We tend to speak the language of passions and feelings as if they did not directly affect every component of our lives. By’ we, ’ I’m sure the maxim applies to women too, but men are specially alienated from our feelings and sentiments. We deny the deepest yearns of our souls for the sake of surrender to the culture flowing of’ lone wolf manlines, ’ which litters every square inch of our society.
Yesterday I listened to an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain entitled The Lonely American Man, and my very first thought was Plagiarism !! i >( sarcastically, of course ), because I lately wrote a post on the lack of connectedness and relationships experienced by most American humankinds. Lo and behold, the podcast echoed my exact sentiments, but went further as it interviewed men and researchers who have been studying this trend for a while.
The thing that struck me the most, and dialed up sharp stabs of nostalgia as I listened, was when they interviewed teenage sons, some of whom were in middle school, others were seniors in high school. The younger boys “was talkin about a” how much they valued their best friend and always get excited to have sleepovers and be with them, sharing their most intimate secrets…and moods.
This is something that struck my ears as most unusual. Not because it’s bad in any way, but because it’s odd to hear a male of any age talk so openly about his feelings. These sons were young enough to have not been programmed to hide their moods, shoving them down into a stale nation of apathy and stoicism. One of them recounted how his best friend had helped him when someone in his family had died and he was able to go to his friend and pour out his sorrow and holler before him.
Sadly, by the time these boys had gone through high school, the change had happened. There was a sharp retreat from seems and emotions; these were replaced by toughness and confidence and the pseudo-ability to not uncover any impressions teeming beneath the surface.
At some point in their developmental times, these boys intuited the notion that seeming things is weak and unmanly. And it’s actually no mystery where that stereotype received from: Appear at our culture at large and tell me where you determine a strong, emotional human with a healthy rein on his feelings. We have Thor-types, the man who is so macho and courageous that he is relatively oblivious to the weather happening within his own nerve( if there is any…See likewise: Cowboys, James Bond, and basically any Brad Pitt character ). This toughness is likewise considered to be in music, as rappers and rockers alike are too tough to do anything but get fund, conquer females, and was becoming increasingly tough than anyone who would threaten his clique.
Alternatively, boys are often portrayed as aloof and moronic. Suppose Homer Simpson or literally any family sitcom where the father bumbles through life, unaware of his family, his kids, and most of all, himself. Funny? Sure. But deep ….? That’s an entirely different question.
The emotional man is almost always painted as an outlier: The emo teenage son or the homosexual. Tom Hanks seems to cry a lot, but he is assuredly the exception and not the rule.
My point is, the male affects watched across the board in media is anything but emotional, and these influences have spilled over into the day-to-day living for boys and men. The difficulty with slaking our own feelings, though, is that they may be shoved down in one region, but arise in another like an internal version of Whack-a-Mole. You may shrug off your loneliness and act like you don’t need fellow human beings, only to have it arise late at night in yet another episode of pornography and masturbation. You may say that your parents’ divorce or the names the children at school called you don’t affect you, simply to have the roots of your adult alcoholism tracing right back to those very events.
We have the option to either espouse our feelings or escape them, drowning them in a overflow of numbing agents and superficiality.
I’ll never forget a dialogue I had with a classmate in Chicago years ago. I asked him what he was learning from life lately, and he looked back at me and sincerely said, “I’m learning that it’s okay to be broken and vulnerable. It’s okay to let the Lord and other people desire me as I am.” I was taken aback by his franknes and openness with the very deep things he was experiencing in that season. My respect for him, rather than diminishing, kill through the roof.
Ironically, many of the manliest humankinds I’ve known have been ones who have gone through similar seasons of meeknes and awakening to the emotions raging inside of them, as they learned to sort them out, ordering them, and experience them both with the Lord and with others. Some people call it’ soul operate, ’ while others consider it’ self care.’ Whatever you call it, the important thing is to rightly be considered that the things “youre feeling”, good or bad, are very real. They are meant to be experienced and not submerge out.
Isn’t this what we see in Scripture all throughout? I signify, the Bible’s book of prayer, the Psalms, is lousy with emotion. Men soak their sofas with tears, or experience such fury that they want to smash the babies of their foes against a rock. And these are not limp-wristed milquetoasts writing these lines, either. These are sungs penned by all those people who killed lions and carries with their bare hands, and fought in duels. Yet how odd is it to depict a Thor-like character writing beautiful poetry like we find in the ancient text? Why is this so foreign to us today?
I think some of it, humen, comes from a right understanding of our God. He is not a stale and emotionless Being, stoic and flat in the sky. We understand our God as one who is alive and active, and His feelings are no different. He is sorrowed and He is hurt. He delights and is filled with exultation. He sobs and He sings.( We are so quick to forget the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.”)
To deny ourselves the experience of our own emotions is, in part, to deny our own humanity. It is also to deny the fact that we are made in the image of a very vibrant and sensitive God.( Of course, the opposite extreme of being overly emotional is viable, though this is vastly the minority when it is necessary to American boys specifically .)
My friend Frankie wrote this beautiful clip, and I tried to trim it down but there’s so much good stuff in it I left it fairly long 😛 TAGEND
Emotions are important. Feelings are intrinsic to what it means to be a person. It is impossible for person or persons, a human, to think, live, act, exist, without emotion. If I devalue feelings and feelings, then it has acute ramifications for my theology at large. Our theology proper will start to imagine a deterministic deity who’s stripped of a heartbeat; our anthropology will envision humans as functionally a-emotional, capable or removing impressions from the cloths of our beings( and surely nobody will like being around us, since we can’t take a gag, can’t cry for the sake of crying, can’t be silly for the sake of being silly–indeed we will look more like Spock than the Suffering Servant ); our ethic will logically lead to a strange, unrealistic, impersonal statute that makes absolutely no sense with experience and can’t fulfill the yearnings for justice, love, goodness, or any actual passion in the human heart.
If you get emotions wrong, you get personhood incorrect. If you get personhood wrong, don’t bother talking about God, humans, enjoy, compassion, goodness, anxiety, or anything else.[ American Christianity is] filled with people who appear more like the pharisees than joyful poets. This strange view of feelings is not Christian. It’s not even human. It’s only absolute falsity.
It’s time to be done with bad theology. It’s time to position emotions rightly. It’s time to live life to the full. It’s time to sob; its time to giggle; it’s time to hug and kiss; it’s time to fall in love; it’s time to love so much it hurts; it’s time to love like God has desired each of us; it’s time to “live to the point of tears”( Albert Camus ). Emotions are important to my view of life, my doctrine, and my theology. Emotions are intrinsic to how humans know. We cannot know or be known without feelings. My exhortation to each of you: Let yourselves seem. I know it’s the scariest thing in the world. But it’s what it means to be human. If you want to cry, exclaim. If you want to yell at God, yell at God. If “youre feeling” intimidated, tell person, and perhaps, I pray, let yourselves be comforted. If you want to live, danger. There’s no other route to live.
I don’t know what this looks like, especially because there is likely not one solve-all answer for every man in the world. I think some key elements are openness, franknes, vulnerability, and others with which to share and begin to open up to our sensations. Often, we cannot begin to feel things and be real with ourselves without the help of others to walk with us through those places.
So let’s continue this conversation, because it is far bigger than one blog post can cover.
May we be men who are honest enough to emote fully. May we discover to be vulnerable and expressive, rather than distracted and off-center. May we not become carried away on the tides of our sentiments, but be sensitive when the time calls for it and in control of ourselves when other days call. May we experience life fully, as our God feels His emotions fully.