As modern men seek healthier paradigms of masculinity, we must provide “counter-stories” for the young men and boys in our world.
For a man to commit to healing is to open their innermost being to the chaotic unpredictability of the Universe. To feel her profound caress is to risk falling in love and to risk caring. As modern men, we desperately need to honor our bodies to simply be human …
On the Fear of Healing
We as men are fearful of healing because to heal requires vulnerability, and nothing is more fearful to a man than that. To be vulnerable is to unstrap the armor, open the links of the chainmail, and allow for the possibility of being hurt by the arrow of the most dreaded kind; the arrow of self-love.
To heal is to step upon a path of unknowingness, where ultimately you are not in control because the Universe will yank the reins of healing from your hands and take away your control. It will steer you back to where you belong. It may just connect you to something. It may drive you to primal sources of love and nurturance. It may take you to that dark realm you emanated from; a womb-like place that was your source before you were dropped into this world.
The Cultural Myth of Masculinity
We as men are fearful of healing because we do not feel truly masculine when honoring our bodies. The prevalent and pervasive cultural myth of masculinity is that we are primarily protectors, providers, and warriors consecrated to the use of the community. As such, we first must be willing to sacrifice our bodies for the greater good of lovers, family, friends, and our gang. The honor that
The honor that soldiers earn is based upon this premise.
In the West, one of the cultural icons that affect the churched and unchurched alike is the story of Jesus Christ. There was THE man who went all the way by sacrificing his physical body unto torture and an ignominious death. So that has become the standard for us.
This notion of masculinity encompasses all communities, not just those from the European cultural paradigm. The two most prominent figures of the Black community from the Civil Rights era sacrificed their bodies and lives for the betterment of their communities; Malcolm and Martin.
Young men are bombarded with messages that the path to respect for their manhood is earned through the sacrifice of one’s body and physical comfort. Sports figures of all types exemplify this in their training. This is the level of sacrifice that all men are expected to rise up to – pushing one’s body to its very limit. All of this in order to win a “game,” a game which is all too realistic in its unholy demands on our bodies. As realistic in its demands on our bodies as our real lives are.
“Real” Manhood and Self-Care
In Los Angeles, I have worked with hundreds of gang members and at-risk young men of color for many years. From the scars of gunshot and knife wounds that adorn their bodies, to the tattoos they endure to represent their “clique” or hood, they all know the score. A “real man” offers up their body as if it is worth less than zero.
While engaging young men in my conflict resolution work and in sharing the Qigong and self-care exercises from my book they are very resistant to take self-care seriously. These strong young men fear slowing down, nurturing their energy, or even worse, feeling what is really going on in their bodies. It is easier to smoke a blunt or pound excessive amounts of booze so as to feel nothing and slip (if just for a moment) into numbness and oblivion.
In this broader cultural context of what is acceptable masculine behavior, it becomes counter-intuitive for men to care one whit about their bodies or health. Our lives are a fast ride to “heroic” death and sacrifice, not a gift that one is grateful to God for, a treasure that one cultivates, nourishes, or takes care of.
For us men to take our physical and emotional healing seriously is to commit a crime against a society that continually calls for more blood from us; either through recruitment for wars and the military, or to gangs, or to intense contact sports. For the thousands of young men seriously injured each year in sports, for countless older men who need medical check-ups, it is all the same haunting feeling; we all secretly believe on some cellular level that seeing a doctor is only for “pussies” that cannot handle real life.
As modern men seek healthier paradigms of masculinity, and as so many mothers work hard to raise healthy male children on their own, we mustt provide “counter-stories” for the young men and boys in our world. Stories which have the power to dismantle the death-dealing and health-stealing myth of male invulnerability.
The reality is that men are even more vulnerable physically than women. Our shorter life spans across the globe demonstrate that. We are weaker physically because we could never endure the pain of giving birth to a child. Yet, the myth of male physical prowess and invulnerability is pervasive. It takes its terrible toll not only on men themselves but on the relationships, families, and communities that raise them.
A Revolution for Men
For men to start a real revolution, we need to start with ourselves. We must begin with honoring, respecting, and caring for our physical bodies. Take care of your temple to truly serve whatever you call “God.”
It is our duty to our lovers, our children, our elders, and our community. Loving oneself and honoring the health of your body does not make you a “pussy.” You should be so lucky that it would. As a man, you will never be strong enough to qualify as a “pussy,’ because we know deep inside that women are truly strong. We desperately need to honor our bodies to simply be
We desperately need to honor our bodies to simply be human. We as men must realize that that is more than enough.
Note: This article was previously published on the author’s website, www.frankblaney.com and The Good Men Project.