Whether you heard it from your father, brother, friends, or society as a whole, every man has felt the pressure to hide his vulnerability, namely tears. Either intentionally or accidentally, mankind is taught the rules of the animal kingdom: show no pain, otherwise you are a target. Thus, pain, suffering, or the growth that results from breaking and then healing, is sorely undervalued. Since suffering looks like weakness, we men avoid it strongest since our gender is supposed to represent strength. If suffering looks like weakness then we fear it because it seems to attack who we are supposed to be.
In the end, that belief is nothing but a smoke monster. The difference between strength and weakness seems to be more about finding purpose within suffering, rather than avoiding suffering all together. The German philosopher Nietzsche once said, “If you know the why, you can live any how.” I wonder if the source of our struggle around suffering is that we aren’t sure of our “why”?
It seems to me that if we can’t find purpose in pain then, understandably, we fear the pain because we can’t understand its point or value in our lives. When this happens too often, men tend to have one of two reactions: shut down or “act as if”. Both are a problem, but “acting as if” is harder to see because that is when a person is acting like everything is fine, pretending to have confidence, or looking tough when they are really terrified.
The essence of this “acting as if”, in my opinion, is found in the false bravado of saying that real men don’t cry. This is completely ridiculous and it is the opposite of finding purpose in suffering. Man or woman, it is your tears that bare witness of your courage to suffer. It is the presence of courage that allows tears to flow, not the absence of it. Those men and women who are worthy of their sufferings are also those with the courage to cry.
There it is men – one fellow man’s opinion that you become a much fuller man if you allow yourself to cry. Why? Raw emotion is powerful and terrifying and a real man steps up to that wresting match. A real man knows his emotions and respects the effect they have in his life. A real man lets his emotions show because he understands the true strength it provides his wife, his children, and himself.
One final note: part of what is so terrifying about emotion is their potential to fly out of control. If you struggle with a particular emotion, such as anger, this blog is not giving permission to just “let ‘er rip”. Inappropriate emotional expression is just as harmful as pretending you have no emotions at all. Try using the following ideas to bring those wild emotions back into a normal range:
- Wait 5 minutes before reacting to something that triggers your wild emotion
- Write out your emotion on paper
- Forgive the past wound that feeds this emotion
- Give yourself a small reward when you express yourself in a healthy way
Men: here’s to more of us showing the purest form of courage by showing our emotions and engaging in the fullness of reality with our family.
Comment Time! Please leave a comment with your thoughts, ideas, or questions. We would love to hear from you!
Blog Ideas: Would you like us to write about a particular issue or question you have? We would love to help! Leave a comment here with your suggestion and start it with “Blog Request”.