On a number of different occasions over the years I have been asked whether I would consider running an exclusively men’s program or a “Men’s Group.” I have considered it seriously, however, the question is, ‘why would I do that?’
Well, the statement that I have often used in Connections sums it up for me. It goes something like this; “contrary to common belief, men have hearts too.”
One of the great challenges to your personal freedom and your freedom of expression is the kind of stereotyping that exists in society…especially with regard to men. Here are some stereotypes identified in a report from Boys to Men: Media Messages About Masculinity.
The Joker is a very popular character with boys, perhaps because laughter is part of their own “mask of masculinity.” A potential negative consequence of this stereotype is the assumption that boys and men should not be serious or emotional.
The Jock is always willing to “compromise his own long-term health; he must fight other men when necessary; he must avoid being soft; and he must be aggressive.” By demonstrating his power and strength, the jock wins the approval of other men and the adoration of women.
The Strong Silent Type focuses on “being in charge, acting decisively, containing emotion, and succeeding with women.” This stereotype reinforces the assumption that men and boys should always be in control, and that talking about one’s feelings is a sign of weakness.
The Big Shot is defined by his professional status. He is the “epitome of success, embodying the characteristics and acquiring the possessions that society deems valuable.” This stereotype suggests that a real man must be economically powerful and socially successful.
The Action Hero is “strong, but not necessarily silent. He is often angry. Above all, he is aggressive in the extreme and, increasingly over the past several decades, he engages in violent behavior.”
The common denominators in these stereotypes include;
- Don’t be soft, serious, emotional, or talk about feelings.
- Be decisive, aggressive, angry, and violent.
- Always be in control and in charge.
- Demonstrate economic power and social success.
- Show prowess with women.
So; the question is, are these stereotypes what define what a real man is?
I believe there is so much more to what constitutes a real man. The stereotypes identified here are what often robs a man of his vast potential as an individual and often are the reasons that he struggles socially or in relationship.
I believe that a real man has some of these following qualities;
- They do not shy away from expressing real emotions.
- They are willing to talk about their feelings because they know that it does not diminish their sense of power or self control. It enhances it.
- They are also willing to acknowledge that expressing real emotion is what connects them to others, especially the important women in their lives.
- They are willing to be seen (vulnerable) in both their strengths and weaknesses.
- They are committed to being a student of life and relationship.
- They are not afraid of being soft and sensitive because it is a true expression of the love and compassion they possess.
- They are less about the paycheck and more about the passion for what they do. I want to be reminded of this over and over again as my male ego wants to desperately attach itself to financial success.
- They are willing to let go of their attachment to things to give them a sense of fulfillment, power and success. Their sense of fulfillment is more about how they make a difference in the lives of others.
- They choose not to hide behind humor or appearances of any kind that projects phoniness and posturing
- They are willing to explore what intimacy is in relationship, not just sexual satisfaction.
- This requires communication skills like listening instead of explaining and justifying which is common for men.
- They are willing to surrender control, which often builds resentment and disempowerment in others, for the sake of empowering others and building the power and strength that comes from collaboration and community.
- They do not have a need to express their masculinity through aggression, anger or violence.
Ok; so the list could on for a while, but this gives you some insight into what I think constitutes authenticity in a man. Ultimately, the risk here for men is to allow their hearts to be every bit as present as their heads as they engage in life and relationship. It is often the missing link in creating all the satisfaction, fulfillment and meaning that we are looking for. It is time to take the risk men.
I really believe there is a place for this kind of conversation with a group of men, so, I will be offering a program in the next couple of weeks concerning these very issues. Stay tuned.