“If you’re gonna cry, you can go over to where the girls are playing.”
“I’ll give you something to cry about!”
“Don’t be a sissy, suck it up!”
If you are a man and you are reading this, there is a good chance you have heard these words (or something very similar) during your childhood. Boys are taught to be tough, not to feel, not to cry and not to be weak.
To feel and show emotion is seen as weakness for boys. In my opinion it’s one of the greatest and long-lasting lies we could ever tell them.
I am convinced that the main reason I became an addict is because I grabbed hold of the idea early on that because I was different than my father that he would never love me. Since things made me sad and I got lonely a lot (and I never saw those emotions in him) then surely there is something wrong with me.
Enduring physical and emotional abuse from my father only fueled the shame.
I was always searching for approval. On the court, in the classroom, with friends and family, etc. I could never get enough approval to satisfy my need to be loved and accepted. This is not to say that I didn’t have people around me that showered me with praise and loved me deeply. But my definition of masculinity was warped at a young age and I felt that my father would never truly accept me at face value. I could never be satisfied and craved more and more attention from other males in my life – usually coaches, teachers/administrators and male family members.
Eventually I was valuing other people’s opinion and approval over God’s. When I did that I slipped into addict mode. I realized that people will let me down, they hurt and they abandon. They simply are not capable of feeding my God-hunger. So then I became God and decided to take control of my life. When that happened lust took charge and the grip tightened over the years until my whole life became unmanageable.
Father-son dysfunction led to a false definition of masculinity which led me down the road of a lust addict.
Admittedly, I have fallen into the trap of preaching the false gospel of what it means to be a real man. Clearly as a lust addict who was NOT in recovery, I had no idea the meaning of true masculinity. So how could I pass it on to my players?
When I was growing up boys were taught that to succeed in life you need to have a strong self-will, no fear, and above all else – win. It’s the conquest model of being a man.
Society’s Manly Heroes:
The John Wayne – a lone wolf, living in solitude. Tough as nails and never shows emotion. We love him because he always beats the bad guys with his grit and ability.
The James Bond – the suave, ladies man. A man of mystery and intrigue. We love him because he always gets the girl(s) and he outsmarts his enemies.
The Michael Jordan – the ultimate competitor. An unbeatable athlete who climbs atop the mountain of athletic success. We love him because he is the best at his craft and he wins.
Are they our heroes for a reason? Sure. But if they represent our sole definition of being a man then we are glorifying them for the wrong reasons. The John Wayne is consumed with isolation. The James Bond objectifies women. The Michael Jordan only cares about winning.
None of them show a picture of love, connection or service to others.
The New Manly Man:
I think we should teach boys and young men that being a man is about success. But success should be measured within the context of relationships. How much do you love others and allow others to love you?
Are we teaching boys to stand up for a cause that helps people in need? Do we teach them to accept responsibility for their actions? Do we teach them to lead courageously? Do we teach them to enact justice on behalf of others? Do we teach them about empathy?
That is the winning formula. That is what becoming a man is all about. It’s not about how high you can jump, how much you can bench press and how tough you can become. It’s not about how many girls you can date or how much money you make. All of that pales in comparison to the real measure of a man.
My single greatest passion in life (other than my recovery) is to be a vulnerable, fully-present, ever-loving, admittedly imperfect father. I don’t have sons to whom I can model my new definition of masculinity, but daughters will reap the benefits just the same.
My students, players and friends might also be impacted by my transformation.
But I have to keep going back to that first day in recovery when I realized who I am doing all this for – me. If I am not living my new definition on a daily basis driven by the engine of a God-inspired recovery program – then I will never be the father, friend, teacher and coach that I desire to be. It all starts with my heart and allowing the transformation to continue.
My hope is that my transformation will see no end and neither will my love for others.