It is said that life itself emerges from emptiness and chaos. It’s from the depths and dark places that life itself flashes into existence and the dance of the world begins. Our country has been turned upside down. People are scared, they are angry, and we can all feel the pull and presence of chaos—it’s lying closer at hand than we usually admit and we can feel its power.
I believe the relationship between men and women is, at or at least very near, the heart of our current turmoil. I see a nation that needs to slow down and learn to create space for each other and to learn to have the overwhelmingly hard conversations that need to be had. Few are listening, and I believe that its not because we don’t want to, it’s because we don’t know how. We don’t know how to sit with discomfort. Our nervous systems and our emotional capacities have not been developed to sit with hardship. Our lack of experience and training with this creates an entirely reactive, volatile, and ultimately self-perpetuating cycle of blame, confusion and hopelessness. Fortunately these skills aren’t that far off, we just need to employ and practice them.
Since much more primal times, men have taken on the role of creating safety for their families and communities. Men have created physical safety by building shelter and protecting it from others. They have created financial safety and resource security by all manner of things from hunting to working a line in a factory to sitting behind a desk in an office. Today, woman can and should do all of these things, and they are. But the safety that I don’t see being provided in our culture is not protection from the elements, from saber tooth tigers, or destitution. What we’re missing in our culture is emotional safety—safety to be who we are and feel what we feel. Again, men and women can and should be a part of this, but I am putting an official challenge out to men in our culture to step up and lead in this arena. I believe it’s our duty as men to protect those around us, and a lifetime of experience has shown over and over that we are causing and allowing harm to ourselves and each other, over and over and over. It’s not purposeful; it’s ignorant in the technical definition of the word. We ignore and are unaware of our impact on others because we’re oblivious and not tuned into life.
I would kill to protect my wife and my infant son. I mean that literally. If someone threatened us I would not hold back from incredible and immediate violence. When I think about this, there is a place that opens up in me that is pure aggression and action. If someone were to walk into your house and punch your spouse in the face, you would take immediate action. This is so clearly not ok that it would be on the news; it would be passed around in gossip, and it would leave a real mark on all involved. It would shake the tree of safety and stability and it would kindle an incredible reaction—no one would stand idly by and not act in response. We naturally react to the threat of harm, and collectively we all are pretty much aligned on this basic human reaction. So why don’t we have the same protection-based reaction when it comes to the emotional harm that we allow to happen on a daily basis? Because we do: we hurt our spouses, our children and ourselves. Every day.
Emotional harm and abuse comes in many different forms, and the one I am going to focus on here is the violence that comes from the ignorance of men in our culture. We are ignorant to the inner experience of our wives, our partners and our kids—and we’re ignorant to their experience because we’re ignorant to our own. What I mean by inner experience is simple, it’s what one feels and what one wants. When these fundamental human elements are not allowed, shit simply goes south.
This isn’t because we have ill intent; it’s because we don’t have a culture that shows us anything different.
So this is a call to action. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to the subtler parts of our lives. Emotions and inner life are not a feminine attribute; they’re not the domain of women. They are an inarguable part of being human, and at this point in history we need men, all men, to engage. So men, it’s time to grow up. It’s time to step up and protect yourself and your family. Feeling and expressing emotion is not weak. Going to therapy is not a failure. Joining a men’s group or being a mentor is a gift to yourself and to the world.We need examples of men who feel deeply and lead powerfully, and it’s time for a collective recalibration of what it means to be a man.
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