| Samuel Muigai

In these hard times, men have to ride on the ‘at least’ kind of life

What you need to know:

  • I know. Times are tough. And at such times, many of us have an “at least” mindset.
  • The best cure for an at least mindset is “blindness”. And I mean people-blindness. That is, stop looking at how others are faring.

I know. Times are tough. Men are doing the best they can to provide for their families. Some men are barely getting by. And at such times, many of us have an “at least” mindset.

“At least.” My dictionary says the term is used to emphasise that something is good in a bad situation.
“At least, we have a roof above our heads.” “At least, my children have some strong tea.” “Unlike our neighbours whose children have been home the whole of this term, at least my children were only home for a couple of weeks.”

Here’s the irony. We are all another man’s at least. A man who is having it rough is looking at my situation and - weighing it on the scale of life - is using it to reassure himself that, at least, he is not in my sorry shoes. But then again, that’s life. The only thing that equalises us is death.

Reassurance and comfort

Men use “at least” to reduce the effect of what they are going through. We use it to reassure ourselves that, though the tides seem to be against us and we have swallowed bucketfuls of water, we are still alive and kicking.
This reassurance is what wakes us up in the morning, to go to a job we hate, which is paying us a pittance. It’s this reassurance that causes some men to stay in a toxic marriage. “So-and-so’s marriage is dead and buried,” these husbands reassure themselves. “At least, though our horse is dead, it can still be flogged.”

Read: You’re not your family’s saviour
Men use “at least” to comfort themselves, especially when they look at someone else who is going through worse. That’s how our mind works. When we are “at least-ing”, our focus temporarily shifts from our bad situation to another person’s worse lot in life.
That temporary shift grants us a brief reprieve from our stress. It’s like our mental coffee. It gives us just enough oomph to power through another dreary day.


It’s not true that men who are living the least kind of life are ne’er-do-wells. These are men who take their responsibilities seriously. Sister, if life has pushed your man to the least corner, be understanding. If what he’s bringing home is barely enough to meet your needs, be thankful that - at least - he is bringing something.
Don’t lash out at him. Don’t compare him with the Joneses. This is a man who is doing the best with what life has dealt him. Life is on his neck. The last thing he needs is another knee on his jugular.

Danger ahead

There is danger in staying with an at least mindset for too long. If one is not careful, they may end up living in the shallow.
Dr. Tony Ferretti says: “Living in the shallow may be coasting through life on auto-pilot without full engagement. Often people remain observers of life instead of active participants and sometimes even numb themselves to avoid experiencing hardship.”

Read: The weight of being a firstborn son
Life is a race. And we all have our specialities. Some are marathoners. Others excel in sprints. When a man allows other people’s race to dictate his pace and effort, he may perform dismally. But because he finished ahead of the pack, his mind may lie to him that he’s doing fantastic.
The best cure for an at least mindset is “blindness”. And I mean people-blindness. That is, stop looking at how others are faring. In reggae, we used to say, “see and blind, hear and deaf”. Which means you are immune to other people’s ways and wiles.