What does “normative male alexithymia” have to do with us? It is a cultural attempt to name the difficulty men have putting their emotional experience into words. Our ancestors would have joked about the need to label a characteristic that has been a part of the male makeup since the beginning of time. Remember: even Adam failed in his communication with Eve when he was silent after Satan had tempted her (Gen 3:1-10).
I found this term in the May edition of Harper’s Bazaar, in an article entitled, “Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden.” The subtitle states, “Toxic masculinity – and the persistent idea that feelings are a ‘female thing’ – has left a generation of straight men stranded on emotionally-stunted islands, unable to forge intimate relationships with other men. It’s women who are paying the price.”
What got my attention was this: “It’s women who are paying the price.” The article cited research from Brené Brown: “Whereas women experience shame when they fail to meet unrealistic, conflicting expectations, men become consumed with shame for showing signs of weakness… having hard conversations that involve vulnerability is something men often try to avoid.” The article’s author noted, “Women continue to bear the burden of men’s emotional lives… For generations, men have been taught to reject traits like gentleness and sensitivity, leaving them without the tools to deal with internalized anger and frustration.”
This article can be compared to one’s wife waving one of those beach flags indicating the surf is rough today – so proceed with caution. When my wife waves the flag, I need to engage lovingly and wholeheartedly – and not avoid the warning. I hope you can agree that too many wives carry more of the emotional load in their marriages. Here are some takeaways from this article for Christian men.
First, don’t be like Adam, who didn’t utter a word in his fateful moment with Eve. Men, it is downright messy at times to dialogue with our wives. You will usually feel on the short end of the discussion. But you need to stay with it. Being “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” can be helpful (James 1:19).
Second, admit that many of us are straight men stranded on emotionally-stunted islands. Good models have been hard to find. But we can make a difference by asking God to make us tough and tender. “…Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23).
Third, cultivate male relationships. One of the best ways to become emotionally involved with your wife is to get emotionally involved with other men. Do yourself a favor and get into a men’s group that practices transparency. That will help you learn to share your emotions with your wife. She will bless the group for “cracking” her man open.
Fourth, reject the label “toxic masculinity.” Yes, some men are toxic, but don’t allow the label to cloak you in shame. Be committed to being a man who has both the Lion and the Lamb in his tank (John 3:29-30). God can make you capable of deep, caring emotions when they’re needed.
Finally, remember this from Leanne Payne: “To ask a man to become relationally aware, without being first of all secure in his maleness, is to ask a man to be less than a man. It is in some way asking a man to act like a woman without first knowing what it is like to be a man. A man must be sensitive from the heart of a truly secure man.” Amen to that!
Devotions from Judy’s heart
Lauren Daigle has a new song out titled “Hold On To Me.” One of her former hits, “You Say” was on the charts for months, and I wrote a blog on it as well. I believe these two songs touch something deep in our nation’s current psyche. People feel disconnected. Many pass like ships on an angry sea. They are pilgrims wandering in a wasteland of angry words and conflicting ideas, longing to hear words like “I love you” or “There IS hope” from a transcendent, loving God.
Lauren’s songs have a haunting, searching, mystical feel to them. They seem to be groping for a greater reality, without naming God or getting too preachy with the words and the intent of the message. I can envision that many are touched by her style and words, reaching out to God. The choir in the background gives a sense that one is not alone in the search, giving the wanderer encouragement to keep seeking for firmer grounding in their Creator. To her credit, Lauren leaves pilgrims some freedom to wander, giving space for listeners to cry out to God for mercy, while finding their way back home to their Father’s house, where they can be held.
“Hold On To Me” includes such cries for help as, “When I’m not somebody I believe in / When I don’t feel like I’m worth defending / When I’m tired of all my pretending / When I start to break of desperation underneath the weight of expectation…”
The chorus adds: “Hold on to me when it’s too dark to see You / When I am sure I have reached the end / Hold on to me when I forget I need You / When I let go, hold me again…” At the end are the words of hope – not direct, but giving a subtle invitation to let go into the Father’s arms of love. “I could rest here in your arms forever / ‘cause I know nobody loves me better.”
This is a song for wounded pilgrims needing to come home into the arms of love. I kept thinking of certain words from the prophets. First, our heavenly Father speaks in the feminine to express His love through Isaiah: “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you – never. Look I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16 – Message). Secondly, compassionate, fatherly words also come from Hosea: “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them” (Hosea 11:4).
Men, don’t let the cultural narrative limit your opportunity to know a heavenly Father who delights in you. In the words of Leanne Payne, God is the great “Unseen Real” outside of ourselves. He is the One who gives the gift of “objective reality.” Your heavenly Father is reaching out to you, so you can receive His healing word coming to you. Our problem, due to cultural conditioning, is turning in on self in the “disease of introspection.” This song speaks to a deep, agonizing, introspective search for meaning. If you identify with the song, I encourage you as an act of your will to look up and out to Jesus and receive his healing word coming to you.
Check out https://youtu.be/RWua9o2KEv0 – and hear the Father say through this song, “You are my beloved, I delight in you!”