Real Men Give A Shit
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Caring about others is the ultimate showing of strength.
The days of unemotional coldness passing off as strength are over.
I am an American male, which means that growing up, much of what I was shown in the mainstream about masculinity was the lie that emotions and strength cannot coexist. We must choose one or the other.
We are supposed to be “strong” and “proud.” Oftentimes that is projected to us in TV shows and advertisements as being cold, or distant, or stoic. Showing emotions or expressing our feelings was (and still is) falsely considered a weakness.
To be strong, we must chug beer and watch football and make jokes around the locker room we wouldn’t want our wives or girlfriends or daughters hearing. But hey, we get to stay in the boys’ club this way. And for some reason the thought of losing our membership is more painful than the silent betrayal we show to the women we love when we engage in this behavior.
We even perpetuate the idea that picking on girls in elementary school is a sign that a boy likes them. Naturally, then, we grow into men who show affection to women through similar forms of expression.
Similarly, our girls grow up to believe that teasing or insults from men are positive signs of love and caring.
He must be interested if he picks on me.
I’ve never subscribed to this way of thinking. I was fortunate to be raised in a household where we talked about everything and I observed my father being loving and caring towards my mother. They remain that way to this day.
That always shaped my view of how relationships and love should be. Kind, compassionate, expressive.
I don’t have biological children, but my girlfriend has two daughters and we have spoken about an expansion in the future. This places me in a position to help shape their view of what a healthy relationship looks like and how men should treat the women in their lives.
By accepting this role, I accept the responsibility of showing them what healthy love is. These important years will help them understand what is and isn’t acceptable in a relationship, and the standards they set for their own futures.
The level of trust it takes to select a man for this position is not lost on me. There are multiple layers a man must be willing to undertake when a relationship involves children. One of which being a showing of love and support to all involved.
Patience. Gratitude. Understanding. Willingness to communicate. I see these qualities as a strength, because being compassionate or caring towards others sometimes requires putting their wants and needs above your own.
Someone who is insecure or unsure of themselves is incapable of doing just that — because they always need the reinforcement that they are special, or needed, or wanted. I wouldn’t have been suited for this role in my previous lives. I simply was not ready. Dare I say, I was not yet strong enough.
Similarly, I believe the expression of emotion is a sign of strength. Nobody is suggesting that you weep at the Hallmark commercial that plays during the Super Bowl, but in order to connect with our emotions we must be strong enough to face their unpredictability.
It does not matter how tough or masculine you want the world to believe you are, the truth is that you have fears, doubts, insecurities, and worries just like everyone else. Being able to acknowledge these feelings and react to them accordingly is the very basis of living a full life. This is how we learn what we need as individuals, and therefore go and find it.
If we avoid “our feelings,” we do nothing but rob ourselves of the full human experience. Perhaps we won’t feel the sorrow of loss — but the sorrow of loss is the result of a once thriving love that made life richer by experiencing it.
Perhaps we will avoid pain, but that pain may have been a necessary risk in order to achieve something great that will now never be created.
The willingness to risk being hurt or experiencing a failure is, in itself, a strength. Furthermore, actually going through these life events helps us to become even stronger in the long run.
Avoidance is the real weakness.
The concept of what it means to “be a man” is, and should be, evolving drastically. There is no one image or set of qualities or what a “real man” is, and attempting to form a mold only serves to alienate the majority who are different than the select few thinking they have the power to choose who gets into the club. A club that only serves to reinforce its old manners of thinking by not opening itself up to new possibilities or viewpoints. This, not coincidentally, also reflects weakness.
Being a “real man” is about showing compassion. It’s about caring for others, it’s about loving how and who you love. It’s about individuality, not conformity. It’s about embracing and accepting the full human experience in order to live the most deeply fulfilling and connected life possible.
This isn’t about having all of the answers. I make mistakes and say the wrong things and worry about my fitness for each new phase and role that I choose in this life. But, those are admissions I am willing to make as they coincide with my own personal life choices. We accept the risks and also rewards of any new step that we take which moves us (hopefully) forward.
Remaining stagnant, only caring about ourselves, and refusing to open up to those around us keeps us small and guarded. It shuts out those who may care about us and it truncates our own view of the world.
To live a full life, we must care. We must love. We must risk heartbreak. If we do not, we take the biggest risk of all: Robbing ourselves and those around us of the human connection that makes each day worth living.
We must give a shit.
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