Masculine mythologies affect our emotions. From their earliest years boys are warned against being sissies or crybabies. They’re encouraged to be tough. Displays of emotion, and often affection, are for girls. “Your sister can hug and kiss Grandpa,” many tough, World War II fathers said, “but you’re a man, so you just shake his hand.”
A friend of mine grappled with this myth when his best friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor. “When I found out about Eric’s condition,” he reflected, “I was calm and collected on the outside. I kept my emotions well hidden. But on the inside I was falling apart…I knew Eric was in for a struggle. I wanted to give him a hug and tell him I loved him. But I had all my years as a tough, strong man working against me. If Eric had been a girl, I wouldn’t have had a problem sharing my feelings…But since Eric was a man, everything inside me told me that is was inappropriate for me to express my affection to him.”
Fortunately Eric recovered and my friend was able to tell him face-to-face that he loved him. But he had to do some growing up before he was ready to do so.
Men, your emotions aren’t signs of weakness. They’re natural, normal human expressions. When you deny or suppress them you’re not being manly—actually just the opposite is true. Believe me, real men can and do cry!
Are you sitting down? I hope so, because I’m about to share something shocking: Thirty percent of fathers who get divorced never see their kids again! And of the seventy percent who do, many see their children only sparingly—that is, the occasional weekend or holiday. These broken relationships cause great internal anguish and insecurity in these men’s children, leaving them hungry for intimacy, and susceptible to taking it wherever they can find it.Sexual sin flourishes in the wake of broken family relationships. The splintering effects of divorce shatter their children’s worlds. Rather than feeling accepted and cherished by their parents, they feel as though they’ve been cast aside. Consequently, they attempt to compensate for the love, affection, and affirmation that should have been provided in the home by mom and dad.Yet hope is by no means lost. One of the key components to making it through is teamwork. Kids from divorced families, need supportive friends and groups. More importantly still, they need an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.These kids face the daunting challenge of asking for help, and being honest about their emotions and struggles. It’s a major victory to come to this point, and most won’t do it alone. If you know a young man or woman from a divorced background, know that this is probably where they are at, and pray about how you could extend your hand to help.
Myths about masculinity flourish in our culture due to their well-developed root system. If we want to stop these distortions that cause men such confusion and anger, they must be identified and addressed at their roots.
Today’s boys learn to be men primarily from dad’s example and mom’s instruction. Therefore the home is an important source of a boy’s understanding of masculinity. Due to divorce and misplaced priorities, many boys don’t spend much or any time with dad. The message they often “catch” is that achieving a successful career, financial security, and comfortable lifestyle are more important than God, marriage, children, and friends. Moms can indirectly affirm these messages by endorsing such misplaced priorities, or grooming their sons to be tough and hardened—to be the man of the house since dad’s not around.Another source of a boy’s understanding of masculinity is the media. When men aren’t portrayed as stoic machos or sleazy playboys, they’re often bumbling, spineless numbskulls—embarrassments to their wives, kids, and bosses. Can you think of a balanced, intelligent male, TV character who has integrity, conviction, and the respect of his family and community? Never underestimate how powerful these influences are, or how much they’ve influenced your view of masculinity, and never give family, society, or the media the final word about true masculinity. That belongs to Scripture.