Despite the fact that generations of us have been drilled with the belief that ‘boys don’t cry’ we know it’s a lie. Sure many of us will try hard to hide our feelings. Many will pretend that we are not upset or sad. Many will be brave. But making us tough by teaching us to stop feeling, hasn’t worked. We feel, even if it is only momentarily, before we shove it back into the box named ‘not meant to.’
To feel, is to be human. We are part of the human race. Our bodies are filled with the expression of feelings we have. Again, as men we are not encouraged to acknowledge our bodies as anything other than a machine we control. But in reality, we feel joy, anger, stress, worry, grief, fear, excitement, and all other emotions in our bodies. Our hearts pound with excitement, as it does with fear. We feel our muscles tighten, as we stress over work. We feel our stomach churn, as we worry about our kids, family and work. We are normal, we just don’t tend to talk about it, or sometimes admit to it.
Feeling and expressing our softer side is part of being a man. We do it in so many different ways. Community service provides us with an opportunity to care about other people. Philanthropic work provides financial and physical support to those in need. Being conscious about environmental sustainability and enjoying the garden and nature as a way of connecting to our spirituality provides us with an opportunity to express our caring selves. Joining community organisations like Youth Programs broadens our awareness of other people’s plight and allows us to give something back to others. For some of us, we will discover a desire to express these qualities later in life. For others, it will be a driving force from our youngest years.
Men have a strong drive to belong. We like to form groups, hang out together, and form associations and clubs, especially with other men. This meets an emotional need within us. Sure, we may not sit around and talk to other men about how we are feeling, but just being in the same space of other men feels good. Many men like to have women as friends these days. Once women were seen as potential partners and we were not to speak to a woman unless we wanted to court her.
Today, young men have female friends and male friends. We like having women as friends because we can talk about our feelings with them. It gives us the opportunity to be gentle. Many of us like to be given a hug that it just a hug without it having to lead to something more. We watch young women hugging and touching each other as they talk and laugh and we want to be part of that. Some of us envy what women share with each other but have found that we can have it by being friends with women. It brings us great joy.
Something has shifted in the thinking of men. Young men today view crying as part of being a man. In fact, if men can’t show their softer side then we think that is a sign of weakness. We question if there is something wrong with them. We can see the mistake of your fathers in not expressing their feelings. We don’t want to do the same. We notice that not owning your feelings leads to arrogance, violence and aggression.
We older men may have been raised to believe that real men didn’t cry but we still did. Watching sad movies, shows, or news about children being hurt brings a tear to our eyes. Death brings enormous emotions with it. Grief is universal and we feel just as deeply as women. Our hearts break when someone we loved, admired, and respected dies.
Loving a woman and watching our children being born evoke emotions within us that we never thought we could feel. So many of us, cry when we see our first child born. This overwhelming feeling that we just don’t know how to describe, wells up from inside us and we cry. It is a beautiful moment of love and joy and pride mixed in with vulnerability and achievement. There is nothing like creating another human being and to be part of that is special.
Birth is like this moment that stands still and nothing compares to it and nothing can take it away. But also, in that moment, we feel a love for our wife or partner that is new. We are in awe of women. What they go through, the pain they endure to give birth is overwhelming for us. We stand by impotent. We don’t like being out of control and we are. But we watch the woman take control and be strong. Even when they are screaming in pain, we see their strength. For some of us, this supports why we are scared of women. We know we could never do what they do. We sense our inadequacy, then push it away by reasserting our masculinity.
Many of us, have been raised to get a good job, marry a good woman, and have a nice family. Our wedding day is filled with joy. We are achieving our manhood. Publicly, we are telling the world that we love this woman and that we are becoming a man. We are doing what men have done for centuries. We are creating another branch on our family tree. We are being responsible and growing up. But, loving a woman brings us far more than just how we are seen in the eyes of other men.
Women bring some of us, more joy than we ever let them know; while others want our wives to know just how much we love them. We believe the secret to happiness is found in loving our wife. We want them to know we are there for them; we value the relationship we have with them, and acknowledge that women are the barometer in our relationship. Women want to be loved, respected, and valued just as they are. When we meet their needs, they shower us in love and respect. They nurture us and fuss over us. They take care of us and love doing it. And we love them doing it. Our relationship is sensual, loving, and the closeness that we share is sacred. It makes us better men for loving a woman.
Winning is really important to who we are, as men. Whether it is on a sporting field, at work, hobbies, friendships, or at home, we like to do our best; come first; win. We feel the positive rush of adrenaline when we do and this gives us the sense of being totally confident, totally happy, and totally in the world. Our image as a strong, potent, successful man is exhilarating. We feel wonderful knowing that we are good for something; we have a purpose; a job to do; a role to play; and are useful. Our sense of mateship is enhanced when our achievements occur with other men. Losing makes men feel inadequate and we don’t want to feel like this. It destroys our manliness.
Being in touch with our feelings, helps us to develop as whole men. Anger and grief are two of the strongest emotions we feel. For generations, we have been encouraged to express our anger. Anger is addictive because it is a powerful emotion that can be used to intimidate, dominate, and overpower others. The adrenaline rush that comes with anger can make us feel good.
Playing sport is a healthy way many of us release our anger and adrenaline. Lots of activities we do with other men are about sharing at this emotional level. We use our anger in competitive environments, whether that’s on the football field or in the corporate world. Our anger motivates us to win. Through our anger we learn more about who we are as men. Our emotions do this. Learning to deal with how we feel and why we feel like we do helps us understand ourselves and others better. It is the understanding of the emotional feelings within an experience that stop us from becoming a senseless fool. We develop empathy by connecting through our feelings. This is important, if we want to grow wise and have opinions that make sense and influence other men, women, and children, that we do this.
How could, or do you, influence your son to honour his emotional side?