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!
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.
A lot of people, especially Christians, have a great deal of trouble with the fact that Jesus got angry. It’s not so difficult to say that His cleansing of the temple was “righteous indignation.” But it’s quite another thing to admit that the Son of God, the perfect man, was angry; for everybody knows that anger is a sin, right?
This misunderstanding of anger has caused many men to push their anger out of bounds in another direction—denying it, suppressing it, or pretending it isn’t there. They feel they have no other choice, because in their thinking it’s always wrong, always sinful, to be angry. But guys, suppressed anger is just as harmful to an angry man as explosive hostility and aggression are to those around an angry man.
Jesus didn’t deny or suppress His anger any more than He exploded with rage that day in the Temple. His anger was up-front and out in the open. He responded to the situation quickly, positively, and appropriately. Then He went on with His ministry—without apology, excuse, or remorse.
Men if you have the tendency to deny your anger and bury it inside yourself, please listen to me. You’re only storing up pressure for a later implosion or explosion. The implosion hurts you; the explosion hurts others. It’s a lose—lose situation. If you don’t bring your anger to the surface and deal with it, someday, somewhere, somehow it’ll express itself in an out of bounds manner.