“Wrapped up, tangled up, all tied up in… A male role belief system”

We have all heard the cliches about men when it comes to emotional communication. We have heard them so much that now it’s widely accepted that men just aren’t emotional. That notion is false, we are very emotional, expressing emotions that render us vulnerable or what some consider “feminine” is something that we just haven’t learned to be comfortable with. We are conditioned to be communicative with “manly” emotions or the “bromotions” like anger, feelings of Indifference, apathy and the like. How does a boy who’s been taught all his life to hide and suppress the softer emotions learn to open up about them and not feel uncomfortable?

At a very young age most boys are told to reject vulnerable feelings. Don’t cry, stop acting like a girl, be this way, this is what men do. We are rarely educated in emotional expression and instead educated in how to pretend to not feel, to be silent, otherwise if we do we are not men. So to become an adult and struggle with life, love, and ourselves when emotions are necessary shouldn’t surprise too many of us. Everyone of our emotions end up being communicated the same, hurt looks like anger, disappointment looks like indifference, and it all results in silent resentment. Saying “I’m hurt by what you said/did to me” is a big step for a man. Beginning a sentence with “I feel” instead of “you did/made me” is a task for men but those courageous enough to step outside of that mental conditioning are the ones who experience the true essence of manhood. 

In one of my earlier relationships I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to say I needed more of my partners affection. Every time I thought I’d built up enough courage to say “I need you to kiss me, hug me, hold my hand, tell me you love me” I failed and ended up saying something that hurt her instead out of frustration. I became more quiet, more distant and full of fear when she asked “what’s wrong” my only response was “nothing, I’m fine”. I found myself comparing what I felt to what I believed a man was supposed to feel like and what a man was supposed to act like which conflicted with my beliefs on what manhood was supposed to be. I couldn’t communicate how I wanted to be loved because it made me feel inadequate as a man. I knew I needed to get that message across but my only option wasn’t manly enough so I continued to struggle in emotional turmoil. 

It wasn’t until years later I discovered that communicating what you feel, why you feel it and not feeling as if that makes you weak is one of the most manly things a man can do. It helps with understanding yourself, growing yourself and maintaining healthy relationships. “I’m fine” is the go to for men in our society and it’s a statement of fear. We are afraid because we have this flawed definition of manhood and we hurt ourselves believing that we can’t talk about our emotions. Learning to talk about how I felt, especially now, has taught me how to trust another person. It has made me more confident in knowing that I don’t have to always be ok and that most issues can be resolved quicker and easier if I actually expressed how I was truly feeling. Now if I need a little more affection I express it and at times I could get it. Saying just how something made me feel would allow my partner an opportunity to connect with me. If I was hurting and I communicated that, I allowed the space for compassion and empathy. I provided myself with an opportunity to grow by challenging my own belief system of manhood and practicing a different method of communication. Whether I was successful in the delivery of my emotional expression or not, my results could change because I changed. 

Too often we suppress what we really feel and think because we have been taught that manhood doesn’t feel the same as the feelings we experience or “real men” don’t think the thoughts we seem to keep thinking. We are stuck playing the role of what we are taught men are instead of being the authentic men we want to be. To communicate that we need help with things or we don’t know how to do something makes many men feel inadequate because we are taught men are supposed to be the stereotypical providers and protectors. That pressure causes us to feel like we must to do things perfectly and we are fully expected to perform independent of anyone lest we fall short of manhood. 

The belief that “I’m not a man if I can’t provide things” is what forces men to fail to provide their emotions and emotional support to their partners. We have all seen movie depictions of the man who has it all, he gives his wife the material world while she starves for emotional connection and intimacy. We have seen these men lose their women because of that mental stronghold of provision to qualify themselves as men. There’s more to providing than buying things. We have to be able to provide the quality time, the emotional vulnerability, and the communication as well. There was a time when a job I had been working full time at cut my hours from 40 to 14 hours a week and I nearly lost it. I worried constantly because I couldn’t find another job or even a supplemental one, I began to feel insecure and I pushed my partner away out of feelings of inadequacy. I told myself the story “she was gonna leave me anyway because I don’t compare to my belief of what a man is supposed to be” and that lie caused me unnecessary emotional stress.
Men subscribe to interpersonal inequities under the guise of manhood all the time, for example: the notion that men are obligated to pay for the dates (first dates excluded) and if they don’t they are disqualified from candidacy. We aren’t allowed to expect women to even offer to pay for their half without being scoffed at or called broke. That happens and men often feel unequal, used and they feel their time is less valuable than their counterpart yet they say nothing in order to protect their manhood. 

Many men believe that to be a protector they must only be able to physically defend their loved ones and valuables. I agree that we all should be willing to stop those things from coming to harm however, I question, “is that it?”. “I am a protector”, what does that look like for a man outside of a sword and shield defender? Many men leave the “nurturing” to women because it’s “the woman’s job” when statistically fathers with active involvement in their children’s lives have shown that children have increased mental dexterity, they are more empathetic, they possess less stereotyped sex role beliefs and have greater self-control. I never understood how my parents used “I do it because I love you” as a justification for their disciplinary actions until I loved someone enough to tell them a truth that would hurt their feelings or take an action that I knew they’d dislike because it was truly good for them. I don’t have children of my own yet but I do have friends, family, people I love unconditionally who I take responsibility for protecting. When it comes to women, men who are providing vulnerability to their partners are protecting the connection that establishes intimacy in their relationship. It’s a necessary reassurance, a force that draws them both closer and a bonding agent that’s unbelievably strong. 

To eliminate the discomfort of male vulnerability we need to challenge that conditioned thinking and begin to ask ourselves if we are indeed being ourselves? Are we comfortable with how we behave, think, and communicate? If not, then challenge yourself to do something about it. Challenge your male role belief system and create something productive for your life and your relationships with others. As men, it’s a courageous act not a cowardly one to be able to say what’s going on inside of your head, to be open hearted, and to exercise the things necessary to actually live in the manhood you were created for. It may be difficult but it’s necessary for our lives to be easier and more fulfilling. 

Let’s be outlaws, partners in crime

Let’s piss this country off by stepping out of the white lines

Let’s make a little more than noise when we open our mouths

Let’s make them acknowledge our voice

Until we are free in this land let’s stand and be brave

Let’s be outlaws even if they chase us to our graves

Let’s go out on a limb and lynch this oppression

Let us remind them that freedom doesn’t lie and equality doesn’t come in the form of blue collar professions

Let’s be outlaws and sing our own anthem

With fist held high and tight

Voices of the martyrs rise up for the fight

Let’s be outlaws and rebuild what they tore down

Oh say can you see it’s not time to back down

As when they slept peacefully till dawns early light

Our families planned our survival through the night

Therefore because of them I execute my right, I fight.

We Are One

You're like an unsheathed sword whose blade has countless nicks

It glistens with blood, encroached by rust

A half broken blade with a lethal crack

You give into fear unable to face your grief

You turn away from love in utter disbelief 

You'd rather die lonely in the cold

Than be refined by hammer under fire

You are but a days end away from being thin as wire 

You are one rain drop away from snapping in two

I was to be a sheath to you

to support, guard and be one with you

To let your jagged edges rest in my spirit

To be refined by the fire in my soul 

Forgive me for my absence

I fell at the wayside of pride

Shrouded in ego

Encumbered by unconscious paradigms

With the image of God created in me

I should have known the power of your femininity 

All that it is gave meaning to my masculinity 

For out of man you came to be

Now all of you lives inside of me

We are whole and complete and lacking nothing 

Having been made one in each other

We have become as lightning and thunder 

At the hand of love 

We are one because of the other

The Moment I Most Needed a Dad

As a young boy your father is a mighty super hero who knows everything and can do all things. You rely on him for everything, he teaches you things and he makes you feel strong. My brother, sister and I were cared for by an Angel of a grandmother while our biological parents struggled with addictions to crack cocaine. It was a difficult period of time and it was our normal, we were used to having no men around, we were the men but we had no idea what “man” meant other than we were supposed to grow into one. Me as a young boy didn’t have one of those super hero fathers until I was around 11 years old when my brother, sister and I were taken in by my Aunt and her husband. 
That transition was pretty easy because I spent a lot of time there playing video games with my cousin so I was fairly comfortable. I hadn’t yet made the distinction between life without a father and life with one but that realization would soon come. With the new life came structure, discipline, and a sense of safety I never experienced. I was happy with my new life but I still hadn’t learned to trust my new Dad. He wasn’t like the men I was used to. He had a wife! What the hell was that? He cooked, He built things, helped us with homework, he talked kindly to us. I adjusted to the schedules, the chores, and going to church every Sunday because I had to. I adjusted to the rules of the house but I hadn’t adjusted to having a man around consistently directing my path, I just didn’t want to lose my safe place. I never felt like I needed him because I feared silently that it was only temporary, he would be gone at any moment. It was surreal.
It wasn’t until my fourteenth birthday that it became real to me that he was committed to being a dad to a boy that wasn’t his own. I, like any boy at 14 got a girlfriend and it just so happened that my birthday falls on the fifteenth of February. I asked him to let me go visit my girlfriend who stayed fairly close by for Valentine’s Day and that I would come home that night. I believe my curfew was at 10 but I never made it home because we fell asleep watching movies and I guess he did too. I was awakened to knocks on the door and it dawned on me that I wasn’t at home, I knew I was in trouble. I had to get home so I bolted to the door prepared to Houdini my way past whoever it was that was there but it was my uncle! I was paralyzed with fear but something amazing happened that day. The first words he said to me was “are you ok? You fell asleep didn’t you?”. I just nodded yes and he took me home. On the way home he never yelled, never threatened me with punishment, I think he saw that I knew I made a mistake and he understood. 
That moment changed everything for me. It was that moment I realized I was loved and cared for and that I didn’t have to worry about being left again. It was then I realized what a man was and that I wanted to be one myself. I wanted to be a dad one day, a husband, and a phenomenal leader just like him because nothing felt better than knowing I had someone to follow that would come find me if I lost my way. From then on I watched him and learned all that I could about being a man. I’m still learning. I think about what he’d say when I’m making some of the decisions I make. I hear his voice when I’m doing something I knew was not right. I treat people the way he treated me, without judgement and with love. I can think of so many moments where I needed a dad but the moment I most needed a dad was when I decided to learn how to be a man. 
Thanks Dad! 

 

A Black Mans Mission For Manhood

 It’s truly a shame how a boy is raised so incomplete. So ill-equipped to deal with the true trials of life. He isn’t raised to be a man of valiant character who is wise, understanding, or patient. He’s taught to seek pleasure, dominance and material stature. He’s taught that he must first be given in order to give. Not to forgive but seek vindication. He’s taught that knowledge makes him an outcast but having many women makes him more manly and worth something. He’s not taught to be a father, a trustworthy friend, or even a husband but a hustler, a fashion statement and a trendsetter. He grows into a lost man-child with walls placed around his vulnerability. His capacity to overcome his pride is diminished significantly because it’s been strengthened his whole life. His manhood lost in the deceptions of other broken men who were blinded by broken examples.

  
We nurture superficial qualities in our boys and expect them to meet standards that they aren’t equipped for. We tell them that crying and emotional expression is for girls and thus reinforce silent resentment and repression. We teach them to be obstinate, to be angry and disobedient to authority, and to surreptitiously betray the women who love them. They spend their lives fixated on proving their fruitless manhood because deep down inside of them is a void they are unconscious of. 
The spirit of a man lives within all our boys but it’s starved and left emaciated and powerless. It calls out to them at every waking moment but it’s voice is but a subtle whisper distorted by the loud cries of a child seeking instant gratification. With no one to nurture the man in him he never learns to control his sensuous, carnal desires. He grows into an impulsive, prideful, and incorrigible force of destruction. The man in him still starving, dying and pleading for an opportunity to bring him peace and joy. 
A boy only grows into a man once he finds an example of one. Once he witnesses for himself a different choice for his life, once something or someone begins to speak life into the man in him. It feels as though he is reborn, that cry that once was so loud becomes silenced and the voice of the man in him is recognizable. Responsibility, honor, character, and integrity become valuable and exciting to him. He’s no longer the angry child he once was but a man of a confident countenance. 
  
The mission for manhood in our black men is not just a personal mission, it’s also a mission of brotherhood. Those who have achieved the enlightenment of manhood are responsible to enlighten those who are still blinded by the same struggle they overcame. Like the old saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child” it takes a man to show a boy how to be a man. To correct his brother when he is wrong and to be a constant figure of positive influence. Black men must take up the call for manhood and be true to their natural ability to lead. It’s not a mission that will always have a personal reward but a mission that rewards the generations to come.  

 

Commit To Being A Man

Commitment- “Sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose”. A man has to blatantly walk in the shoes of his responsibility, he has to commit to the role of manhood, and constantly sacrifice himself with discernment. He must understand that he will be tempted therefore he must wield restraint. This commitment is not of convenience, not in pursuit to be good, but of desperate desire to be great.

This commitment is a prerequisite to all the fundamental things to come in his life. Before he is a husband he must first be a man, before he is a father he must first be a man, before he is chosen to lead he must first be a man and you learn to be a man by following one, there are no shortcuts. He must learn to accept his mistakes and learn from them, he must learn to be wronged and yet forgive, he must learn to love and be satisfied when it’s not returned. His commitment must be long-suffering.

A man, next to god, is his own deliverer from his own folly. A man who disregards the things that are right seals his own fate into stagnation. His decision to pursue true manhood guarantees His freedom into wisdom. He has to be committed to himself, he has to commit to being a man.

A man isn’t defined by his wealth, his sexual conquests, or even his abilities. A man becomes a man when he submits himself under the proper authority. A man is disciplined and seeks counsel, a man exhibits humility and patience, he is not a servant of himself but a servant of Gods will. The commitment in this requires faith of the highest degree and cannot be swayed by the stresses of his life. A man is a leader not a tyrant who imposes his will onto others, but a man who lives for others and what is just.

Commit to Being a Man

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Commitment- “Sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose”. A man has to blatantly walk in the shoes of his responsibility, he has to commit to the role of manhood, and constantly sacrifice himself with discernment. He must understand that he will be tempted therefore he must wield restraint. This commitment is not of convenience, not in pursuit to be good, but of desperate desire to be great.

This commitment is a prerequisite to all the fundamental things to come in his life. Before he is a husband he must first be a man, before he is a father he must first be a man, before he is chosen to lead he must first be a man and you learn to be a man by following one, there are no shortcuts. He must learn to accept his mistakes and learn from them, he must learn to be wronged and yet forgive, he must learn to love and be satisfied when it’s not returned. His commitment must be long-suffering.

A man, next to god, is his own deliverer from his own folly. A man who disregards the things that are right seals his own fate into stagnation. His decision to pursue true manhood guarantees His freedom into wisdom. He has to be committed to himself, he has to commit to being a man.

A man isn’t defined by his wealth, his sexual conquests, or even his abilities. A man becomes a man when he submits himself under the proper authority. A man is disciplined and seeks counsel, a man exhibits humility and patience, he is not a servant of himself but a servant of Gods will. The commitment in this requires faith of the highest degree and cannot be swayed by the stresses of his life. A man is a leader not a tyrant who imposes his will onto others, but a man who lives for others and what is just.