What Men Can Learn From Beowulf

When I saw Beowulf I was struck by how much it relates to my life. I’m guessing there’s a lot of men out there just like Beowulf. **Note: I do give away the story here so be forewarned. And, lots of conjecture here.

The old English poem has many interpretations. I’m choosing to focus on the 2007 Hollywood version (which is distinctly different from the original story and well worth the watch) since it’s the only one I have seen. I’m also choosing to laser in on how it personally relates to my life in hopes that it may serve yours.

In watching the movie, one pertinent question emerged:

How can I hold true to my integrity and maintain my powercenter* in the face of all the seductions, challenges, and distractions in life?

(*by “powercenter” I mean the lower dantian. Marital artists know this as the center of gravity in our bodies and critical to holding one’s ground during conflict, combat, etc. I’m no martial artist, but I do apply it to the rest of my life).

The Hollywood Beowulf tale is about a powerful warrior who can kill any beast with his bare hands, but then caves in the face of a dark feminine “monster.”

In order for this (dark) feminine to give birth to a dragon, she needs the seed of a warrior willing to betray himself (dark masculine), which is precisely what Beowulf does. She uses him, he uses her. They make each other stronger (by ego standards) by working together.  Then in his misery and to gain some self-respect back, he has to slay the dragon he birthed.

My interpretation of this particular Beowulf tale is about how tempting it is to betray myself in the face of the seductive energies in life. These “seductive” energies are whatever could “take me out” of my center and out of my integrity.

When given the opportunity, it appears that a lot of us men will abandon ourselves (and our center) for the promise of getting something “better” or feeling “better.” Or, we might get hooked by the desire for an ‘instant gratification quick-hit’ which serves us in avoiding the deeper work that might be called for. Or when I’m not able or willing to tolerate the discomfort (charge) in the face of adversity, I buckle and give away my life force.

For example, when we need to get shit done in life and focus, we face a variety of “seductive” energies (from porn, to sports, to napping, to facebook) that also seduce our attention away from the task at hand. For an ADD-mind like mine, it can be challenging to stay on target.

When Beowulf takes his eye off the ball by sleeping with Angelina Jolie, he gains his perceived power and his ego’s appetite gets temporarily satisfied. He has all the riches he wants, he becomes a powerful leader with lots of willing followers, and he can have any woman he desires. But none of it is any remedy for the shame he feels having betrayed his own integrity by giving his power away.  Then he chooses to lie in order to face his comrades, thus feeling like shit.

Of course, like many of us who feel ashamed, he chooses to keep it a secret for the rest of his life, and so others don’t really know that he is inwardly lost and ghost-like having lost his self-respect. Thus the hero remains sick inside, dead, empty, lost. Why? Perhaps because he doesn’t even respect himself.

And, this is how it is when we take the easy road of distraction. It feels good now then bites us in the ass later.

A classic example is an affair, or an affair with porn. Men will keep it a secret thus giving their shame added strength and credibility. On top of hidden shame, these men will discharge their “seed” regularly, thus giving away their life force over and over. And the cycle continues. Yet temporary “quick hits” are no match for the results that come from deeper rigor and work.

This is what happens when a man is unable or unwilling to hold true to himself, his body, and his integrity. He lets just about anything invade his space that “feels good” and that gives him respite from any discomfort (intense charge) he may feel in his life.  I imagine most of us can find ourselves relating to Beowulf in some aspect of our lives.

Think about it. It’s pretty hard to maintain our powercenter in this fast-paced culture with endless distractions coming at us all day long.  And, when I don’t occupy my center, I’m vulnerable to “checking out” behaviors that distract me from staying “on target” and “in my center” in life.

Now you might be thinking this sounds overly rigid or righteous. Maybe. But the issue for me here is not that Beowulf drops the ball. It’s that he A) hides after having done so and B) doesn’t implement any discipline practices to make himself stronger.

I drop the ball all the time. It’s when I hide that I give my shame power. When I reveal myself and show my humanness openly with others, I don’t carry the burden of shame around.  I can make my mistake, take responsibility for it, and get back on target.

Yet knowing I drop the ball a lot, I also put in to place practices that support me getting strong in myself over time.

Beowulf even tried to “fess up” to his human ways to his closest comrade only to have his most loyal, trusted friend deflect and dismiss his vulnerability, which men often do to each other. What if instead, our closest friends said, “That sucks. Yes, I am here to listen and I can handle anything that you bring, mistakes and all.  Now, get back in the game. You got this. I believe in you.”

Bottom line?

I am leaving my powercenter when I choose not to own the serpent between my legs. When I can’t hold the charge in my body, I leak it out and even spill it out. My serpent, after blowing its load, becomes a vacuum “available” for other stuff to come in and occupy it. Then, depending on how great my numbness, dissociation, shame or guilt is, I will continually struggle in the face of not taking responsibility for my occupying my own body. Numb becomes the new norm.

Yes, I will not be perfect and I will lose my center and betray my own integrity. It’s how I handle these human fumbles where my growth will occur.  And, if I stay in touch with my longing and hunger for more depth, truth, and power, I will slowly, over time, wake up out of my lazy, complacent ways.

This is of course easier when every single thing in my life matters to me. If I am living a life where I hate my job or feel dead in my relationship, I’m toast. If, on the other hand, I care deeply about each thing I do and every hour of the day and how I spend it, over time I will tolerate less fluff, filler, or distraction.

6 steps to remedy the Beowulf fumble

  1. Choose to own my space (occupy my body) instead of caving in to whatever feels good.
  2. Get a tribe of men together that have my back and won’t let me continue  to hit the snooze button in life.
  3. Learn the art of deep discipline. Strangely, discipline supports surrender.
  4. When I do fall down, because I will, learn how to be open about my humanity. Share my vulnerability, shame, embarrassment, and mistakes with others so I can be seen and practice knowing that I am still worthy of love and respect.
  5. Get back on the horse and back in my body.
  6. Repeat.




  • EivindFS

    Reply Reply March 15, 2012

    Hey Jayson,

    It’s fun to see you do a treatment on Beowfulf as well. I enjoyed the movie when I wrote about it many years ago and I particularly remember the insights I gained about the dark feminine, which I perceive as having gifts to offer as well.

    I like what you say here and the room you give yourself to mess up (and then course-correct). I notice I relax when I read that. And I resonate completely with not hiding my perceived weaknesses. I think that’s one of the keys to a life well lived.

    Inspired by reading your words, I have spent 30 minutes updating my old review. It reads much better now! I hope you don’t mind that I share the link to it here: http://www.masculinity-movies.com/movie-database/beowulf


    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 18, 2012

      great Elvind and thank you for your site about masculinity movies! I went on your site specifically to discover Beowulf! I read your review and said “that’s it.” boom!!!

      • EivindFS

        Reply Reply April 14, 2012

        Oh, wow – I didn’t know that, Jayson! Cool – thanks for telling me. Sounds like there’s a bit of a backstory there. Would love to hear it some day.

        What was the “that’s it” about?

  • Sleeping Realities

    Reply Reply March 15, 2012

    Great post. I haven’t seen the movie, but now I want to. As a woman, I am concerned about the other “fumble” that so often happens in situations like you describe: blame, fear, and reject the feminine. We see this pattern in myth after myth, even the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, when Adam tells God, “this woman you gave me made me eat the forbidden fruit.” Does the movie address this or just add to this deep, cultural anti-feminine bias?
    Both the masculine and feminine energies have their light and dark sides. It’s important to note. And the remedy, as you so accurately point out, is that each of us must own our own power.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 18, 2012

      I’m with you. This movie wasn’t overtly anti-feminine, although one could interpret it that way for sure. To blame a woman for my inadequacies or faults is silly. I love how the women in my life ask more of me and I’m inspired to show up there. I’m with you, trust our own power and let’s hold the masculine and feminine in balance with love and respect.

  • Jordan Kane

    Reply Reply March 16, 2012

    Thank you once again Jayson for your efforts to get me and our fellow brothers out of the shadows and into our empowered bodies! My shame seems to be surfacing more and more because of support from you and other good men in the community. I feel so grateful.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 18, 2012

      you are welcome brother! thanks for waking up out of the fog.

  • gwalter

    Reply Reply March 16, 2012

    Great post. I have not watched the movie – saw just a part of it at a friend’s house, and it looked like some sci-fi fantasy, so I walked away. Your narrative, and the narrative of Beowulf, is mine. Scarily accurate.

    Just tonight, I was talking to my wife about some of these same issues – and my lack of good response to pressure. Today I had some deadlines, but due to a crazy work schedule, and the need to be a Dad today, I was a walking zombie. I had neither the desire, or the space to recharge. So, instead, I procrastinated on Internets.

    I realized last week that I do that too much – it is an escape. I drown out the noise, the buzz, and the everlasting to-do list in my head. Due to a lack of discipline, a crazy schedule, and a host of other “circumstances,” I don’t find myself ready to be in the game.

    My family needs me, my kids want me, I want to escape. So I compromise. I sit, like a slug, in the recliner with my laptop, tablet, or phone. I’m physically present, but I’ve created a silo of isolation around me.

    Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone. Thanks for the practical reminders to regain the strength.

    (I’ve reposted this here: https://www.facebook.com/daddytude )

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 18, 2012

      Thanks for being so real with your own story here. I’m sure you are not the only one. I wonder how you are going to choose to get out of your “silo of isolation?” report back and let us know. stay on it. your family needs your presence and you need it!!!!

  • Ethan Lanpher

    Reply Reply March 16, 2012

    I never thought masturbation was really that detrimental, only a necessary release. Although it is only momentarily gratifying and leaves me feeling drained, empty, and sometimes ashamed. I was always taught that it was something everyone did privately as if it were part of being human. I much prefer the energy exchange of making love where two hearts, two bodies, and two souls become one. This leaves me feeling full, complete, and proud. I see now that I have many more distractions in my life to eliminate and therefore refocus my energies. Thank you for reminding me!

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 18, 2012

      I’m not sure where you are going with this, but I’m not saying masturbation is bad. I think masturbation is wonderul and necessary. It’s all in the “how” it’s being done for me and too often in my life it has been a distraction away from discomfort, then shame/guilt— instead of joy, pleasure and bliss.

  • empwrdlife

    Reply Reply April 18, 2012

    Nice review Jayson of Beowulf and the Beowulf in many men today; I include myself. Shame is the silent killer; a gift that wont stop giving until it is acknowledged outloud as present in the presence of others.

    When I occassionally have a couple free hours to myself I have to conciously choose to “occupy my body” by putting myself in a place mentally, and often times physically, where I dont allow myself unconsciousness and escape through porn. And you are so correct- my body is going to be occupied by something; I can claim ownership of that space or check out and let it be occupied by whatever feels good at the moment.

    Today, I took a phenomenal 2 hour hike. During my hike I paused and consciously connected my body with where I was at- outside in the sunshine, surrounded by high desert rock canyons, fox and hawk around me. I felt myself in this place and I felt how good being here made me feel. I also thought about what I had chosen not to do, and owned how much more fulfilled my body felt, I felt, in that moment.

    I am enjoying your candor and encouragement in your posts. Thanks for sharing and keep it up!


    • Jayson

      Reply Reply April 20, 2012

      Tood, thanks. and wonderful reminder that hiking in the wilderness is yet another way we can occupy ourselves. awesome!

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