Masculinity has a serious problem. It has been boxed into a culture of conquest; its roots have a depth deeper than we can measure and an age longer than we can count. I am a man, and I sense this is true—yet I do not accept that it is the right path for men to walk.
Conquest culture in all its forms—conquest over women, over the earth, over other men, over people of other nations or another skin color, overall living beings—brings about a shallow superiority that severs a man from his own spirit.
Below are 10 powerful actions men can take to find their own path home through re-imagining masculinity for healthy relationships, families, communities, and society and the basic power each offers to transform male culture:
1. Listen to women. To begin re-imagining masculinity men must first be brave enough to listen openly to women, and hear their voices. We must own the pain men have wrought on women. No more –‘what about men’s rights’, or ‘not all men’ or ‘all lives matter’, or any other excuses for the toxic behaviors that have come to define masculinity. We must sit with this, hear it, know it, own it, and allow it to begin to transform the culture and us. This is the first step toward a new path for men.
2. Honor the feminine. Men must make a priority to honor and respect the feminine everywhere: the earth, our mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, and strangers. Women should be respected as equal human beings—it blows my mind this even has to be said—but it obviously does need to be said loudly and often. We must champion women in leadership roles at all levels.
3. Name the mask you live in. The masks we wear tend to be tough, in control, ever confident, competitive, never publicly showing weakness—usually defined as being kind, or uncertain, or vulnerable. Take a blank sheet of paper, turn it sideways, and draw a line down the center. Draw an outline of your face on the left side only. Label the left side, ‘The Mask I Wear’. Label the right side ‘Behind the Mask’. Being as honest and open with yourself as possible, on the left side write down on the face three words the describe the characteristics or behaviors you show the world most often, but you suspect hide your real feelings. On the right side, list three words describing the characteristics you hide from the world. Full disclosure: My mask lists Guarded, Reserved, Thoughtful, and Behind the Mask lists Creative, Spiritual, and Vulnerable. This little exercise was eye-opening for me. Becoming consciously aware of the mask you live in is crucial to begin removing the mask hiding your authentic self. I also highly recommend viewing the film, “The Mask You Live In.”
4. Become aware of your implicit biases. We each have many biases. We are conscious of some of our biases, but the most damaging can be unconscious—also called implicit bias. Although we are not aware of our implicit biases, they have a big influence on our thoughts and behavior, and how we move through life. The scientists over at Harvard’s Project Implicit have carefully designed Implicit Association Tests (IAT’s) across fourteen crucial areas including race, gender, weight, and religion. The results are eye-opening — uncomfortable — but will awaken you to your implicit biases allowing you to expose these veiled patterns and begin changing your behavior.
5. Connect with wild earth. Masculine energy becomes destructive when it is cut off from the earth. There are many, many ways of reconnecting with wild earth from taking a regular walk in a local park or hiking in wild nature to learning the names and natures of the wild plants and animals we share our earthly home with. Check out my recent articles at EmergeWild.com on “What is Wild(ness) and Why does it Matter?”, and “Naming the Wild Other” for insights and ideas to help you begin to reconnect with Nature.
6. Recognize and honor everyday natural beauty. Notice the beauty of wild nature, gardens, flowers, blue sky, majestic trees, sunshine, flowing water, a dandelion emerging through the crack in the sidewalk. These are small acts of internal vulnerability—name it, embrace it, make it a part of your daily life. Beauty will begin to grow within you.
7. Be creative and share your beauty. Follow your curiosity and engage in something that brings beauty into the world — creating art, writing poetry, making music, photography, pottery, anything that moves you into the realm of creating and sharing it with others. The sharing part might be difficult—it’s part of moving into your vulnerable authentic self.
8. Practice gratitude. Notice, reflect on and give thanks, each day for the little things in your life. This practice makes a grateful heart—a strong heart. Research is demonstrating that you will experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even build a stronger immune system.
9. Take your mask off and become the wilderness. Be willing to stand-alone as your authentic self. Learn to be yourself unmasked out in the wilderness, and speak your truth even when it is hard—especially when it is hard. To stand against pack mentality that is spewing toxic masculinity is vulnerable, and it takes real courage.
10. Embrace your inner feminine. Gain the courage and insight from the above actions to connect to the feminine within. Doing so is real strength. Let go of the disunion of either male or female. Embracing both masculine and feminine within you is real power. Achieving both/and balance can heal divisions, let go of conquest, and bring us together as a species. To paraphrase a Bahá’í teaching, a man’s world has two wings—the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not of equivalent strength, the bird will not fly.
We must shift to a both/and dialogue, a together with way of being, and away from destructive either/or disunions. A man can be both strong and compassionate, both strategic and inclusive, both confident and open, both protector and caregiver; male together with the feminine – a gentleman.
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(via The Good Men Project)