Esse Quam Videri

In 1871, not yet 100 years after the US declared independence from England, North Carolina requested a state seal to be created containing the Latin phrase “ Esse Quam Videri” (Essay Kwam Wee-day-ree) which means “ To Be, Rather Than To Seem.” In 1893 the state adopted it as their official motto. In reading through the F3 Lexicon I noticed a reference to this phrase as well, aptly applied to the men of F3.

“Esse Quam Videris – To Be Rather Than Seem. Violating the EQV means being a Mascot rather than a Man. It’s a Put-on.” – F3 Lexicon


I applaud my state for choosing such a manly motto, for it has its origins in virtues. The phrase is taken from Cicero’s essay “On Friendship”:

“Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt” (Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so). – Marcus Tullius Cicero, On Friendship, Roman Philosopher and Poet, 106 BC – 43 BC

Being a Man vs. Appearing a Man

In the last several years there have been many things popping up in our culture that call out for the quick and easy adoption of the appearance of manliness rather than the life-giving and stabilizing virtues that truly make up manliness. I am referring to hipsters mostly: flannel shirts, beards, jeans, mustaches, and a good dose of metal and leather somewhere in the mix. That’s not to say you can’t adopt this style and still be a man, you certainly can. It is to say, however, that you can’t adopt a masculine appearance and expect to have the rewards or respect due a real man.

Macho vs. Manly


1. denoting or exhibiting pride in characteristics believed to be typically masculine, such as physical strength, sexual appetite, etc


1. possessing qualities, such as vigour or courage, generally regarded as appropriate to or typical of a man; masculine

The internet of things is full of stuff that appeals to the epithumia, or appetitive nature, of being a man. (I’m all about the Latin today.) As the definition of macho points out, strength and sexual appetite are part of being a man, but they are not to weigh too heavily against the other qualities of manliness (vigor, courage, humility, temperance, industry, etc.), else, we will be led to a disgraceful end. In many cases, we (men) give far too much respect to those guys in the media that appear macho rather than manly. You know, the tough guy, the take-no-crap guy, the sleep-with-a-different-woman-every-episode guy. We have been taught that this is manliness, and we have believed a lie.

Some of us may try to live our lives outwardly expressing macho characteristics, because it’s easier and more immediately rewarding than digging deep, planting, and tending to the budding sprouts of manliness. Don’t be fooled. The fruit of manliness is sweet. Accept no substitutes.

Being Genuine vs. Seeming Perfect

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher, 121 AD – 180 AD

I love how “perfect” people repel me. I imagine you feel the same. I have had friends come to churches that I have attended only to be put off because everyone seems so “put together and perfect”. Isn’t that true? People often wear their Sunday best, put on a smile, keep their kids in-line, sit still, agree with what is preached, don’t ask questions…you see what I mean, right? That can be a real barrier for some people.

When we try to “seem” we put on an image greater than we really are and it is apparent to everyone but ourselves. The great thing about “being” a man is that we get to be real with everyone. Our faults and failures are often seen like the scars of battle; lessons we have been taught in an up-close and real way. A real man’s true and hard-won qualities draw others in, inspire others, and add to a legacy we can be proud of.

Seeming Until You Can Be

Part of becoming a man is putting on the virtues of manliness. This process takes some time. For example, suppose you know you ought to stick it out in your marriage because of the commitment you have made (honor, integrity), even though you feel like giving in and calling it quits. It would be quite appropriate to do what appears right before you are convinced it is right. As another example, suppose you have the option of telling the truth even if it means you’ll have hell to pay for doing so. You tell the truth because you believe, intellectually, it is right, but you haven’t quite grown to the point where you are absolutely convicted of it as an unquestionable virtue directly tied to your honor. You may appear to others as a very truthful person, while internally you are wrestling with your decision.

The difference here is that you are not putting on a façade out of pride, rather you are sanding against your own grain, working out the kinks in your character, shaping yourself into the man you want to be.

Final Thoughts

There has been some talk, as of late, about California splitting into 6 states. I don’t know how plausible this is, as I have not investigated it, but I have a hard time believing the states would choose a motto based around the virtues of its citizens. I don’t say this because California is a liberal-minded state, there are a lot of conservative areas in California, but because of the times in which we live. Virtues are rarely spoken of; they don’t occupy our lives the way in which they should.

Personally, we still have a choice to make. Will we violate the Esse Quam Videri (EQV), choosing to be mascots for manliness, or will we be men?

As a funny side note, Stephen Colbert’s fireplace mantle has the phrase “ Videri Quam Esse” or “To Seem, Rather That To Be” which is just hilarious and clever considering his entire show is based around satire.

Stephen Colbert’s motto “Videri Quam Esse” or “To Seem, Rather That To Be” 

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