With heat rising off the school playground’s blacktop, five of us, ages 10 to 15, lined up on third down with the intensity of a Super Bowl team. The plan was simple: go deep, all of us. The quarterback dropped back and threw the ball as far as he could, high and deep, and like slow motion, we all could see the ball spiraling toward Dougie. The fastest person on our team, he was now streaking down the sideline, launching his whole body forward with outstretched hands. I’ll never forget how his body skipped off the blacktop like a rock skimming a pond; he never let the football touch the ground. We won, but he laid on the ground for what seemed like minutes, both forearms scraped and bloodied, scraped knees embedded with particles of rock and dirt.
We had just witnessed the greatest catch we’d ever seen in real life! He got up slowly, visibly in pain but not saying a word. No tears, and the truth is, none of us would have blamed him if he cried, but he wouldn’t give the other team the satisfaction of knowing how bad he was hurt.
This moment was a microcosm of how many men have been raised. Never let them see you sweat, never let them see you cry, and push through the pain no matter what without saying a word.
These are the lessons that taught us, as young boys, how to counter the hardness of other males whom we encountered in our lives. No one will ever have the satisfaction of saying they saw us or made us cry; that story will never be told. When we did cry, particularly when in trouble with our parents, we were told to stop at the first tear that dropped.
So now we’ve mastered a permanent pause on our emotions. To admit hurt, physically, emotionally, or mentally, is to reveal weakness. When the lions hunt, they look for the weak or hurt among the herd, so we learn to move with counterfeit confidence masking the pain. We’ve had the blessing and burden of ultimate masculinity placed on our shoulders, with expectations from all those around us to provide and protect. Our children believe we are Superman, our women want us to be super men, and the country demands that we be willing and able to fight and die to protect our borders. This marks a high calling in life, a pressure that some run from and others are driven by. In the midst of it all, the young boy, now a man, leaves no room for the vulnerability or interpretation of emotions.
Today, we see the unravelling of these false teachings through reports of daily violence throughout our country. With more guns than people in the U.S., we are witnessing the error in real time. Young men have not been taught how to express themselves in a safe, healthy way, so their coping skills are nonexistent, and because of this deficit some are paying with their lives.
“98 percent of mass shootings and 80 percent of all violent crimes are carried out by men.”The Violence Project and FBI Crime Data Explorer
“Although suicidal thoughts and depression are more prevalent among women, 79 percent of all suicides are committed by men. “save.org
How are women able to find their way out of these dark places but most men can never find the light? I believe that from a very young age many women are given the freedom to express themselves creatively and emotionally. Complimenting and confiding in one another are just a few of the emotionally healthy trademarks we see among women. This freedom to fully express ourselves emotionally is a gift and allows us to talk to others without the fear of appearing inadequate within our gender.
Throughout Scripture we are encouraged to talk to our Creator and one another.
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed." James 5:16
"Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" 1 John 1:9
Each Scripture is imploring us to openly communicate with God and one another to find peace in our lives. We must break the stronghold of silence among our men and allow them the freedom to release the ills in their lives without judgment but with compassion. We must equip our boys with the necessary tools to cope with difficulty without retreating to lonesome secrecy, which then leads to unexplained, volatile eruptions. While not an easy task, it’s a necessary one we must all take on to help break the shackles of pride and whispered pain. We need to exchange hurt with joy, silence with laughter, and darkness with light.
"Whom the son sets free is free indeed." John 8:36
It’s time to tear down the wall of hidden anguish and shame and lead those lost to newfound freedom.