I recently came across a new term related to men in our culture. It is called the “man box.” “In the absence of emotional authenticity, American men become homogeneous in their expression of self. This encourages their location, willingly or otherwise, in what many writers have come to call the Man Box. The Man Box is a set of rigid expectations that define what a ‘real man.'” Basically it is a “rambo” type man who is self sufficient, expressed in a guise of competency.
But the Man Box exposes the incompetency of men in relationships. Asking another man to “please be my friend” represents a social risk of failure because men have given little attention to cultivating this kind of interpersonal risk taking. “It creates a moment of uncertainty that is agonizing for men. To ask for friendship suggests vulnerability, flexible social standing or even willingness to admit need.” Most of these values are in short supply in typical male relationships.
Men, I can not stress the importance of “male bonding.” I can speak from personal experience working with men for many years. I only wish I would have opened my heart to other men sooner. Even though I am a “heart” type of guy (ENFJ – Myers- Briggs) I was well into my fifties before I opened up with other guys. I spent a lot of years protecting my wounded, fearful heart. My biggest learning was this: When I experienced other men loving me for who I really was, it gave me a heart that could finally open up to the love of God. Praise God!!!
Find a group of guys that are committed to “soul talk.” Or find another brother who is willing to risk talking about the pain in his heart. Remember, men move in “circles of competence.” Social risk making is not rewarded. But living risk free has it price. Men are left feeling disconnected, hidden or unfulfilled. Communication with our wives and children will be hindered. Being a husband and dad requires vulnerability and transparency, not competence and and knowing the answers. At home the “fix-it” mentality will not heal family wounds or resolve family secrets.
Men, we need to embrace the “uncertainty” of connecting at the soul level with other guys. This is where we learn to relate emotionally as men. It is in these conversations that we learn to be honest and authentic. We are being real rather than competent. Uncertainty in relationships takes courage, because there is risk involved. Remember without risk, there will be little relational growth. Find a group of guys that are willing to share their secrets, rather than their successes. “Does anyone bring a lamp home and put it under a washtub or beneath the bed? Don’t you put it up on a table or on the mantel? We’re not keeping secrets, we’re telling them: we’re not hiding things, we’re bringing them out into the open” (Mark 4:21-22 – The Message).