No Weak Men Allowed…..

2101_WhatitMeanstoBeaMan_SharableImage_Final_5No Weak Men Allowed….I think that is the message that men hear from the time they are little boys all the way through the rest of their lives.

I know I have heard that message.

I know the men I work with have heard that message.

It may come from parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, friend’s parents, pastors…culture. The message is sometimes delivered intentionally in order to wound us, and other times it’s said without the intention to hurt…but it hurts nonetheless.

This wounding creates a situation where men long to be known…to be accepted…to feel that they are good enough. We want to know that we have what it takes to measure up. We want to know that we have what it takes to “slay the giant.” Yet, there is such fear in being rejected, hurt, criticized…that it is often not worth the risk to be vulnerable.

I am passionate about this topic and I hope that I can work with as many men possible to help them live deep, emotionally/physically/mentally/spiritually connected lives, along with the confidence and courage to be vulnerable with those that they love and those that love them. Too many men are suffering alone in shame and silence.

This message to not be weak starts early as I have stated. It is something that I write about at length in chapter 8 of my book, What it Means to be a Man. And this summer I wrote an article for the Fuller Youth Institute called Feelings Not Allowed: How Our Response to Boys Sabotages Their Relationships.

This message was just reinforced to me in a new way when I came across Brene Brown’s words in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. In the book two statements literally jumped off the page at me and I found myself internally saying, “Yes, yes, yes…you are exactly right.”

“Basically, men live under the pressure of one unrelenting message: Do not be perceived as weak.” (pp. 91)

………………..

“As I’ve learned about men and their experiences with shame, I still see that image of a shipping crate with a big stamp across it that reads, ‘CAUTION: Do Not Be Perceived as Weak.’ I see how boys are issued a crate when they’re born. It’s not too crowded when they’re toddlers. They’re still small and can move around a bit. they can cry and hold on to mamma, but as they grow older, there’s less and less wiggle room. By the time they’re grown men, it’s suffocating.” (pp. 94)

As a man can you identify with the message that men are not allowed to show weakness? How was that communicated to you growing up?

2 Comments

  1. by Michael Gray on December 2, 2013  5:48 pm Reply

    The only reason you keep hearing from me on this issue is that everything you've written on this over the last year or so has really challenged me and caused me to think deeply about manhood and weakness. We've communicated enough for you to know that I don't push back on these thoughts just out of a need to be controversial, but from a desire to further sharpen my views. I have a son. I can't afford to get this wrong.

    I am 100% certain that I don't want my son to be weak. It's not that I want him to be some macho, hard-headed, opinionated, imposing jerk, but the world has too many weak, passionless men. I know that when you talk about weakness, you are specifically meaning the ability to be honest, open, and vulnerable. I think that is important -- in private. Am I wrong to think that publicly embracing weakness can be damaging? If so, what am I missing?

    I keep thinking about your story in "The Anxious Christian" where you revealed that you struggled mightily in college with low self confidence and poor public speaking skills. I wrote to you at the time that I was shocked because I knew you in college and you presented yourself as both a confident person and a particularly adept speaker. The reason this ties in is it seems that you worked very hard to overcome your weaknesses. You never stood up and said, "I am not very good at this or that, and I admit it." Instead, you fought against your weakness, continually and gradually overcame it, and are now someone others look up to as a great communicator. I'm sure you still feel weak in some areas, but to people like me you come across as particularly non-weak.

    From what I can tell, you didn't embrace your own weakness, and that translated into you being viewed as someone who stood in direct contrast to those weaknesses. I think that is huge. I think that's character-building. And I think that manhood is defined by overcoming weakness -- not simply ignoring the weaknesses, but working to overcome and push through.

    You mentioned "slaying the giant". David was the poster boy for weakness, but he took on and defeated a giant because he refused to let the weakness define him or get in the way of his calling.

    Weak men don't slay giants by being weak. They slay giants when they overcome their weakness.

    If I was in McKinney, I'd be on your therapy couch every week. Hahaha. Thanks for listening, Doc.

  2. by Rhett Smith on December 4, 2013  4:54 pm Reply

    Michael,

    Good stuff man.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Maybe it's a matter of linguistics and I wasn't as careful with my words as I should be.

    But I don't think we need to be/have to be weak in the sense...or should be for that matter....of not trying to overcome our struggles.

    In regards to my stuttering I worked hard to overcome it. But there was great relief when I was able to talk about it and embrace it in the sense that I wasn't perfect, etc. It took the fear away. It also allowed God to really work in me because I was trying to be so strong, instead of allowing his strength to emerge. I think of Apostle Paul's words that when we are weak he is strong.

    So I would never encourage a guy to embrace his weakness in terms of never working on it and wallowing in it. But I would encourage him to be weak in the sense of admitting that he can't fix everything and that's okay. That it's okay to be vulnerable, etc.

    One of the things I do now that helps me overcome my fears in speaking is by talking about them and showing my weakness. It was hard to talk about it. But I'm still going to get up there and give it my best shot.

    I want men to be honest with themselves, and be vulnerable and honest. I clung to the word weak because it comes out of Brown's quote in my blog post. But I would say, I want to encourage men to be open, vulnerable...let their guard down...which for many men is a sign of weakness. So when they do those things, in some ways they are embracing weakness, or really their view of it.

    But it's not about being passive or not trying to overcome things. It's about being honest with ourselves and our limits and abilities and working within them and allowing God to transform them. But I will always come along a guy and try and help him see how what he perceives as a weakness, he can use to overcome and for strength.

    Weak men don't slay giants...you are right. But vulnerable, open men (which is one of the greatest acts of courage with others) do slay giants.

    Thanks for the thoughts....

    rhett

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