I’ve been thinking about this post for the last 5 days, finally figured out what I wanted to talk about 4 days ago, started writing it 3 days ago, almost gave up two days ago and finally got the motivation I needed one day ago. Yesterday. After a conversation with a young man who’s very dear to me. So, as dear as this topic is to my heart, it’s also very heavy for me to delve into because of the effects I see in my sphere of contact. Hopefully, I can unpack it with grace.
Last thursday, I came across a post on instagram by a singer I follow. I looked over the artwork, but it was the caption that drew me in. This is what it said:
Because I could understand where he was coming from, and the reality of his words tugged on my heart’s strings, I took this screenshot and shared it on my whatsapp status. I further elaborated on the need that there is for us/society to be a lot more sensitive when it comes to our view of men and their emotions/feelings and the expression thereof. Sometimes, we look at men as beings who are incapable of feeling pain. Incapable of feeling, period. Forgetting that they too were created with a sensitive side, and that they too feel things a lot deeper than we may think.
This sparked response from both guys and girls. The common response from the gentlemen being that they wished people understood this truth, that things affect them, that they carry a lot on their shoulders and have to go through life having to hide how heavy these burdens are.
I honestly believe toxic masculinity lies at the core of the idea that as a man the expression of pain, of hurt, of disappointment, of intense love (the “soft and mushy” type) and so on and so forth is a sign of weakness. That no matter how much something affects you, you are to either not show it at all or show it in moderation. Vulnerability is considered a no go zone and something only women are allowed to express.
For those who may not know, toxic masculinity can be defined as ‘stereotypically masculine gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the “alpha male”) and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger. These traits generally tend to be socially destructive.’
- Be a man!
- Man up!
- Men don’t cry
- Crying is a sign of weakness
- Don’t let them see you hurt
- If she starts acting up, put her back in line
- Stop being so soft
- “Hahaha, you’re whipped man. What has she done to you?”
- stop acting like a girl
All of these are phrases I’ve heard being said to/about boys/men, all of which hold men to a certain standard that seeks to negate the validity of their emotional reactions to certain situations. Am I saying that it’s wrong to want to be or raise a strong man? Absolutely not. But the problem arises when such words are what we use to “build the man” because all it results in is an individual who may be as macho as they come on the outside but struggling on the inside.
What’s worse is the fact that such words and attitudes are contributing factors towards the lack of spaces that allow men to be vulnerable about the feelings, struggles, negative past experiences and pains they carry such that they can address them and furthermore, heal… And then, they start to bleed on the people who didn’t cut them. Whether it be immediate family, friends or just people who care about their well being.
Beyond that, because wearing your heart on your sleeve is considered being soft, it makes it hard for some to love others in both words and deeds. I’m not only referring to romantic love.
“I love you bro, no homo though”. A phrase I was first introduced to in my final years of primary school. One I didn’t understand. Looking back, what it says to me was that the idea of a guy telling his brother or male friend that he loves them without adding that last bit meant that if you do so, you’re a homosexual. However this rule does not apply to women.
Now, lets take it back to that part about vulnerability.
As the conversations continued on whatsapp, a friend and I started talking about how this expectation on men to “not feel” or to not express that which they’re feeling is a big part of the reason why many find it hard to pour their hearts out to God in prayer or worship. Being undone in His presence is a foreign experience because letting go of the control factor is not something they’ve been allowed to do. Worship is our love expressed to God as a response to His grace towards us. It’s an outpouring of what lies deep within our hearts, and is expressed not just with our mouths but with our bodies too. Be it jumping, dancing, clapping our hands, being on our knees or lifting our hands.
Being on your knees, and/or lifting our hands is a form of surrender. Surrendering leaves you exposed, vulnerable, naked if you will. In that moment, you’re open to the searching of your heart and your hurts, no matter how deep you’ve buried them. The pinpointing of wounds you’ve refused for Divinity to heal. There will be days where this posture, both in body and in heart, will take you to places you thought you’d closed off, places that hold memories you’d forced yourself to forget because of how they shaped parts of who you are today. And sometimes, that comes with tears, and that’s okay. But if your reflex is to hide, and suppress, you close yourself off to the endless potential of healing and restoration that is only found in His presence, at His feet.
There are things about you, young man, that only God knows. There are parts of you He wants to reshape and change. There are wounds He wants to turn into scars, so that the memory of them feels nothing like adding salt to the cut, but instead they serve as testimonies to others of God’s goodness, gentleness and graciousness. There are offences He wants to help you let go of, and lessons He wants to teach you so that you don’t hurt/damage those around you just as someone else did to you. There are insecurities you have that He wants to help you overcome.
But, until you bring down the walls you’ve built around your heart that keep Him on the outside, until you decide to let go of the reigns when it comes to Him, there will always be a barrier during your time of worship.
I know the world is expecting you to carry it on your shoulders, but He says:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30
I pray this post speaks to someone, somewhere.
Grace & Peace to you & yours
– Xo, Jo 🌺