agbehavioralhealth.com.