Herodotus (484 BC – 425 BC)
Masculinity is going through a social redefinition, as the old “Boys don’t cry” has been finally called out and we’ve opened up our eyes to the damage we’ve caused our boys. Phrases like toxic masculinity have become common place within our everyday language, we’ve realized that maybe we’ve been doing future generations a disservice by placing unhealthy expectation of the world’s men. And so have been born the foundations of a more sensitive masculinity.
And for an instant I’m full of hope for the next generation of men; men sensitive enough to appreciate the world we live in, men with compassion and empathy. Unfortunately, this isn’t what’s happening. The end result has less to do with empathy, sensitivity, and compassion and more to do with conformity, entitlement, and selfishness.
Masculinity, like so many other aspects within our world, has become a pendulum. To stray away from the moral and emotional damage created by the “tough it out” mentality, we’ve embraced the full swing of the now emotionally open “modern masculinity.” The problem being that the pendulum has swung so far that we now have men to soft to deal with a simple reality.
The world isn’t a nice place and will break you if you let it.
Yes, emotional openness is crucial for a healthy life. If you’re unable to appreciate the beauty within our world and understand the emotional intelligence we all posses, there isn’t much left to live for. The problem lies in the fact that we’ve moved from the desensitized extreme to the overly sensitive extreme. We’ve taught men that it’s ok to cry, that it’s ok to ask for help, and that the world should show men more understanding. The problem happens when we, in fear of bringing back the old toxic aspects of masculinity, we won’t teach them to “Man Up,” as we teach them that their emotions matter more than dealing with life. And this wouldn’t be an issue if we didn’t forgot to teach them that life doesn’t stop while you cry your heart out.
Before you get all offended, take a moment to consider the following examples:
A boy puts out his heart for all to see, but the girl’s not interested.
A young man about to head off to college just found out that he’s going to be a father.
A business man who’s given his life to his company gets fired due to financial issues out of his control.
A husband just found out his wife has terminal disease.
A father is told that his child has a permanent condition that will make the rest of their life more challenging.
A man dealing with a divorce, with a death, with an illness, with failure, with life in general…
These are just some of the simple realities of life, the ones that teach you just how unfair it all can be. You can choose to curl up in a ball and break down as you feel sorry for yourself, or you can stand up tough, look at life straight in its eyes, smile, and utter the most empowering words you’ll ever learn.
That girl who’s not interested in you doesn’t owe you her affection, no matter how much that might hurt. That child to be born isn’t going to stop while you decide to grow up emotionally enough to be a dad, no matter how unprepared you might be for that new role. That job you prioritized over your family, the one that defined who you were, showed you that putting your faith on your job will lead to emptiness when it’s gone no matter how much effort you put into it. And most importantly, when life goes into a whirlwind of chaos and those around you need your strength and support, do you really think breaking down emotionally helps in any way? Does self pity? There will be enough time for that afterwards, when you finish dealing with it.
It’s not that we should go back to the emotionally castrated manhood of the past. Nor is the solution what we’ve taught now as we’ve moved into the overly emotional drama full manhood of today. If we want a respectable manhood, we have to create men worth respecting. We need men who are soft enough to embrace their emotions while at the same time strong enough to not become victims of his own heart. Strength and sensitivity aren’t exclusionary. We need to teach boys to be tough enough to deal with life’s challenges, and soft enough to understand that life is worth the effort.