Men continue to be told that they are “toxic” by nature. With hashtag movements like #MeToo and ‘the future is female” making their continual claims of toxicity, masculinity has taken quite a beating. The dominant narrative is that men are aggressors, women are victims, and patriarchy is to blame. The cry in the culture is to find new ways to reshape the masculine. It can get weird at times
One of the latest attempts to address the toxicity of maleness are therapeutic Cuddle Groups for men. Yes, Cuddle Groups for men. A Cuddle Group is intended to help men cope with stress, trauma, and the desire to express a masculinity that is not inherently toxic. A Cuddle Group is meant to address men’s craving to touch and be touched. One of the leaders of the movement observed, “We’re taught that to be an emotional stoic is the mark of manhood. If you show any emotional weaknesses or vulnerability, that’s a failure to your title of a man.”
Cuddle Groups show how uninformed our culture has become in trying to address the issues of masculinity. Let me say it plainly, any man dealing with toxic masculinity does not need to learn to cuddle. What he needs is a strong male mentor, a godly father figure or a firm AA style group in order to deal with his toxicity. It is a strong, godly man, secure in his maleness, who will best be able to help those who are confused and insecure in their masculinity.
Tony Evans, the producer of a Christian movie for men, entitled “Kingdom Men Raising” points to Acts 3, where Peter and John, healed a man who had been paralyzed since birth. “If you’re a lame man, you need a couple of men in your life to pick you up,” Evans maintains. “If you’re not a lame man, you need to be picking someone else up.” A lame man needs what Richard Rohr calls “a male mother” that is, a man who can care for a lame man struggling with his male identity.
Toxicity is simply a manifestation of the sinfulness of the male soul. Men aren’t toxic in their masculinity because they’re poisoned by testosterone, but because they are corrupted by sin. The redefining of maleness has caused men to question their God given roles as husbands and fathers. Men become confused, uncertain in knowing how to relate especially to women, for fear of being labeled as toxic.
I maintain that men need AA type care groups. In these groups there will be “male mothers” who will shepherd younger men by example. These are men like Jacob, who after wrestling with God walked with a limb. After the encounter we read, “he was limping because of the injury to his hip” (Gen 32:31). Like Jacob, our limp as men, is a lasting reminder of our dependence on God, with a willingness to show vulnerability. By example we are to give men permission to cry and show emotions. Men should be encouraged to have healthy outlets for a full range of emotions.
They certainly don’t need to be cuddled. Rather men need to have a safe place in the company of other men to express their emotions, that emerges from the pain of a hidden well of sadness found in the souls of men in our day. Emotional integrated men, with a heart to pass on their life story, can serve as role models helping men deal with their confused emotions.