Let’s talk about some negative behaviors men exhibit to seem masculine. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying; men are not necessarily bad and neither is masculinity. Men need to feel empowered and not look weak. It is baked into our genes and forced upon us from the schoolyard. We learn to fight each other when we are young for social status. Then we fight for the affections of those who attract us. We fight for promotions on the job. Men come to see themselves, and wrap their identity, as a strong protector, provider, and emotional fortress upon which their family can rely.
When done correctly, with consideration and respect, these are noble qualities. However, many times we take it too far and men hurt other men. Men need community with other strong male leaders. When we are struggling with problems, grief, or illness our community disappears or treats us as if we are now weak. This keeps us from a support system and threatens our identity.
Men are also much less likely to seek help for counseling on grief and less likely to report suicidal ideations. Men rarely have friends asking them how they are doing or ask hard questions like “Are you thinking about suicide”. We are 50% more likely to die by suicide than women. Men need to express their emotions. We react when our support pulls away from us or when we think it is pulling away as they shame us into getting over it. We often will suppress our grief, block the pain, and put on a brave front so we do not lose our friends and family. Any unresolved grief will fester, become more difficult to resolve, and create more chaos (or violence).
Instead, we need to embrace our friend’s grief, acknowledge their pain, and help them through difficult times. Ironically, ignoring grief makes it stay longer while acknowledging it helps it subside. This is not fun. This can interrupt the game you are watching. Real men have compassion and are brave enough to be in emotional situations. By being with them and acknowledging pain, you help it subside. This does not mean it will always go away. Some traumas never heal completely but they become survivable.