Essential Manhood, Part 4: Faithfulness

Think about your stereotypical politician. Do you trust him? Chances are the answer is no. Why is that? It seems that modern politicians will say whatever they think will help them get into office. Much of the time politicians appear to make promises that they can’t or don’t intend to keep for the sake of garnering votes. According to this USA Today article, most U.S. presidents at least try to uphold their promises, but often fail once in office due to changes in the world or new information. This adds to the cynicism held by the typical voter that politicians aren’t truthful.

It could be said that politicians are not faithful – they can’t be trusted, their word is no good. I believe that faithfulness is an essential quality of men. I think men who cannot be trusted to be true to their word are viewed as bad men; whereas a man who is faithful to his promises is seen as a good man.

About Faithfulness

I would like to further define what I really mean by faithfulness when it comes to masculinity; because we are not just talking about being truthful or trying to fulfill our promises. I believe this is a quality of a decent human being. Everyone should strive to be faithful. I am also not talking about faithfulness in relationship, although that is a part of being a good man. No, I am speaking here of a much more intense sort of faithfulness or diligence, one that has a sort of tenacity.

In order to describe what I am speaking about I would like to use the story of William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a member of the British parliament in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. He was known for his passion around social reform. However he is better known for his work in ending the slave trade in the British Colonies, and his work toward the total abolition of slavery in most of the British Empire in 1833.

The Reluctant Abolitionist

Wilberforce was persuaded, in 1787, to join the cause of abolition by a group of abolitionists (Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharp, Hannah Moore, and Charles Middleton). He reluctantly agreed to bring legislation forward in parliament to end the slave trade. After some thought and consultation with a good friend in parliament (William Pitt who soon became Prime Minister), Wilberforce took on the cause with passion.

His first bill was soundly defeated in parliament. There was much resistance to the abolition of slavery due to its connection with sugar and the production of other resources. Not to mention that many of the parliament members benefitted financially from the slave trade in one way or another.

The Steadfast Champion

Nevertheless, William Wilberforce continued to gather evidence for the abolition of the slave trade and he continued to present the bill in parliament every year, gaining more votes each time. Then the war with France broke out (1793) and there was so much fear that if they abolish the lucrative slave trade the French would then take it up and win the war as a result of the increased revenue. Therefore, the mood in parliament swung quickly against abolition. Despite this resistance and the fear that he may be viewed as seditious, Wilberforce continued to introduce bills to abolish the slave trade throughout the 1790’s.

Throughout this time, William Wilberforce struggled with his health. He developed a stress related illness, thought to be ulcerative colitis, in 1787, soon after joining the abolitionist cause. This illness was brutal, at times making it impossible to work for several months at a time. Despite this vicious illness, Wilberforce continued to champion the cause.

It wasn’t until late in the war, when France reintroduced slavery, that the national mood turned against the slave trade again. In 1806 Wilberforce was able to introduce a shrewd bill that did not abolish the slave trade, but effectively killed 80% of it by making it much more difficult for slave ships to safely travel. The bill passed as the abolitionists made sure not to call attention to the real purpose of the bill. Finally, in 1807 Wilberforce hade victory in the House of Lords, passing his bill to abolish the slave trade by a wide majority.

Masculine Faithfulness

Wilberforce’s fight for the abolition of the slave trade illustrates perfectly what I believe to be a masculine trait, and one that is essential to masculinity even more. Wilberforce encountered obstacle after obstacle in his fight for abolition; he struggled in his health; people mocked him. Most people would not have thought much less of him had he given up the fight. But he didn’t. He fought until he won. He said he would do it and he did.

The kind of faithfulness I am talking about is the kind that perseveres despite significant resistance. A faithful man is true to his word even if it is difficult. He pushes through the obstacles, fighting to accomplish that which he has said he would do. You can see this trait in the most respected men throughout history and even in popular culture. My mind is drawn to Samwise Gamgee, the real hero of the Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, who promises to be with Frodo until the end; and even though Frodo turns on him and things get really tough, Sam makes good on his promise. That is a quality of a good man