Healthy Masculinity

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. It pains me to see men behave in a way that makes all men appear self-absorbed, aggressive, and dangerous. For a long time I denied that toxic masculinity existed, I thought it was just another word used to put people in boxes. It is easy to be blind to something that you don’t want to see, but through experience my eyes have been opened. During my years of working with men, women, and children I have been inundated with accounts of bad men. Countless times I have sat with victims and heard their stories of abuse and more often than not the abuser is a man. 

I write this post not to attack, defile, or label men. Rather to support men and bring awareness to the issues.  I have sympathy for men who act in a deplorable way. Not because I approve of their actions but because I understand that they are a product of their environment. Men like any other group learn from their parents and far too often boys grow into men without fathers in their lives.  A boy without a father is like an explorer without a map, lost and tired trying to find their way through life. It is not impossible for a fatherless man to be a good man but it is harder to get there. This problem is not exclusive to the fatherless individual. Many men were raised with fathers in their lives, but were never taught what it means to be a “good man”. 

What is a good man? The answer to this question may differ based on your culture, values, and experience. However I have identified three key components that good men have in common

1) First is emotional connectedness, not to be mistake for being “an emotional man”. Emotional connectedness is having awareness of your emotions and understanding how they affect your behavior. A man who is emotionally disconnected when confronted with difficult feelings will be quick to anger, slow to forgive, and swift to blame. However a man who is aware of his emotions has patience with those he loves and knows how to process his thoughts before he acts. This trait takes practice and is difficult to master. 

2) Second is emotional resilience. Webster’s dictionary defines resilience as, “the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress”. I understand this component as a mans ability to absorb the stress around him and regain his mental composure. I find that often times the violent and aggressive men you hear about were under compounding stress. Rather than processing the stressors and returning to a safe mental baseline they gave into the urge to react without forethought.  A truly resilient man understands how to comprehend a difficult situation and calculate his actions instead of prematurely acting on his initial impulses. 

3) Lastly is effective communication. It has been difficult seeing men who can not express their wants and needs in a way that is conducive for a healthy relationships. Men who can not accurately describe how they feel and effectively seek feedback are a recipe for disaster. When men who lack emotional resilience and connectedness do not feel heard or understood it can often lead to aggressive outbursts.  I don’t believe that most men want to be aggressive or violent, but I do believe that the men who commonly have these traits lack the basic communication skills needed to be happy and healthy in todays society.

In summary I believe that men are falling short in their responsibilities as husbands, fathers, and role models for the next generation. It has become to common for men who lack emotional strength and communication skills to exercise force and coercion to get what they want. I have faith that men can rise to the occasion and with the appropriate support can exceed expectations. 

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