09 June, 2013


Every day – through deeds – Men teach us valuable life lessons about selflessness, courage, loyalty, compassion, unconditional love, and the importance of “doing what is best for the tribe” as opposed to “doing what is best for self”. Yet, in some circles, the question of whether Men are really necessary is being discussed. Subliminal mixed messages about masculinity, parental roles and responsibilities, and the rules of engagement for courtship and marriage are being conveyed to Men through mainstream media, films, television situation comedies and literature. 

Many Men live a “thankless” existence. They struggle to provide for their families, positively shape the minds and souls of their children, and empower the communities in which they live and work. No one – or hardly anyone – is telling a Man: “Thank you! Job well done! Hey, I appreciate you!” Conversely – implicitly and explicitly -- Men are being told consistently: “A real man does this! A real man does that!”Society tells boys and Men to be strong and that it is not “manly” to show their emotions. And when boys and Men seem not to show any emotion, we accuse them of being insensitive and uncaring. While society tells boys and men how to be a man, society is not telling girls and women how to be a woman. No one is telling girls and women: “A real women does this! A real woman does that!”

We seem to be so obsessed with telling men what they ought to do and what they are not doing. Hardly anyone is telling Men, “Your presence completes me as a person. Your presence completes our family – our community. You have value. You are loved. You are needed.” We seem so consumed about what a Man is supposed to give. The conversation always seems to be about: “A man is supposed to give this. A man is supposed to give that.” When it comes to Men, the conversation seems to be about “taking” – what we can and should take from him. Men are expected to provide safety and support. But when is the last time a man heard someone tell him: “Hey, I’ve got your back! You can count on me to protect and support you.” Men need to feel safe and supported, too!

What happens to a Man who is constantly bombarded with mixed signals about his role as a Man and a Father; badgered about what he ought to be doing and what he is not doing; and not expected to show any emotions even though he may be drowning in grief and pain? His spirit breaks and his soul shatters. Self-doubt, low self-esteem, and stress overtake him. He feels empty . . . isolated . . . powerless. He may plunge into the deep abyss of depression. Or become emotionally detached. He may self-medicate his emotional pain with food, alcohol or drugs. His physical and mental health suffers. Is it any wonder that there is an alarmingly rising incidence of strokes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and diabetes? Should we find it surprising that some Men who have “given their all” only to discover that “giving their all” is just not enough, commit suicide as a means of escaping the abuse and madness that surrounds them?

Why should we care about what happens to Men? Men are the glue that holds our families, communities, and our village – the global village we know as Planet Earth -- together. We are all connected to one another. And what affects Men impacts all of us. The village has become a chaotic and dangerous place for its most vulnerable members – our children –our babies and the bridge to the future – and our Elders. It is glaringly apparent that the weight of the plethora of daunting challenges that our village finds itself immersed in is causing it to break apart. This “breaking apart” of the village is creating an opportunity for all of us to rebuild the village. Strong, empowered, clear thinking, and fully emotionally engaged Men and Women working together can create and sustain nurturing and efficiently functioning family units and transform chaotic, toxic, and violent communities into a nurturing, peaceful, and economically and environmentally vibrant village.

We must create a space and place for Men where can they cry, shout, laugh, and articulate their emotional pain without fear of having their manhood called into question. We must create an environment that is conducive to Men shedding their emotional baggage. Healing Men is the first step to rebuilding the village.

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