I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

A Manly Self-image

What is a real man?

I assume every male survivor asks this question in some form. The answer comes largely from our personal enculturation. We Americans have applauded the strong, silent image of John Wayne, or the suave James Bond. These days theaters are filled with the exploits of those super-sized heroes from Marvel Comics.

All of us were exposed to stereotyped patterns of male images. Too often we assumed that true men were self-sufficient, the taciturn, no-nonsense individual who needed nothing. And then we can cry—but only at funerals of a parent or a spouse.

Despite all our images of the strong, resourceful male, this morning I thought about biblical heroes. Jesus’ first disciples heard him say, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God” (John 14:1). During that same time, he said he was leaving them his peace, “So don’t be troubled or afraid” (verse 27).

When Judas came with soldiers and betrayed Jesus, do you know what the 11 remaining disciples did? They ran away in fear of their lives. If you read the stories of Moses and Joshua in the Old Testament, they were both fearful men and God had to keep telling them he was with them.

And yet those men are our heroes—a serious disconnect from the images around us.

Here’s a little of what I wish my dad or a caring adult male would have said to me: “It’s all right to feel your emotions. You don’t have to be strong all the time. To fear, question, and doubt are human feelings that only real men know how to express.”

I didn’t hear those words and I doubt that most male survivors did, but the message is still true.

I claim my right to feel.
I claim my right not to be ashamed of any of my emotions.

4 comments:

Mark Cooper said...

This touches on an issue that I believe is common to almost all men, especially in our Western culture which no longer has the traditional "rights of passage" that used to be common practice.

I have listened to men who have grown up in what we would consider healthy families, with healthy relationships with their dads, still wonder if they 'have what it takes' to be a real man.
I believe no man will have a healthy self-image until he comes to understand and live as a man in God's own image.

Those of us who were abused may recognize our need to see ourselves in God's eyes more quickly than the man who grew up in a healthy environment, and therefore doesn't have any understanding as to why he still struggles to feel like a man.

Roger Mann said...

OH man this is me. For decades and even now at times I've often felt like every other normal guy got some kind of Man Book that I didn't get. Other boys and later men that I met all seemed to be so together and comfortable with themselves and with other men. Not me, I always felt less than. I would copy language, appearance, behaviors, etc. hoping to get accepted. And yet when I'd somehow get accepted I felt like a fake and would usually just stop hanging out. I still have no best bud or close friend. I just don't feel 'normal' enough. I hate that but don't really know what to do about it.

Always in the back of my mind is "If they really knew you..."

Jay said...

Makes a lot of sense. I wish our culture provided more forums where it was safe to express our uncertainties. I would suspect that we're not nearly as alone as we end up feeling like we are. As a boy through college age, I felt utterly paralyzed in sports and athletic arenas. As an adult, anything mechanical or financial shuts me down. I'm sensitive, artistic and I love the power of words and stories. It's hard to navigate in a world that evaluates differently. Often I struggle to hear the voice of my Father or even good brothers when they speak truth over me. My mind loudly echoes the mocking and disapproving voices I heard or assumed. Loudest of all can be my own condemnations. -Jay

Mark Cooper said...

Well put Jay.