A Kids Book Taught Me How To Be A Man

"A Kids Book Taught Me How To Be A Man"

By: Andrew Bell- Ramos


"Selfish people tend to only be good to themselves... then are surprised when they are alone.”- Steve Maraboli

I vividly remember being around 5 or 6 years old when my grandmother first read to me the children’s book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. For most I’m sure it would just be another life lesson about morality simplified down for the understanding of children, but for me I had a very different experience. At 5 years old me and my similar aged companions had simple lives. We were losing teeth, learning how to tie our shoes and deicing that chicken nuggets were our favorite foods, but for me I had a emotional awakening that shook me to my core and framed my view of people forever.

In the book there is a boy and a Tree. The boy and the tree have a strong friendship that has bonded them together, they play and talk and care for each other and enjoy spending time together very much. A very heart warming story. However, the dynamic of this relationship changes a lot over time. As the boy begins to get older he no longer enjoys just spending time with the tree. His needs and wants change and the tree changes to meet the needs of the boy. What starts as a harmless inquire for simple things, over the years turns into what could be described as an un-healthy relationship at best, and narcissistic entitlement and harmful enabling at its worst.

The boy asks the Tree for something he perceives will make him happy and the Tree willingly gives it, despite the fact the Boy is the only one who gains anything from these exchanges. Leaving the tree further and further damaged far beyond the point any repair. The Boy neither acknowledges the damage he is causing this Tree that cares for him so, nor seems to care about it.


One day the Boy, (now an older man) tells the tree he wants a better life away from his problems and chops down the tree to make a boat to sail away from his troubles. The Tree, at this point has giving it’s complete entirety to further the happiness of his boy, finds itself a lonely stump who has nothing left to give. After a long while the boy returns as he always did, finding out what he thought would make him happy didn’t. The Tree tells the boy it has nothing left to give him other than a place to sit. The Boy notices he had already taken everything the Tree had ever had to offer to try and make himself happy, which leaves the boy with a strong sense of remorse and regret.

As soon as the pages of that slim green book met as my Grandmother closed it, I was speechless.

I could not comprehend how anyone could behave like the Boy treated the Tree. I started looking at everyone around me as either acting “Like the Boy” or acting “Like the Tree”, and I decided that I would never act how the Boy acted, even if I ended up with nothing in the end like the Tree. In the story the Tree was the bigger person and was right the entire time.

Anyone can tell someone that they are acting poorly or selfish. However, if they realize it for themselves it has so much more power. This does not mean I condone being a “pushover” or letting people walk all over you. Simply I’m proposing that letting someone realize they’ve been treating someone poorly elicits a stronger emotion, and are more likely to take a life lasting changing action.

I believe it was the great Tony Robbins who said, “If you say something to someone it can only be 50% true, if they say it themselves it’s 100% true.”

Imagine the following scenario for example. You have a friend named “Tim”. Now Tim has a destructive drug habit. Tim is FAR more likely to turn his life around if he wakes up one day and really internalizes how his behavior has hurt all the ones around him that he deeply cares for. Rather than having people tell him he’s a loser to his face over and over again.

Being right and not saying anything, then having the other person realize it gives you, (not only the best feeling in the entire world.) It makes you “double right”. Not only were they wrong, you didn’t correct them or say anything about it. It’s one of the fastest ways to earn respect, especially if their actions or words were harmful to you.

What does The Giving Tree have to do with being a Gentlemen? Everything.

Gentlemen will always get the short end of the stick, and should. Provision and protection is our role. Other people have to come first before ourselves by definition. You can be a Gentlemen and not buy into this concept, but I think it’s were the biggest Gent’s separate themselves from the already small number in this demographic.

Think back to a time in your life when you were the Boy. Being the only person who benefited from a deal or exchange of some kind, possibly and perhaps un-knowingly harming the other person.

Doesn’t feel good does it?...

Now think back to a time in your life when you were the Tree. Giving what little you had to selflessly make someone other than yourself happy, that you didn’t benefit from in any way.

Even being left with nothing, even if it hurts. It’s worth it.

You may even be haunted by the decision for nights, thinking back to if you made the right choice. However, later in life you will be the one who sleeps with no regret, even if the other person never cared or even was happy or proud that they “took advance of your stupidity”. You will still be right.