A common saying is “people fear what they do not understand.” But in terms of relationships, people tend to either try to control or force change without first understanding. In order to connect with someone, you need to have an understanding of who they are, and more so what they’re made of. In order to understand, appreciate, or even empathize with who someone is, you should have an understanding of how they came to be.
The factors contributing to a man’s character include, but are not limited to, his environment, what and how he was taught, how he was raised, his motivations, his priorities, the choices he’s made, and his experiences through life. This includes the positive and the negative. Culminate any of those factors with the societal expectation that men shall not show imperfection without enduring condemnation, and you have a culture of stunted growth.
The most successful man in the world still has woes. The richest, most powerful man in the world still has fears. The most handsome, sophisticated, educated man in the world still hurts. The most condemned man still has feelings. And the most stable man still needs love. The culture we live in silently screams:
- Men don’t show weakness
- Men don’t show hurt
- Men don’t fear
- Men are unbreakable
- Men are always strong
- Men are always responsible
- Men are always reliable
- Men are always assertive
- Men are always dominating
- Men are always able to provide – no matter the magnitude
- Men are always self-sufficient and independent
- Men are always capable of leading
- Men cannot be regarded as men if they are not heterosexual Photo Credit
The list goes on and on. Our society has unrealistic expectations of what a man is – in general, and there is little leeway if you desire respect or admiration. Men are not customarily provided the same emotional freedom or support as women are, but instead are expected to be unshakeable. Many are expected to be relatively infallible and built of stone, but also able to be compassionate and nurturing at the behest of their partner – and no other time.
There are plenty of men who defy the odds and actually live up to many of these expectations, and we’re not saying that’s bad.
Actually, we’re very proud of that.
Simply put, we just want to speak on the fact that whether achievable or not – its a lot to handle, and its not always considered in trying to “get to know” a man or even in raising a child to be a man (considering the makings of his father and the influences the child may have).
There’s an element of understanding that is missing in our interpersonal skills, and it affects our ability to effectively steer male children as equally as our female children, and fully appreciate and support our men. This becomes a cycle in their interactions with other males and the culture of “strong at all times,” amongst other unrealistic expectations, expands.
Now, we understand that we can’t change the world with one voice or one blog. But, our goal is to shed light on the challenges and on ways we can help alleviate those pressures or misunderstandings/frustrations in our relationships.
Who: Your Grandpa, Father, Uncle, Brother, Cousin/Friend, Boyfriend, Hubby, Son, Nephew
Generational changes have created more opportunities for advancement and simultaneously resulted in a loss of some of the rich foundation that previously existed. In some cases, the lessons and wisdom isn’t passed on from generation to generation and many men learn “how to be a man” as they go through life – defining it through twists and turns along the way.
Why: Societal Pressures, Stereotyping, Upbringing, Influences, Experiences
There is a pressure to provide for oneself and family. However, generations have evolved where many households have mothers as the head in terms of income. This may have an effect on the psyche of a man depending on whether he attributes his manhood to that ability to provide as the head – as taught for so many generations. But there’s little emphasis in finding, knowing, or making time for himself.
The stereotypes that exist in America may be daunting to live up to everyday. So commonly unfounded, yet perpetuated in our society:
- Asians are of superior academic intelligence
- Africans are of superior physical strength and endurance
- Europeans are, in majority, wealthy
Personally, we loathe stereotypes, but cannot ignore they do exist – within genders, ethnicities, sexual orientation, etc. So as a man, if you are asian but perhaps are mechanically inclined vice academically advanced, or african and academically advanced vice physically strong, or european and living check-to-check, the “image” of a man in this society can be daunting – and can take a toll on you emotionally. This can effect self-esteem, self-love, motivations, ability to interact socially, or build relationships. Add a few sprinkles of a partner’s sense of entitlement or unappreciative behavior and you’re moving away from the goal of understanding and instead, fueling frustration.
When: Childhood, Youth, Adulthood…Now
We should understand that these factors begin in childhood and either become stronger influences or setbacks as men progress into adulthood. We build children up to have confidence, but teach girls they are “princesses” and somewhat incapable of doing wrong, yet boys to “toughen up” and show no weakness no matter the experience. It’s misleading, and the reality of who we are is lost as we transcend into adulthood where we all have flaws, and we all have weaknesses, but not everyone is taught how to deal with/appreciate/recognize/cope with their own – or anyone else’s. We don’t live in glass houses or sit on thrones. We get knocked down, we make mistakes, we succeed, we fail, and we grow. The goal is to do so together – each pulling our weight, and giving understanding.
How: Learned by Example, Taught by Force, Choice by Survival, Choice by Circumstance, Trial & Error, Exposure or Lack Thereof, Enlightenment, Encouragement, Reinforcement
So you don’t understand why he isn’t forthright. You get offended because you feel he’s lying by omission. Perhaps he has been raised in such a manner, and lived thus far, with a correlation of harsh punishment when being honest. (Not excusing the behavior, just giving insight) Now he has grown into a man who’d rather tell half-truths than be fully transparent. In a society where men are not supposed to fear, perhaps he hasn’t learned how to cope with that psychological block.
So you don’t understand why he isn’t a hugger. Physical touch outside of the “duty” isn’t prevalent in your home, but he’s otherwise a great man. Maybe he was physically abused and never dealt with it. In a culture where men are not supposed to feel pain or cry, perhaps he has learned to tuck the pain away and the result is what you see.
So you don’t understand why he works so hard. He provides and he caters to you, but his career demands all of his time and attention. Maybe he experienced a great loss in his lifetime and the fear of losing it all is greater than his fear of losing your love. Perhaps he feels compelled to never lose everything he’s worked for ever again, and his love for you is demonstrated in making sure you don’t either – so he works so hard to provide abundantly.
Some cannot see being what they’ve never witnessed.
Although there is no manual to this thing called life, many people learn by example as opposed to innovation, and without being able to emulate something different than they’ve been exposed to, they don’t envision being able to become anything other than what they have ever known.
Understand that men go through the same things we do, but don’t have the same outlets to cope as we do. Appreciate what he does, the challenges he faces, and how he triumphs through challenges in situations where he has hardly any of the support or resources we do.
If you’re raising a young man, influential in a young male’s life, or otherwise have a relationship with a man, pay particular attention to the factors contributing to his molding. The objective is to be understanding of who they are so you can accept, love, and appreciate them for it and be supportive with any changes they decide to make to improve themselves and your relationship with them. After all, these are people you love, cherish, and who contribute positively to your life – they deserve reciprocity.
- Talk to Them About The “factors”
- Ask “How Does …. Make You Feel?” or “What they think about …”
- Watch His Body Language (men tend to speak w/ action or lack thereof)
- Listen (SO IMPORTANT)
- Pay Attention
- Exercise Patience
- Give Comfort
- Tell them “It’s OK To Feel …..”
- Be Supportive Photo Credit
- Navigate Through Challenges WITH Them instead of Demanding Changes OF Them
- Love Them Without Controlling Them
- Ask/Figure Out What Motivates Them & Why
- Recognize Your Own & Be Honest In Communicating About Them
- Express Appreciation with Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service
In your social and professional networks, be mindful of these factors to help you better appreciate and culminate a positive relationship with men in your circles.
In all relationships, understand their weaknesses and honor their strengths.
PSA: Doing what you’re supposed to do & doing what’s right doesn’t guarantee the outcome will be aligned with your desires. (Many of us forget that from time to time). You should realize it and be ok with that.
- Mans Ultimate Challenge Second Edition: Being A Man of Virtue In A Culture of Vice
- Hazards of Being a Man: Overcoming 12 Challenges All Men Face
For the men in your life that seem to have it all together, just love them more and more everyday as well. Use The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts to help.
For those little ones you’re helping mold into men, The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively
See the strengths but understand the journey.
Open minds open minds
We encourage you to explore our page Menu for other great topics.
Each Category above has a wealth of enjoyable commentary based on the topic noted. Be sure to check back in under “Family & Friendships”
and click “June 2017: The Mark of Men” to follow the journey.
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