Why Real Men Keep a Journal

Pen Paper

I thought keeping a journal, aka a diary, was for girls or that it was an exercise in narcissistic navel gazing. I’m not sure where I got those notions. Perhaps I absorbed them from TV shows or movies where the majority of journal keepers are portrayed by the feminine gender. Regardless of how I came to those conclusions, I was wrong.

I was convinced of the value of keeping a journal by an article titled 30 Days to a Better Man Day 8: Start a Journal published in The Art of Manliness, a journal I discovered several months ago. Refreshingly, unlike most “men’s journals”, The Art of Manliness is not filled with bikini clad women and articles on how to improve your sex life. Instead, it focuses on substantive and practical topics such as How to Whistle with Your Fingers, Latin Words and Phrases Every Man Should Know, How to Take a Punch, Outfitted & Equipped: Working at a Coffee Shop, and How to Accept a Compliment With Class.

What immediately caught my attention in the the article on journaling was the list of famous/infamous men who kept journals:

  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Charles Darwin
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Lewis and Clark
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Captain Cook
  • Winston Churchill
  • Sir Edmund Hilary
  • Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton

I figured if Lewis and Clark and Captain Cook can keep a journal then it can’t be too sissified! The author also sets forth the benefits of journal keeping. Each person will have his or her own reasons but for me they include:

  • It helps one remember events and people. I have a poor memory. Keeping a journal helps me remember the events and people God has used to shape my life.

  • It facilitates reflection. I may reflect a bit more deeply on my devotions, on what I have learned from some event or person, or on my blessings. Reflecting on my blessings has been an unexpected soul enriching blessing in and of itself.

  • I can chronicle what I have learned professionally as a school leader. Learning from one’s experiences is invaluable but requires a few minutes to stop and reflect. Journaling encourages such reflection.

  • I will leave behind a chronicle for my children and grandchildren. While I’m under no delusion that my children and grandchildren will want to read about my ordinary life, they may want to learn something of my life: the lessons I’ve learned and their heritage. Perhaps the Lord can use it teach them the truth that “man plans his ways but The Lord directs his steps.” That has certainly been true of my life.

What I will not do is use the journal as a confessional, for ranting, for sharing confidential information (aka gossiping) about others, or for navel gazing. My journal is intended to chronicle lessons learned, for recalling and counting my many blessings, and to leave a record of these for my children and grandchildren with the prayer that the Lord will use it to bless them. I will not lie about my struggles nor will I write a propaganda piece designed to put my life in the best light. I will be honest but without wallowing in self-pity or unprofitable and unseemly self-absorption.

There are many tools you can use for journaling. The author suggests several tools from pen and paper to online journals. I am using Day One because it is elegantly designed and has applications that sync the journal with my Mac, iPad, and iPhone. It is also consistent with my paperless workflow.

I wish I had started journaling as a young man. But, better late than never. Start keeping a journal. It’s a manly thing to do.