• Thomas A. Wilson

Four Characteristics of Underliving Men

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

After twenty-three years in the corrections field, including seven years as Associate Warden of Programs/Housing at Montana State Prison, I’ve discovered four characteristics of underliving men. Men of this ilk capitulate to limbic tendencies without regard for things: heroic, productive, clever, or faithful.

Characteristic Number One

Underliving men view others, and systems, as resources to manipulate and exploit. In selfishness, they disregard the demands (and costs) of rules; they mooch off other productive people.

Characteristic Number Two

With no appreciation for the truth, underliving men lie easily. Lying to avoid consequences and reality, they hide inside a false narrative; they’re cowards by default.

Characteristic Number Three

With anemic coping skills, underliving men are quick to exhibit anger and sulkiness; they are physical and emotional bullies.

Characteristic Number Four

With no moral compass, underliving men easily succumb to vice; they’re pigs.

Adam (not his real name) is a case in point. Adam harassed and bullied the mother of his child until she couldn’t take it anymore. She asked prison staff to initiate a “no-contact” order, and they did. Adam wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, so he solicited family members to do his dirty work, and continued to call using other inmates’ phone accounts. He wrote demanding letters and tried to slip them past staff. Adam mooched off others to circumvent the rules.

When given a disciplinary infraction for his behavior, he lied saying, “I thought the no-contact prohibition had been lifted.” Yet, in the body of the letter (that warranted the infraction), he asked the mother of his child to call and ask prison staff to lift the prohibition! Adam wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Adam had already established his propensity for personal piggishness. One of the main reasons his former significant-other was done with him was because, while she was mothering his child, he started a sexual relationship with another woman. Oink.

Adam believed that he possessed a personal free pass to hustle others. He argued vehemently that the mother of his child was wrong, the system was wrong, the Hearings Officer was wrong. Everybody was wrong except poor misunderstood victim, Adam. But Adam isn’t a victim. He is a predator who has deified himself—All hail, Lord Adam—and that makes him a very dangerous man.

Underliving men exploit, lie, bully, and succumb to vice. Men on this continuum seem to have a blind spot. They see the flaws in others (like Adam—he’s an incarcerated felon, after all), but not the Adamic tendencies in themselves. They climb the ladder of the slide.

The slide, of course, is the freefall into misery that awaits. Like a playground slide positioned over a tub of human sludge, they invariably croak out sentiments of regret as they race toward their unpleasant splashdown: the divorce, bankruptcy, or jail cell. They weren’t quite as emotional as they climbed the ladder of the slide, one intentional step at a time.

Authentic men aren’t like Adam. They’re self-aware; they have a different role model. They jump from the ladder of the slide as soon as they realize they've put themselves and others at risk. Broken ankle be damned, they'd rather pluck out an eye than offend. They pull their own weight, they carry their own load, and they cultivate the seeds they plant.


The desire to fight can lead to either heroism or bullying. Fleeing can produce cleverness or cowardice. The need to feed inspires both producer and moocher. The procreative urge can manifest in faithfulness or piggishness. Whatever we believe in relation to these deep primal mental constructs becomes a feedback loop that filters what we take in and energizes what we put out.

Affirmation of the Week: I am a heroic, productive, clever, faithful man—today and every day as I experience all of life in an authentic way.

56 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All