Special Note: I wrote this article over eight years ago and as of late, there has been some serious light shed to expose, as well as some big conversations taking place, about man’s misuse and abuse of power. As a woman, and also historically speaking down through the ages, I can’t deny that I, too, haven’t felt fearful, humiliated, paralyzed, taunted, powerless, disrespected, and mortified by the actions of some men I have known and also by the patriarchal system in a more generalized way, either in the workforce, or sometimes just by walking down the street. Yes, the time of patriarchal domination is coming to an end, but it is coming to an end due to the healing of the divine feminine in both men and women. I am publishing this article again because I think it shed’s much light on just how far and deep the healing of the feminine in so many men has gone since I wrote it and I want to give a shout out, and a bunch of warm, tender sisterhood love to all the guys with integrity out there, who, because they were brave and caring and sensitive and warrior enough to get down and dirty with those unhealed parts of themselves, are now playing a paramount role (alongside women) in bringing the archaic, patriarchal walls of darkness down. Bravo great heroes of the heart. May your sisters of the light walk with you always, side by side as partners of all that is well, good, balanced and harmonious in this world. – Heather Fraser
“By and large these days, men suffer greater deprivation than women because women are allowed to play the power game, but men have been blocked from expressing their femininity”
– Richard Rohr, author, A Wild Man’s Journey
The world needs a man’s heart. When I first read these words in an interview with Joseph Jastrab, a psychotherapist with a background in Native American Medicine Ways and the leader of “Men’s Quest”, in New York state, I was struck by a deep inner knowing that this felt true. At the same time, this “knowing” came as a shock to me, having had a past laced with emotional and physical abandonment by male figures. In my history book of life, men broke hearts, so why would the world need a man’s heart?
The more I continued to let these words sink in over the years, the more I slowly began to feel a deep compassion for those men whose hearts had been trained to shut down by either their absent fathers ( emotionally or physically), or society at large, who taught them not to outwardly live from their hearts, something, which for most women, means the difference between a life of fulfillment or a life of dull emptiness.
How We Come To Know Our Divinity
If living and outwardly expressing from the heart is how we come to know our divinity, and I believe it is, then clearly we live in a world where men are not privy to experiencing who they really are. They are not able to find the God within themselves, too busy living the ways they were taught to live, and hiding behind their masks of conquering, warring, dividing, competing, seducing, law, order, reason, doing, fixing, and building empires, completely void of softness and compassion, disconnected from the heart.
Conditioned To Be Heroes
From early childhood, these are the “virtuous” traits boys are taught. They are conditioned to be strong, fearless, brave, independent, and competitive. They grow up being taught to identify with the ultimate male image – the masculine hero. As Jerry Magaro, a licensed marriage, family, and child counselor and the leader of men’s groups in San Francisco says, “In times of trouble, he can conquer all odds and rescue and save others from devastation. Clearly, living up to this image prevents a man from being real and authentic. He expends his time and energy trying to live up to an idealized self-image that requires him to sacrifice his own inner needs. In his efforts to save and rescue others, he forgets who he really is.”
Sensitivity Is Weakness
Young boys are also taught that any display of pain or sensitivity will be considered a sign of weakness — “big boys don’t cry.” I can only imagine that a boy would rather die than be called a “sissy” by his playmates or, even worse, his father, should he show he’s afraid or in pain.
The Tragedy Of Absent Healthy Role Models
For a young boy to have an absent father, or an emotionally distant one, or one incapable of showing affection or tenderness, is a tragedy that can only lead to a distorted and unhealthy model of how it is to be masculine – mainly being, to suppress gentleness, deny emotional needs, and be invulnerable. To quote Joseph Jastrab, “With the mother being the predominant force in our lives due to a father who was away most of the time, it’s no wonder men can’t get very far by using their mothers as role models, except to attempt not to be like them. It’s difficult to grow up with a positive self-image when all you have to go on is a sense of who you can’t be like. No wonder we stumble!”
The Price Men Pay
Jerry Magaro states, “What is the price that men pay for such conditioning? Not surprisingly, most of us lose touch with our deeper feelings and needs. Having learned to deny much of our inner life, we look for fulfillment outside ourselves. We put our energy into developing a career, making a living, engaging in sports or other leisure activities. We also seek to find the right woman to partner with and have a family. Hopefully, she will be able to provide for our sexual and emotional needs and otherwise make us happy.”
Must Prove Their Manhood
Being a woman and sharing intimate feelings or affection with fellow female friends is about as natural to me as breathing, but what about for men? From what I’ve been able to discern over the years, I would say that many men appear to be fearful that being emotionally or physically vulnerable with another man would automatically make him “soft” in some way. It seems like nothing can get in the way of proving their manhood, and in order to do that, denying emotional needs, withdrawing emotionally, and appearing “solid as a rock” is the path taken.
Meeting His Emotional Needs Through Women
Which leads right into the question; if a man cannot get his emotional needs met through other men, then where do they get met? Is it any wonder that men tend to rely exclusively on their relationships with women to have these needs met? Not only that, they seem to place great importance on the sexual aspect of the relationship without considering or realizing how important the emotional connection is to the woman in this scenario.
Emotional Relating Differences
This is what I would call the “Mars vs Venus” differences in emotional relating and communication styles, which naturally leads to conflict. “In our relationships with other men,” states Jerry Magaro, “we tend to equate being close emotionally or physically with being sexual. Thus, men tend to sexualize their emotional connection with both men and women.”
Manhood Comes From Other Men
If I could wave a magic wand and bring miraculous healing to the confused male hero scenario, I’d cast forth these powerful words from Robert Bly who said, “Men can only learn about true manhood from other men.”
Forming An Authentic Brotherhood
The New Male, Spiritual Warrior, or Sensitive New Age Guy, must begin to form a circle, a club, a men’s group, in truth – a brotherhood – where they can be authentic, where they can learn, teach, and share with each other their true masculine ways. Says Joseph Jastrab; “I had little regard for men as co-travelers, except in the realms of sport and idea polishing. Women seemed to be the ones who could draw the best out of me. I was involved, along with many other men, in trying to open my heart by cutting off my balls, (or at least pretending they weren’t there!) What a revelation to consider for the first time the possibility that men, indeed the masculine principle, might carry a healing, nurturing aspect of its own!”
Stereotypes Reinforced By Media
And to quote my friend Mark, “I think sensitive men feel alienated and unrecognized by society. Many men, when they get together, talk about getting laid, work, politics, sports, money and cars, all subjects that when you take a closer look, show a pattern or a theme of power and/or dominance. It’s hardly surprising since the stereotype of what a man should be is reinforced by the media.”
The Spirituality of Male Bonding
Mark goes on to say that, “I’m lonely for a close male friend, someone that I can bond with and just be real with. I really feel like I am missing out because I don’t have a male point of view to listen to, to listen to me, and it’s a drag. This is very much a spiritual issue because without that male bonding, how can I ever say I’m complete in my spirituality? I realize I have a yearning to open and share myself with a male friend. It’s like there’s a part of me out there that I’m still trying to find.”
The Way Of The Spiritual Warrior
Ultimately, the way of the spiritual warrior must be about living with integrity and forgiveness. “We men must come to forgive those aspects of ourselves, our brothers, fathers, grandfathers, generations of grandfathers that have fearfully denied life,” says Joseph Jastrab.
Emotional Capacity Is Sacrificed
Clearly, if a man is unable to save himself first and foremost, he will not be able to save another. “In order to be fully human,” says Magaro, “a man must realize his deeper needs and limitations. He can learn to acknowledge his weaknesses as well as his strengths. As men, we have a tremendous emotional capacity, which is largely sacrificed in our quest to live up to the hero image. In truth, the strong, lonesome hero who denies his own inner needs is not fully authentic. Authentic masculinity is not only being strong and brave, it includes being warm, caring and loving. Men are more real when they are able to give as well as receive, to feel pain and experience fear, as well as act with courage and strength.”
More Female Friends Than Male
It is true, at least in my experience, that of the male friends in my life, most of their friends are predominantly female. My friend Mark says, “Most of the friends I’ve made since my divorce have been women, because I am attracted to spirituality, and there’s just a larger ratio of women to men who are into spirituality.”
Intimacy Is Shamed Into Silence
I think we females feel “safe” to sensitive men. They can feel “themselves” around our nurturing, tender hearts. In fact, I think what they might like most is hearing what comes out of our open hearts. It’s so foreign for some of them to hear such honest expression, and secretly I think they long to be able to do this, and some of them do with us. It’s almost like they want to be the fly on the wall surrounded by our deep female intimacy because it reminds them of an aspect of themselves they’ve been shamed into silencing.
Supporting The Healing
While it may be true, as Robert Bly suggests, that men can only learn about true manhood from other men, and while it also may be true that men will have to step out of their comfort zones in order to take responsibility to heal their wounded hearts, I do believe that it’s the role of the compassionate, forgiving, tender female, (not the angry, bitter, “you men, are all alike”, Fatal Attraction she-devil) that will support this great movement towards men being able to heal and honor their feminine aspects, and in so doing, bring about a healing balance for all humanity like never experienced before, one that would clearly show us that – yes, indeed – the world needs a man’s heart.
“Masculinity at its best is love for the whole, for the big picture and the entire narrative. It is self-sacrificing love over mere attachment or codependent small relationships. Finally, it is being quite comfortable with power, precisely because one has walked through powerlessness – and emerged unashamed.”
–From ‘The Wild Man’s Journey’ by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM
With so much love & joy,
P.S. If you have friends, clients or colleagues who you think agree that The World Needs a Man’s Heart, then send them this blog. These times are purging and transforming the unhealed in all of us.
Reprinted from The Spirit of Maat 2008