Initially called “For the men” for the sole reason of not being gifted in the good-post-heading-department, I decided to add a little pizzazz and name it “Dear men, it is human to have emotions”. Which I know sucks and does not have a kick to it, but I think it is an improvement.
Anyway, in today’s post, my goal is to try and convey the dangers of toxic masculinity and the dehumanisation of boys/men in our day to day lives. This might not apply to you but by reading this you might end up changing how you conduct with others (especially those of the male species) and how you can help. We live in a world where the symbol of masculinity and strength is portrayed by being fearless and emotionally unscathed. I grew up with this mentality too; expecting those of the opposite sex to be “manly” which in my head looked like James Bond-macho, driven and had his emotions “under control”. Looking back at it now, I am strongly of the notion that men are not COMPLETELY opposite to women. Yes, there are physical attributes and biological contrast e.g hormones and all that- however, we are all human and we all have emotions.
I was one of those girls who constantly nagged and told most of my male friends and family to man up! To be honest, I did not know what it meant but it was a phrase I used as a weapon to silence them when they tried to open up or show their humanity. I now cringe at that phrase because I now see the damage it causes and the way it reduced them. I profusely apologised to those I victimised in this way, they might have thought little of it but I meant it.
Being a person who tries to understand people before passing judgement; and also knowing that people are the way they are because of past experience-good or bad, I decided to pay more attention to the men in my life. I fail at times but I do my best to try and be in other people’s shoes (they might not always fit but I try to walk a km or two). This post is mainly based on that attribute and what I have learnt from the men in my life- from my father, brother, cousins and friends (acquaintances included). I am no psychic or the great oracle of knowledge and wisdom for all of humanity- but having spent over 20 odd years around and with the opposite sex, you tend to pick on certain things which are/caused by the root of something. I will share some of the things I have seen affect men around us, be it consciously or subconsciously, mentally, physically and spiritually. I will shed more light on 5 things which I will try to elaborate on.
P.S: This might not apply to everyone but maybe it can help someone you know.
Depression is a common and serious illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Though being confused with being a white people’s disease or weakness by most Africans- it has taken too many lives to be characterised as a mere issue. More than 6 000 men commit suicide due to depression every year and the ages range from 23-69. There are not many mental health clinics which cater to men nor are their programs that mainly focus on the mental well being of males in general. Men from a young age are taught to mask their emotions and get over situations that cause permanent damage, for example, rape and domestic violence to name a few. They are taught never to cry from a young age-“Do not cry, you are a man. Men do not cry. Man up”, they are told to sweep serious issues under the rug and just go about with life because it is what it is. They can not talk about their emotions, issues or plights because men are supposed to have it all together. This has caused a large number of men to lack communication skills or struggle with showing affection.
Most young men (especially Africans) do not have people to confide in- be it their fathers, pastors or any positive male figures. I was shocked and disheartened when one of my male friends told me he did not have a male figure to confide in, I am his friend to a degree and he does confide in me but I understand I will never fully understand his plights due to gender differences. I then resorted to ask the majority of them, if they have friends they go to, who do not laugh at them when they confide in them, who advise them and who they can openly cry in front of (crying is healthy, especially that one that leaves you with mild headache and puffy eyed-highly recommended for both sexes). Only three of them confirmed they had such friends but who would laugh after the situation had been dealt with (which I do not think I would personally appreciate but hey, each to their own). After that conversation, I realised not all men/ boys have positive role models to look up to and as time goes on, they end up looking up to people who are broken and damaged as well. I can imagine how frustrating it can be, to be told to be something you have never really seen a positive example and still being expected to be one. I believe this leads to frustration, anger, stress as well as depression and the fact that you can not express it is even worse. Just imagining it makes me angry and defeated at the same time, I get a glimpse of how most boys/men feel on a daily bases and try to conceal it too. It is not healthy and should never be defined as strength, that is no way for anyone to live. We are bound to live life abundantly and with joy and faith.
If you find yourself needing someone to talk to, try to talk with someone close to you and the might help you find help or they can help you. Also, pray for a friend with good counsel and who are also intentional ad committed. If you are in Zimbabwe, there is a mental health approach called the “friendship bench” which has elderly women counsel and talk to you about whatever will be troubling you. I believe it now caters for men as well (my apologies I could not find the link, but you can google wooden bench Zimbabwe and it will come up). Men, you really need to take care of your mental health; not for anyone but for you, because your life literally depends on it.
2.GENDER EQUALITY/ FEMINISM
Feminism sounds like a cuss word these days and it has also been redefined so many times it sounds as if it is a weapon of mass destruction against men. From what I understand, feminism is about equality but at times I fail to understand it because I do not completely agree with some of the things that are used to define it nor do I shame those who do. I personally believe in being equal but with different roles, I believe in submission to my husband (submission is not controlled nor oppression practised in God’s way) and I also believe in independence, I believe in being a career woman and a parent too, I believe in working for my family and providing for them and I believe in my husband taking care of our kids, because he is a parent and I believe in spoiling my husband as well as letting him unknowingly surprise me with shopping sprees charged to his card of course. So you see, equality.
On a more serious note, I understand why most men see equality as defiance against their nature. Men are raised to be providers, to be honoured and respected overtly, with reverence and grandeur. Most African men are raised to “receive” more than give- they are taught to expect a wife who gives them their all without question, who obeys them, cater to their every need, who is forgiving and whose strength is in how long she can put up with their “miscalculations” and will not accept anything less. I disagree with this because you can see the abuse underlining these “qualities”. At the same time, most men have grown in this kind of backgrounds and some of them do not know any better. Whilst this is not an excuse to be a jerk and menacing person, I can understand to a degree how hard it is, to have to learn something new after having to master something opposite to it, since birth. It can be hard, patronising even but very much possible. It is not about competing about which is the better sex but about us being equal in our differences. How women can be good at being engineers and men at being chefs, how women can be CEO’s and men can stay at home dads without shaming or being ashamed.
I do not believe equality is gender reversal as most people now see it, which I think is very petty by the way, but a way of men saying- we see you, and we respect you and women saying, we see you and we acknowledge you too. It is not to degrade men or see them as inferior nor insignificant. If it is still hard for you to comprehend and strongly believe and taught that women are inferior and insignificant; I reckon the next section is for you.
3. DO BETTER
Yes King, do better; you are more than where you came from or how “unconventional” your upbringing was. We all come from families who have differences and ways of life, however, I do not think to blame your mistakes or misconduct on how you grew up becomes old after a while. It could be how you never grew up with any examples of positive role models or how you came from an abusive household; doing better is a daily process but one which is worth it. It is easy to blame our backgrounds and dysfunctional families for all the things we do not want to face head-on (I am guilty on this too) but it is more rewarding and character building to do better and be better. For example, most boys/men have grown around environments where having multiple sexual partners or cheating is appraised, however, as you grow and realise your self-worth; you tend to realise your worth or masculinity is not based on your body count but who you are in Christ. It might seem feminine or unmanly to talk about self-worth as a man but hear me. After having a chain of girlfriends, sleeping with them and discarding them to be esteemed a legend amongst other men, do you actually have peace afterwards? Or you adamantly stating you do not care, is it because you are actually unremorseful or you do not want to face your emotions? I can also imagine the burden of not being able to tell anyone how the toxic masculinity weighs on you and also not forgetting the venereal disease you might be carrying.
It might be how you conduct with adults or people in general, using profanity and derogatory language. Come on now, do better, I can suggest a manual guide on How to do better- The Holy Bible or for light reading, Luvvie Ajayi’s I am Judging You. I use it too because I have days when I just want to blame my past for being sour. Do better by hanging around people who encourage you and see your worth, do better by choosing kindness over prestige on juvenile things. Be better by believing you are better, be better by knowing you are important and worth a lot more than your mistakes. Bringing me to my next point.
4.HEY, YOU MATTER!
You might not hear this enough or it might seem as if it does not apply to you, but believe me, you matter. You might not see it or it might not make sense because of what you are currently going through, the expectations, bills, economy, unemployment, suicidal thoughts, heartbreak, family feuds- you name it, YOU MATTER. The fact that you are alive today means there is more in store for you the fact that you feel and hurt, means there is more to you. You might be entering into adulthood or going through a midlife crisis but whatever age you are, you matter.
I have realised that most men scarcely hear positive words. They are rarely told they matter, they are loved, they are important, they are missed or appreciated. Most are told maybe after doing or giving something. I am talking about speaking health, love, peace into our fathers, brothers and spouses lives. To show them that they matter, giving them our attention and time. I am learning to do this for my brother and I love how it makes him happy and content that he has someone who values him and reminds him frequently. I do not want him to grow up in a world where he feels to be a man is to be emotionally constipated. I want him to know he can love and be loved fully and freely, that he deserves the best things in life, that his mistake does not define him- just like every human being alike.
I want him to understand that telling his friend he loves them is not gay nor is crying feminine but a mere human emotion and act. I believe all males should be their brothers keeper- be it brother by blood, hood, crime or in Christ. Which brings me to my last point.
5. YOU AIN’T TRASH, IT’S JUST TRASHY BEHAVIOUR.
Though I have thought this more than I have said it, I have come to realise that by calling men trash, we are low key referring to ourselves (women) as trash cans. Well, for the obvious reason that we are the ones who birth them. I think it is just trashy behaviours, it might not be you, but it might be that cousin of yours who has a dodgy business every week (scammer) or that friend who like a different girl each day of the week (which also brings your character into question). It could even be an uncle who gets a girlfriend every time his falls pregnant because he feels his needs are not being met or it could be that homeboy who talks down on dark skinned girls because he feels they are inferior to light skinned girls or worst, it could be you being around it but not saying anything.
I believe no one is born bad and can not become good. If you struggle with trashy behaviour, let those closest to you help you in prayer and accountability. Pray, have someone to confide in and ask for the Holy spirit to work on you daily. Follow the examples of godly men in the Bible, David’s resilience in pursuing God’s heart but not his murderous traits; Solomon’s wisdom but not his trashy womanising shenanigans; Abraham’s faith but not his lack of trust in God’s timing but by all means, go all Jesus.
I understand only covered a fraction of the plights faced of a daily basis, but I hope this sheds light, to women too, that men go through so much on a daily basis. Some struggle with their relationship with God, some are taunted by generational curses and other mental health. As a Christian, I feel obliged to look out for my brothers in Christ, as I do for my sisters in Christ. To love them as I love myself, to respect them as I also want to be respected and to treat them as I want to be treated. So to all the kings out there, go be royalty- because you belong to the KING OF KINGS.