Tonic Masculinity: Fortitude

In a time when finding reasons to be “offended” is a national pastime, and our children are indoctrinated into imagined victimhood, fortitude stands out like a lighthouse amid a dark and stormy sea of chaos and ignorance.

“Men who fall, pick themselves up, fall again, and are trying to get back up when they die.” -Theodore Roosevelt

The American Heritage Dictionary defines fortitude as:

  1. Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.
  2. Strength; force; power to attack or to resist attack.
  3. Mental power of endurance; patient courage under affliction, privation, or temptation; firmness in confronting danger, hardship, or suffering.

“The longer I live the more I think of the quality of fortitude,” said a paragon of this virtue, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919). “Men who fall, pick themselves up and stumble on, fall again, and are trying to get back up when they die.”

How well this quality would help so many people who have been convinced that they are “victims”; that the world somehow owes them an apology…and perhaps some form of “reparations.” I’ve got news for people who buy into the sickness of self-pity: The world doesn’t owe you anything, and if you linger in feeling sorry for yourself, you’re only a victim of your own attitude.

Character is forged in the fires of adversity.

While it’s right and good to help others who’ve been victimized, nobody likes a professional victim. There comes a point when you have to move on, pick yourself up and “stumble on.” You have it in your power to overcome adversity, to strive against challenges and opposition and emerge a better and stronger person.

Here’s another news flash: Everyone experiences injustice, prejudice, and persecution. You do yourself and the world a disservice when you set up camp in the neighborhood of victimhood. Take it from the Cambridge Dictionary definition of victimhood: “The condition of having been hurt, damaged, or made to suffer, especially when you want people to feel sorry for you because of this or use it as an excuse.”

Fake victimhood.

So let’s dispense with that attitude right now. You have intrinsic worth as a human being made in the image of God. Your race, your creed, your culture or the color of your skin don’t define you or determine your worth; your character does.

And character is forged in the fires of adversity. The best lives, like the best movies and books, are stories of overcoming. This is the theme of every sport worth watching—someone is trying to stop you from succeeding, and you must contend for the prize. Without opposition and hardship, you cannot grow. Without fortitude in the face of it, you won’t progress and you cannot win.

Masculine men are not easily broken.

The opposite of fortitude is fragility. Masculine men are not easily broken. They have strength in such abundance that they can protect and defend those with less of it. Strong men not only protect children and those struggling under true adversity, they model fortitude and the potential to overcome the hardships inherent in life and emerge victorious. Weak men, whiny men who wallow in self-pity do not offer value or inspiration to the world.

“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” -Helen Keller

Made blind and deaf by illness at 19 months of age, Helen Keller (1880-1968) could have claimed to be a victim of the cruelty of fate; yet she became a great soul and is admired to this day. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet,” she wrote. “Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

Helen Keller

And, yes, I’m using a woman as an example for men because truth is not determined by gender or skin color. Men can learn a great deal about fortitude from remarkable women, often including their mothers. (Yes, mothers…teach your sons to be strong. Raising them to avoid feeling sorry for themselves is a form of love. “Helicopter moms” do not prepare their sons to face life with fortitude.)

“The only courage worth calling courage,” wrote G.K. Chesterton, “must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.”

Reality requires fortitude, endurance, and resilience.

The world is not out to get you…but the world is out to get you. It has not singled you out. The history of mankind has been replete with forces trying to destroy human beings: predators, bacteria and viruses, other people, the heat of the sun, the cold of winter—for Pete’s sake, even plants can kill people! Reality requires fortitude, endurance, and resilience.

Everyone needs these qualities, but especially men. Whether or not some people today want to deny biology, men are physically stronger than women. They are made to protect their families and communities. This kind of strength is a gift that should be valued and cultivated. It is a form of selfless love that the male gender has a responsibility to give to the world.

Weak men are useless; weak men deny their calling. Men can be wheelchair-bound or even paralyzed and still have mental fortitude and power of will. In fact, those who refuse to be victims of their physical state often develop uncommon levels of fortitude because of the daily challenges they overcome.

“I thank God for my handicaps. For through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God,” wrote Helen Keller.

Attempts to feminize men do a great disservice to society.

Of course, male strength can be used for evil by men of low character to harm those they should protect, to steal and kill and abuse. But this very fact is all the more reason for good men to build the fortitude, strength and courage to oppose evil. Attempts to feminize men do a great disservice to society; you can bet that evil men will not grow soft or compliant. They will ever be a threat to the safety and stability of society.

We need men with fortitude.

We need men with the strength of mind to endure pain and adversity with courage.

We need men with the power to attack and defend.

We need men with the power to endure.

We need men capable of patient courage under affliction, privation and temptation.

We need men capable of firmness in confronting danger, hardship and suffering.

Boys, the world needs you to develop into such a man; men, we need you to be masculine and strong.

The world needs now, more than ever, MEN with fortitude.

“Staying power. The bottom line? Stay with it, man. Stick by your commitments. Stand by your promises. Never, never let go, no matter what. When marriage isn’t fun…stay in it. When parenting is over your head…stay at it. When work is crushing your spirit…don’t let it beat you. When the local church is overwhelmed with pettiness…stay by it. When your children let you down…pick them up. When your wife goes through a six-month mood swing…live with it. When it’s fourth and fourteen with no time on the clock…throw another pass.” -Stu Weber

Kelly John Walker is an American statesman, senior writer, and entrepreneur. He is Founder of FreedomTalk, Host of FreedomTalkTV, and a freelance writer published in George Magazine, The Washington Times, Gateway Pundit, The Epoch Times, Andrew Magazine, Townhall, and others. Kelly holds a BA in English & Theology, and a Master of Science degree on a graduate fellowship with the US Department of Defense. He had a distinguished career as a conservation professional before founding two award-winning advertising agencies. His newest project is the “Fathering in a World Gone Mad” series featuring Eric Metaxas, Victor Marx, Sheriff Mark Lamb, Clay Clark, and more. Find out more at


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