In an increasingly impersonal world, it is easy for individuals to become isolated and distant, even in a crowded room. Largely gone are the days of gathering on a neighbor’s porch, taking a walk with a trusted elder, or spending time in community to gain insights, emulate role models and soak in the accumulated lived wisdom of those who came before.

 

Such connections are in particularly short supply among men as they try to navigate the often-conflicting roles of father, provider, husband and upstanding member of society. With the rise of single-parent households, more boys than ever before are growing up without a consistent positive male role model in the home. Societal pressures and media images add their own brand of stress and pressure on teens and young adult men as they flounder to ascertain who and what they are expected to be.

 

For this year’s Men’s Issue, AY About You reached out to a cross section of Arkansas men to get their best advice for their brethren, the coming generation, and their own sons and grandsons. Their real-world advice tells of the importance of becoming a strong man in a misguided society, what real manhood looks like and what life has taught them about how to achieve it.

 

The individuals included here are not perfect, nor do they pretend to be. They are merely wiser for their life experiences and willing to share what they have learned with those who seek to hear it. May their advice inspire other men to rededicate themselves, break generational cycles, overcome obstacles and become the best versions of themselves.

 

•••••••••

 

“How you respond to adversity will define you as a man. Never shy away from the battle; address each challenge with vigor and make steps each day towards a conclusion of which you can be proud.

 

Most of us will make mistakes. I know I have, but I wanted my sons to see me acknowledge my error, to seek forgiveness from those that I may have been hurt, to do everything within my power to make things right. A man is not defined by failure. He is defined by how he responds to failure.

 

I was fortunate to grow up in a strong church in Clarendon, Arkansas, with parents who were flawed but who cared more about others than they cared about themselves and who loved me without condition.

 

My dad was a coach in that rural Delta community for 35 years. Clarendon was a tough river town that was poor. I witnessed my father make a difference in the lives of young people who did not have a whole lot to believe in. He demanded effort, and he demanded a march towards perfection each day, even though we all know that perfection is an unreachable goal. The victory is in the effort, the redemption, the tenacious will to battle on in spite of our failings and shortcomings.

 

I have failed in my personal relationships. I have failed in my attempts to lead my business. I have often not been the type of father my children deserved, but I will battle, and I will try to earn the respect of those who doubt me because of my poor choices. To the next generation I say do not be defined by failure, but instead let how you respond to failure be your beacon to those that matter.”

 

Rush Harding

Director of Investments and Strategic Opportunities, Bank OZK

Husband to Linda

Father to Shaylea, Rush “Buddy” IV and Payne

Grandfather to Elowen, Ruby, Rush V, Wilder and Mila

 

READ ALSO: Man to Man — Walk the Line, Cager Bandy