It’s been often said that men need to do better. But what may help is some clear-cut and specific goals men can work towards.
After all, just saying that men need to be better doesn’t help when the problems aren’t clearly defined.
So while some may scoff at this article only being three entries long, don’t worry about it. Three is a manageable start, while still being challenging enough to keep one on their toes.
Also, these items are comprehensive enough to show drastic change as long as the man attempting to be better takes them seriously.
1. Allow yourself to express your emotions
There is a split in how men are viewed that I’d like to clarify. On the one hand, men seem to never express how they feel and always hide their true feelings. But on the other hand, men have absolutely no problem expressing their anger, hostility, boisterousness and lust.
So how can men fail to express their emotions but also clearly express their emotions? Because they aren’t expressing their real emotions.
When a man becomes serious and stoic, it is because he learnt that it wasn’t appropriate or manly to express his feelings. He learnt that that was what women and girls did. And as a result, the boy is on his way to becoming a “real man” the moment he stops sharing how he actually feels.
But when a man unconsciously reacts with hostility or lust, that is a result of one of two things. Firstly, his unconscious reactions are based on the emotions he refused to let himself feel. After bottling emotions up for such a long time, an event occurs that overwhelms him and he explodes.
Secondly, based on the environment he was raised in, he learnt it was okay and even expected of him to express certain emotions, such as anger and sexual yearning.
If you weren’t raised to be that way, it’s unlikely you would do it. However, every person (whether man or woman) who resists and hides their true emotions will eventually explode once enough pressure is applied.
In order for men to express their emotions, they must first let go of the false notion that it is not safe to express themselves. The truth is that it is unsafe if you don’t because when triggering events happen, you are more likely to be a danger to others and to yourself. You will ruin the lives of others and your own.
It is also important to know that the people who have an opinion of how a man is supposed to behave are to be ignored.
“Man” is not a monolith. No two men are the same. Therefore, you get to choose how you want to live. If you want to have a certain concentration of masculine traits and a certain amount of feminine traits, that’s great because that’s technically how we all live anyway.
But if that is the case, why not express the emotions that come with having these traits? What kind of a life are you living if you can’t be who you are?
Moreover, it is in getting the emotions out that you will them learn how to let them out in appropriate ways and at the appropriate times. The longer we take to do this, the more pressure we will build up within and the more explosive we will become when the pressure becomes too much.
2. Become gentler
Being gentle is a trait that is considered feminine, despite the fact that we have the term “gentleman.”
A gentleman is now a general term that is synonymous to “man,” but when the term was first coined it was in reference to a man who was born to a good family and then it later meant a man who conducted himself well in terms of chivalry, kindness and who considered the feelings of others.
So as much as some want to go back to how men used to be where they were rougher and tougher, if we go back even further, men were more morally upstanding. I would argue that being morally upstanding is more important than being tough.
(As a side note, I would argue that the modern man is more moral simply because marginalized voices are now being heard more whereas in the past that wasn’t the case. Slavery, racism and sexism are characteristics of the past and were likely to be peddled by gentle men.)
You may be familiar with the quote by G. Michael Hopf who wrote, “Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”
At a glance, one would find it hard to disagree. And yet, Julius Caesar had no problem disposing the several armies of much poorer nations that tried to invade Rome. It seems that good times still bore strong men; and hard times might not afford one the resources in order to make a weak man into a strong one.
The point I’m trying to make is that being a tough guy is overrated and sometimes unnecessary. There’s a time and a place to defend your boundaries or perhaps the boundaries of your country. But those traits are used by men on their children, wives, peers and each other.
What is the point of being as cutthroat to your enemy as you would to those you claim to love?
If we genuinely want a peaceful world, wouldn’t it make sense to embody that ideal? No, instead we think we have to bomb, fight and murder our way into peace.
3. Being more inclusive
Kid Cudi wore a dress on SNL the other day. People didn’t like that. Kurt Cobain did it years earlier at a Nirvana show. Harry Styles did it the other day as well. So did Diddy and Jaden Smith. People didn’t like that either.
Ever since David Bowie pushed the envelope in the 1970s with feminine makeup, hair and apparel, people have been astounded and repulsed with men adorning themselves with feminine things, whether that be the look or the behavior.
It’s interesting. A woman can wear stereotypical men’s clothes and it’s no problem. No one bats an eye. That’s probably because femininity is inclusive. It can stand on its own while including masculinity with it.
Masculinity, on the other hand, is exclusive. It must stand on its own and if anything that isn’t masculine gets close, masculinity is under attack and it must be shuttled off to its safe space for fear of corruption.
Is it any wonder that an effeminate or gay man will be treated with the utmost contempt? Is it any wonder that a woman who can hang with the boys is upheld as superior to a girly girl, until she gets “too masculine” and then she’s maligned?
This is especially a problem for black men. At least white men get to be “silly” even though it’s still an insult to say that including femininity into one’s wardrobe or mental diet is a strange thing. Black men of the Americas apparently have to be tougher, stricter and strongly reject femininity if it comes from anyone other than a woman or a girl.
But even when a woman or girl is showing strong emotion (which often times is just being human), they are vilified for it. So it seems that men cannot even tolerate when female people are being themselves.
Ultimately, this is just a response when a man cannot understand, handle or process someone being emotional. If they can adopt the first two points made in this article, they will be able to see that being emotional or adopting feminine traits will not erase their masculinity.
Unless deep down they don’t see the importance of actually being a man and maintaining masculine principles.
Now that would be an entirely other issue.