Masculinity: A Touchy Subject

Three young men walking together on a field

I’ve been working on the rough draft of my book for a few months now and I still cringe when someone asks: “What’s your book about?” I first get an initial: “Cool! You’re writing a book?” But, when I do share the fact that I’m writing about masculinity and how our culture and Christianity have (at times) “forced” a one-sided exaggerated hypermasculinity, the response is often the same.

Those men who resemble a more virile masculinity often respond by looking away and changing the subject. Doo do do do – can’t touch this. Every time it happens, I wonder . . . what are they thinking about me now? OR do they know that I’m okay with them being “more masculine”?

Those who favor a different kind of masculinity (one that doesn’t fit the stereotypical “manly man”) often respond with an “Oh!” followed by awkward silence. The subject quickly changes and I empathize. It’s a touchy subject – it touches us deeply. Many of us are afraid to admit that we haven’t mastered the model. We fear the name-calling and the judging glances. Many of us are lonely and afraid.

The response of the latter makes me worry. I’m writing the book especially for them. Will they even pick it up and read it? I have to believe that they will. I want them to finally have a voice and catch a glimpse of God’s creativity and master artistry. I want them to smile and celebrate their individuality. I want them to not feel like they have to imitate that which they are not.

Not A Male Fail (the book) is for everyone. It has the ability to touch the lives of many:

The mother who wonders if her son is normal and if his future will be okay.

The father who hesitates because he’s not sure how to raise a son who’s more absorbed in art or drama than sports stats or deer stands.

The man who wants his conversations with other men to go beyond sports and jesting. The one who craves true comfort and a hug from a friend.

The wife who is trying to understand the man in her life because he’s not a red-blooded James Bond replica.

The teenager who wonders if his masculinity is okay or if he might be gay.

The church that wishes to reach out to all the men in the congregation and offer more than an array of athletic outings and conferences dressed in camouflage.

The husband who realizes that his wife is better at household repairs while he has a knack at making tasty evening meals.

The college student who’d love to major in interior design, acting, art, music, or fashion but second guesses himself because others may not approve.

This book is for all of them and for the many others who need to know that the Bible is filled with manly characters of both strength and beauty. We are all a beautiful mix of both but we miss out on truly living because we have been taught that there is one way to be masculine and that any straying from the “norm’ must mean it’s time to “man up,” hide the tears and move onward.

Where does it all leave us? I believe we live in a world of heartbroken boys, confused adolescent males, and bitter angry men. And so, I used to keep it all inside – my questions, confusion, pain, struggles and fears.

I can’t do it anymore.

I must speak up.

I must be willing to receive the stares and encounter the moments of awkward silence. It will be worth it when just one boy, young man, or adult male is emboldened and finds the strength to say, “That book was for me. I needed to know that God made in me a fusion of conviction and grace and I’m no longer afraid to show it.”

I was a church planter and chose to name the church Istoria which is Greek for story. I chose the name because I wanted everyone who came in contact with our church to know that “everyone’s story matters.” I am now slowly learning that my story matters too.

I am NOT a male fail.

Someone will listen and someone will find healing, restoration and a life of abundance because of it all. And so, I’m not just touching on the subject, I plan to fully embrace it with the most compassionate hug a man can muster.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK!

Male Fail?

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.48.42 AM

I cringed while reading John Eldredge’s book “Wild meat Heart.” I would agree that as a male there are dreams of being a hero, beating the bad guys, doing daring feats and rescuing the damsel in distress BUT . . . I felt the book fell short as to properly portraying those of us who don’t fit in to the cultural stereotypical ideal of manhood. I’ve since discovered that there are many others who feel the same way as me.

This is my poem “Male Fail?” that I wrote for a college class in 2013. The whole idea of this poem is just myself ranting as to why we can’t be different and yet uniquely male. BTW, the first few chapters of “Not A Male Fail” (the book) are almost complete!

MALE FAIL?
Strapping, rugged, double he-man athlete.
Fearless, daring muscular brawn and strong –
the machismo kind that makes man complete.
Where did the rest of us men go so wrong?

Simple, loving, triple artistic man.
Quiet, creative, shoe lover and geek –
the non-macho kind with paint brush in hand.
What’s wrong with us guys with normal physique?

Momma’s boy? Really! You’ve nothing better?
I may not be a hunter but I still seek adventure.
Don’t judge masculinity by cardigan sweater!
We’re still fathers and lovers and our manhood’s secure.

We’re different than you and yet just the same.
Your silly stereotypes are truly quite lame!   sth

Making Waves

4d4e1a8df69096d910c7a4f7e6fe7a8bbe8ac485

We Will Not Change A Thing If We Hide

It was a heart-breaking and dismal day in Folsom, California.  The temperature lingered in the fifties and the bittersweet and cool January afternoon culminated with a sky of green in memory of twelve-year-old Ronin Shimizu. Raj, a fellow Boy Scout, looked up at the green balloons (launched in memory of a friend’s passing) and exclaimed, “Hey Ronin … Don’t look now, but the impact, the waves of your impact across our city’s youth, the waves are just rippling across our schools.”

His life set forth a wave of acceptance, laughter, and compassion wherever he would go. In his death, his life rolled rapids of social media attention toward a problem that had to be talked about — gender stereotyping and bullying. He took his own life but his impact and message must live on.

The word rōnin literally means “wave man” — a free spirited samurai with no lord or master. At his celebration service earlier in the day, tides of intense sentiment filled the room from family, students, and friends packed in Lakeside Church. His best friend Haley shared: “He told me that one day, he’d make my wedding dress . . . but the world doesn’t get to see it now and I don’t get to see it.” He was a sensitive young man who always followed his heart and it was evident in the room by the many collaborated stories sharing Ronin’s affinity for creativity and love for the arts. He had a passion for fashion, shopping, theater, tap dancing, camping, rowing and cheerleading. Bullying and teasing followed him for years, leading his parents to move him from school after school across town, finally resorting to home school him in the vain attempt to outrun the taunting.

Why does a young man with a passion for the arts and cheering others on have to feel “unmanly” or “gay” if he dreams a different dream and follows his heart? As Christians, are we ready to ask the hard questions about masculinity and stereotypes or are we afraid to share our stories and talk about the delusions and the destruction?

I honestly believe that we MUST talk about it. We must share our stories, admit our shortcomings, and seek the transforming answers that will eventually bring hope and health to a generation of hurting young men. The church needs us to assess what constitutes true Biblical masculinity and our children need us to think it through. That’s what my book is about (www.notamalefail.com).

The facts are astounding. Official figures reveal that men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide and the numbers are increasing. There are several factors leading to this increase in suicide. There have been several societal changes over the last 50 years. One study stated that, “men in mid-life have seen their jobs, relationships and identity, radically altered. There is a large gap between the reality of life and the masculine ideal.” Older men and young men alike are attempting to find their place in the world. Carl Beech, director of Christian Vision for Men said that men “often have a particular resistance to expressing their feelings or asking for help — a false impression of what it means to be masculine.”

The word rōnin not only means “wave man,” it is also a native expression that means “wandering man” or someone who is without a home. How dispiritingly on target for the “Ronins” in our homes, schools and “pews.” The Mask You Live In filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom reminds us that, “At a young age, boys learn that to express compassion or empathy is to show weakness. They hear confusing messages that force them to repress their emotions, establish hierarchies, and constantly prove their masculinity.” “Our society’s failure to recognize and care for the social and emotional well-being of our boys contributes to a nation of young men who navigate adversity and conflict with an incomplete emotional skill set. Whether boys and later men have chosen to resist or conform to this masculine norm, there is loneliness, anxiety, and pain.”

In a world of bullied masculine ideals and expectations, the correct answer is not to “man up.” Yes, we do need a revival of men of conviction, strength, vision, and courage BUT we will not change a thing if we hide behind our own masks of togetherness and toughness. It might make some waves, but we have to have this talk.

Missed the masculinity & Christianity #GoodMenChat on February 25, 2015?
Check out the highlights HERE.

424246_630x354

Men As Nurturers w/ Dr. Vibe

DV

Dr. Vibe hosts a discussion with Steven Hinkle about the dispelling the myth that men aren’t nurturing. Steven will discusses how men nurture their relationships as mentors, fathers, and partners.

During our conversation, Steve talked about:

– What does nurturing mean to him and what does it mean from a male perspective
– some of the myths when it comes to men and nurturing
– why does he feel that younger men are better than older men when it comes to nuturing
– His thought on the state of nurturing with older men
– What are younger and older men telling him about nurturing
– The downside of men not nurturing
– When did he realize that nurturing was important to him as a man
– What women are telling him about men and nurturing
– What is the state of nurturing and men inside the church vs. outside the church
– His message about men and nurturing for: women, men and younger men

Dr Vibe Show AUDIO & VIDEO

Bromancepation

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 10.27.59 PMWe Must Work On Our Male Relationships

bromance: a close non-romantic but affectionate (non-sexual, devoted, caring, warmhearted) relationship between two or more men

emancipation: the fact or process of being set free from legal, social, or political restrictions; liberation.

In January, the messages at the church I attend focused on the theme “At Capacity.” On one particular Sunday, our pastor spoke about our capacity to love and be loved. While he was talking and sharing, I began to ponder both the Scriptures and his message:

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:11-12

No one (here and now on earth) can see God or experience His physical love and presence and so He wants to show us love through each other. God’s love is brought to FULL expression when we receive His love and can fully express that love to others in our life.

And then it dawned on me – one of the reasons we as men may feel incomplete in the “love department” is because God intended for us to find His FULL expression of love from each other and that includes other men; however, for years we have been afraid to be transparent, real and/or affectionate with other men because of the social, cultural or even “Christian” restrictions we have encountered along the way.

Mark Greene in his book Remaking Manhood shares: “We live in a society that asks man to whitewash their narratives and keep a lid on their emotions. This is both killing men and damaging the boys coming along behind. The varied and rich personal stories of men and women and the conversations those stories invoke are part of the greater narrative of being human. If we are struggling in life, it is not because we have shared too many stories. It is because we have shared too few.”

We must work on our male relationships. Our sons, fathers, and male friends have been missing out on the full expression of God’s love because we have been afraid to show it or afraid what others may think or say. We’ve developed relationships that keep each other at arms distance and absent from the heart. A relationship like the one between David and Jonathan are merely stories of old not healthy experiences to be shared and told. Marc Feigen Fasteau in his book The Male Machine had a lot to say on the subject:

“Men have carried the practice of emotional restraint to the point of paralysis.”

“His relationship with other male machines is one of respect but not intimacy; it is difficult for him to connect his internal circuits to those of others.”

“Everything is discussed as though it were taking place out there somewhere, as though we had no more felt response to it than to the weather.”

“Their contact rarely goes beyond the external, a limitation which tends to make their friendships shallow and unsatisfying.”

“In the process of trying to “protect” myself against these “unmasculine” feelings, I was somehow cutting myself off from all but a narrow range of human contact.”

Thank goodness that we live in a time when young men feel slightly more comfortable with being real and semi-affectionate (hugging a male friend is no longer taboo) but I’m suggesting that we have a long way to go and we must work hard at our relationships with other men. To not be involved in each others’ lives means we will not ever participate in God’s full expression of love on this side of Heaven.

Pastor Jason left us that day with this quote: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” It sounded familiar and I figured out why. The phrase can be found in the lyrics of a song on my iPhone – the song “Nature Boy” sung by one of my mom’s favorite singers Nat King Cole. And get this, the partly autobiographical song was written in 1947 by poet Eden Ahbez and it is a tribute to his mentor Bill Pester.

I leave you with this challenge to all men from an article written by Dan Mahle for goodmenproject.com:

Men: We need each other. We can’t do this alone. We need to talk to about our feelings. We need to stand up and share our fears, our failures, and our dreams. I don’t care how vulnerable that feels at first. It will get easier with time. It’s time we grow up and stop letting our fears and insecurities define us. I don’t know about you, but I am done with feeling numb and disconnected. That is not the man I want to be in the world. That is not the man I truly am.

So my invitation to you is this: Let’s lean into our fears and find the courage to try something different. To explore new expressions of masculinity that no longer keep us boxed in, silent, and ashamed. We are meant for so much more . . . We have the potential to be whole, integrated, emotionally-connected men: Clear, conscious, strong, and compassionate. We are those things already. We just have to drop the facade of who we think we’re supposed to be and allow our true selves to be seen. It’s time we rise together as wholehearted men. Will you take the leap?

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK!

Dear Mr. Manly Man

IMG_5287-001

Dear Mr. Manly Man:

If you haven’t figured it out, there are some of us men who aren’t just like you. This is our letter to you. There are a few things we’d love to share.

1. We need manly men in our lives.

We need good and honest examples in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Some of us may prefer a trip to the art museum rather than a car show or hunting store. When going out for a movie, some of us would choose a drama over an action adventure and we might enjoy watching a cooking or interior design show rather than a football game. It doesn’t mean we’re sissies and need to “man up.” We are different but we need you to be a part of our world.

2. Don’t be afraid of us.

Although you might not completely understand us, there’s nothing for you to fear. We are all unique and creative designs. We’re not trying to change you and we don’t need changing. There are times; however, that we might consider learning from each other – some of us may cry a little too easily and it might do good for others of us to learn how to be vulnerable and not keep the hidden bitterness raging inside.

I’ll never forget the college professor who pulled me aside and privately shared with me a better way to carry my books. He wasn’t trying to change who I was but he was trying to protect me from the taunts of others who never learned to be polite. To this day, I am grateful for his courage in helping this young man make a small change that saved him from lots of future pain.

When it comes down to it, relationships are to be embraced and not feared. Our differences should draw together and not keep us apart. We need each other. When it comes down to it, we’re not all that different.

3. If he resembles us, you’re son is okay.

If you have a son who doesn’t measure up to “your manliness,” it’s going to be fine. Don’t fear him either. Celebrate his differences and don’t keep the hugs away. Every boy needs a dad who believes in his uniqueness and celebrates his varied talents. It might take you out of your comfort zone but show him that you’re not afraid to take risks.  Take time to enter his world and learn about or share with him in something he enjoys!

You see, we probably all have differences in opinion when it comes to all this “masculinity” stuff. I think it’s amazing. Everyone’s story matters and it’s important that we take the time to listen to each other.

So next time we meet, let us know that you care. Be present and don’t buy in to the stereotypes. (We’ll try to do just the same.) Maybe consider sharing some of the pain or hurt you may have been holding inside. When it is all said and done, we might shed a tear or even share a hug. It’s even possible that you might like it. I know we will.

Don’t give up on us. We’re in your corner and we need you in ours!

Sincerely,
Sir Notso Manly Man

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK!

5 Things Not To Tell A Teenager

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 5.51.06 PM

One of the most troubling things I have ever witnessed is the absence of good adult role models involved in the lives of young people. Quite often, it is not the things we speak to them that are so messed up but rather the absence of sharing, spending time with, or speaking life into them at all.

When we do speak however, we must ask ourselves: “what are they hearing?” and “are my words being wisely chosen?” because “death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).” After much thought, I’d like to share with you the five things I would consider the worse things to say to a teen. If you are a parent, mentor, spiritual guide, youth pastor, counselor or teacher – keep these things in mind as you seek to impact these young lives and help them dream about a better tomorrow

ADVERTISEMENT

1.Grow up.

Teenagers are at a very unique and important time in their physical, mental, social and spiritual lives. They feel stuck between freedom and captivity, play and work, knowledge and wisdom, love and sex, questions and answers. We have the wonderful opportunity in helping them navigate through these obstacles and prepare them for the time that they will be “on their own.” It is our blessed opportunity to help them on this journey. They know they need to “grow up” and they are trying. Sometimes, it’s just hard doing it alone and the faithful guidance and support of a loving adult is what they need most.

2. I know what you are going through.

So, maybe you were a teenager once and maybe you did go through some similar situations, tragedies, temptations, heartaches, etc. however, every person’s story is different and significant. They do not want to hear that we “get it.” They want us to know that they are experiencing a different struggle, dreadful day, or damaged heart. They want to know that we are not afraid to listen to or enter their story of brokenness.

3. But . . .

Sometimes we believe we are clever when we sneak in a little positive reinforcement while delivering needed criticism; when in fact, our teenagers would love them to be two separate conversations and the good outweigh the negative.

“Wonderful! You got an A on your test!! BUT . . . now you need to bring the rest of your grades up.”

“I love you so much BUT this attitude has got to stop!”

“I am proud of you BUT you really need to work on ____________________.”

Please, please understand that the teens in your life want to hear the “wonderful,” “I love you” and “I am proud of you” statements, but these beautiful words are often negated or drowned out by the other things we attach to them. Yes, they do need to be reminded of those things they need to work on BUT what they truly need is bucketfuls of affection poured on them each day so that when a grain of criticism is tossed their way they know without a doubt that it’s coming from someone who truly cares. Don’t have your love nullified by coupling those beautiful, life-giving words with ones that seem to say the opposite.

4. You’re just like ___________________.

I’ll keep it simple. Each young person is a special and unique creation of God. It is our job to help make them feel that way. This doesn’t happen when we compare them to their friends or siblings.

5. Just move on.

No matter how we say it: “It’s just a phase,” “Go to God,” “Pray about it,” or “Just move on,” they all communicate the same thing to our teens: “I don’t have time for you. Figure it out on your own.” And here’s the crazy thing, sometimes the teenagers we work or live with don’t always want a response, a word of wisdom, or an answer; quite often, they just want us to listen and to know that we are near. Our teenagers want to know that when they need us most – we will be there!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK!

They Didn’t See It

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 5.35.00 PM

A Call For Mentors

Looking back upon my adolescent years, I realized that I desperately needed another man in my life. I yearned for someone to believe in me and tell me. I quietly wished for someone to show me the way and sometimes walk beside me so I could see real life in action. I wanted to know that my masculinity and identity were both in tact and that my life was headed in the right direction. I needed a mentor. I didn’t know it at the time and they didn’t see it.

They didn’t see it, maybe because they thought I had it all together. I had a wonderful mom and I was doing well in school. I was an introvert and so maybe they couldn’t read my heart but down deep inside it was screaming “love me,” “know me,” “believe in me.” I kept the hurt, self-hate, and frustrations deep inside.

I often dreaded recess in sixth grade. It was that time of day when we weren’t required to be in the classroom with others unlike us. This was the time of day when everyone gravitated to those who were most like themselves. Everyone seemed to gravitate to their group while there were a few of us too scared to say hello. We would just try to hide or blend in. However, there were those few days that someone came up with the “brilliant” idea that everyone should play a game of kickball together – everyone.

Team captains would be chosen from our elite sixth grade athletic “medalists.” The powerful and strong would be selected first, often followed by the attractive females who had to be dazzled by the team leaders’ exquisite participant choices of course. Then there was me and the other guy or girl. We were the non-athletic and ungainly, the quiet and the divergent, the last and the listless. Every once in a while, there would be that cordial kid who didn’t want to make me feel bad, give me a wink, and say “I’ll take him. He’s cool.” That would have been more comforting if there had been more than two amateurs left to pick from and by cool, I’m pretty sure he meant “not too hot.”

I always felt like a misfit. I was often called a wimp. Even if it wasn’t entirely true, I felt like no one cared. No one really knew what I was feeling inside. I felt alone and I felt unwanted. My dad was never around and my mom was struggling with so much hurt that I didn’t want to bother her with my questions and worriment. All I wanted was to be was chosen.

Perhaps I did know that I was craving someone who would care. Maybe I knew what it was that I needed but instead of asking for help, I decided to encourage others. At the age of sixteen, I began reaching out to those younger than me and started leading a Wednesday night program at the church to try and help them feel wanted and loved. I was applauded for my efforts and I gave my all but my heart was still lonely. I would give away the smiles and then return home to cry myself to sleep.

What I truly desired was a personal role model. I longed for an older man to step into my life and breathe into me a fusion of beauty and strength, self worth and sacrifice, laughter and tears. I needed a mentor.

They didn’t see it. I didn’t know it.

Do you see it? Can you not see the brokenness and anguish around you: your son, your student, your neighbor, your grandson? They may not know it yet but they are in need of an older man who cares and tells them and shows them the way. What can you do to make a difference? The first step is seeing it. Seeing is believing and belief leads us to action. We all long to be chosen. There’s a young man today who needs a word of encouragement and he is waiting on you. If not you, then who? Then when?

They didn’t see it. I didn’t know it.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOK!