What does it mean to be a man to you? Have you really thought about this? Does being a man mean that men are supposed to be strong, that men don't cry, that men are in charge, men lead, have to be tough, dominating, have no pain, show no emotions, that men are aggressive, they posses women and keep them as property. Well for me, these were some real definitions of what a man was supposed to be that I grew up with regardless of being raised by a strong woman in a fatherless home, in an economically and socially depressed part of town in a city in South Texas. Don't get me wrong, there are many respectful and law abiding men there, but the over all theme about men that I was exposed to was what I described above, especially that real men don't cry!
Talk about being confused! On some occasions when my dad used to take the belt to me, he would say,"Llora cabron, or cry you f----, and at other times, when it called for tears like a funeral, he would say, don't cry- be strong". When he would beat me, I thought that if I cried, he would beat me more for not being manly enough not to cry and because he was being offended because he wasn't man enough to make me cry! At funerals, I thought he would beat me later if he saw me showing any emotion so I had to figure out how to swallow my pain and deep burning sorrows!
I recently watched a TED Talks video by Tony Porter (http://www.ted.com/playlists120geoffrey_canada_7_talks_on_so.html) who describes this very issue in a very real and powerful way.
My own journey and this video re-emphazizes to me and hopefully to many other men that defining and modeling manhood is a critical responsibility.
I totally understood this the first time I pushed my view of my own Man Box on my son. I caught myself saying to him, "It's not that serious don't act like a girl!" I was disgusted with myself afterward because I realized that I had de-valued my own wife and daughters by that statement and tried to suppress his feelings at the same time! And I'm a school counselor who prided himself in telling gang members that it was ok to cry because it meant that they were strong!
But this was my son! And because he was my son, I took a step back and decided to learn about empowering him rather than limiting him. I found that hugging my son and holding him made him just as strong and even more confident in his skin. I found that by listening to him, supporting, and guiding his views made him come seek me out when he was facing stressful situations. I am fortunate to see the hope in his eye, the hope that almost completely left my soul.
And I come full circle to thank the men that did step in to show me love, support, and guidance when I felt lost and confused about the young man that I was becoming!
Men- I challenge you to use your power to influence a young boy in a positive way and to let them know that it's okay to have emotions!
With that said, "Put a little MaxPower into your life!"