It costs to be a man, but no one talks about it.
Men laugh at blood. Cut your knuckle, scrape your knee. No matter how much it hurts, you laugh it off. It’s the cost of being a man.
When you are injured you heal slowly. Your wound stops bleeding, your skin closes up, you feel no more pain, and then you return to normal activities.
Emotional wounds are another story. They cost a lot more than biting your lip, because emotional wounds won’t heal without a little help.
What does it mean for a man to heal emotionally?
In her brilliant article, The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurturance Culture, Nora Samaran considers how to heal a culture that marked by violence and hurt.
Being a man means that you accept contradiction and confusion. It is a sick culture that asks men to feel no pain, and then to be sensitive to how others feel; we are sick without knowing it.
Knuckles are one thing, but this time it is our souls that are oozing.
Compassion for self and compassion for others grow together and are connected; this means that men finding and recuperating the lost parts of themselves will heal everyone. Nora Samaran
In most of North America, the health care system is in turmoil, trying to heal itself from an obsessive medical model that often neglects the mind and ignores the spirit.
Healthcare was traditionally the domain of the body. The mind, and the spirit had little to do with health. But that is changing. Territory is being reclaimed. It is slow and sometimes painful.
Emotional healing is like that… “finding and recuperating the lost parts...”
Healing emotional pain is not about band aids and blood, it is about expanding the conversation to include all of what it means to be a human: mind, body and soul.
Healing is more about reclaiming than getting a med kit and doing a self-fixer job. The problem is that some men reclaim through violence. Violence will never heal. Violence has the same root as Violate: which means to harm, to damage, to be destructive.
Healing is reclaiming
Men have capacities to heal that are particularly masculine and particularly healing. They often are not fully aware of this deep gift and how helpful it can be for those close to them, whether family or close friends. Nora Samaran
Men have a deep gift that we need to claim, but not through violence or a fix-it mentality. Our gift is a deep gift, a true gift that is unearned. It is a gift of grace, a gift that is inherent within each man.
I have a friend named Norm. Norm drives a long-haul truck and owns a motorcycle. Norm has tattoos all over his arms, he is bald and his ears are heavily weighted with earrings. But Norm is also tender. Norm can be sensitive. Norm gets the gift. His masculinity is not expressed through kicking ass.
Being a man means that you have all of who you are at your disposal: being able to be strong and vulnerable and funny and tearful and responsible.
What if we are using our gifts backwards? To harm instead of to help? What if they were meant to be used the other way around? Nora Samaran
Men have gifts but sometimes we get them all tossed around and mixed up. It can be so damned confusing if you stop to consider the messages that our culture says about what it means to be a man:
- Don’t feel but be respectful of other people
- Don’t cry, hold it in but don’t be too angry
- Get angry but don’t get sad
- Get angry, but don’t go too far
- Ignore your feelings but pay attention to the feelings of your partner and other people
- Disregard your boundaries but know that NO means NO
- Trust you gut, but don’t trust your emotions
- Kick ass (whatever that means) but don’t go too far
Healing is not about perfection, it is about being whole. Men are healthy when our physical power is informed by our heads and our hearts… when we use whatever gifts we have to help ourselves and to help others at the same time.
A gift turned backwards is like an inward facing socket. It’s useless and the loose wires make it dangerous for everyone. When men turn our gifts inward, we become dangerous to ourselves and to others.
I am not a violent man, but I do violence when I get my gifts messed up. Unknowingly I can do violence against others with a different gender, different sexual preference, or a different culture than mine. I do harm when I tune out and ignore my family and when I show my children that it is okay to be present in body but have my mind and my spirit somewhere else.
Healing is about reclaiming our gift to make. We have allowed our ability to create to be turned “backwards upon itself and rendered unthinkingly into a weapon.” (Nora Samaran)
The most dangerous weapons are invisible: our attitudes, our judgments and our beliefs. We take them with us every day and they sneak through the metal detectors in airports and past the codes of conduct that we sign at work.
I am still in recovery, still healing emotionally from childhood wounds and abuse. These wounds are apparent, but the wounds we ignore are those that come at the hands of our culture. It is our culture that enacts violence towards us and we mirror that back towards ourselves.
Your family can be a culture of healing
Our relationships are where we enact violence and it is our relationships where we will either be healed or be damned. We either heal or we perpetuate violence.
Every time you and I practice vulnerability, that is a powerful healing act. Therapy can help and is often necessary. But nothing can match vulnerability. It will push back the darkness around us and within us.
No matter how painful, no matter what the consequences, the truth shall set you free. Ben Bova, Death Wave, page 230.
It is when we hear other men sharing honestly about their confusion, their anger, their pain and their wounding that we are healed.
Another powerful weapon we have is the mirror, not the gun. When we honestly see ourselves and acknowledge our wounds we are on our way to being healed.
I cut myself when I was a child and I still have the scars. The wound is healed and I feel no more pain. My culture has wounded me and only now am I beginning to see the effects. Deep healing can occur when we allow others to see our wounds. This is how we heal the man inside of us.
And this is why violence is far easier than healing.
Photo by Gigi Ibrahim