I’ll be married to Lady Gillian for 19 years this July. We also have three unique and great wonders as kids (Nia 20, Jabari 16 and Kasim 14). This marital and parenting journey with her has been the most eye opening experiences of my 51 years of living. I am learning so much about the impossibility of two imperfect beings attempting to love each other perfectly. The impossibility of parenting kids perfectly when so much of my own issues have not been resolved. So much of our experiences (positive and negative) from childhood to adulthood only show up within the intimacy of our relationships with our partners and kids. I would like to share a little of what I am learning about my Manhood and fatherhood, that loving my Queen and my Warriors are teaching me.
I am learning when it comes to loving, the demonstration of our Manhood does not come from our ability to tower fear or control over another, nor from our ability to show no pain. We have been taught from various sources, claiming to be spokespersons for men, that we must be tough, showing no fear nor any vulnerability in order for us to make it in this world and provide for ourselves and our families. That we must trust no one. Any sign of vulnerability is a sign of weakness and must be eradicated from our identity as Men. We are told that a man does not cry and shows no pain. To that I say—BULLSHIT!
So many of us as men are lost and hurting, yearning for a sense of self we can be proud of. Yet, many of the images honored by society have misled and betrayed us. What do we get from the images we find in the machismo of sports, in the coldness of the streets, and the betrayal and abandonment of our fathers from our homes and eventually our lives? What do images of superheroes from comics books or action flicks teach us about being a man? Do these not merely reflect images of a primitive notion of Manhood? He fights and eventually defeats the enemy in the air, on the ground, and at sea. This illusion of what a man supposed to be shows him with superhuman strength, big bank accounts or with great will power to overcome any struggle and save the day. He has achieved great success in academia and honored with plaques, statues and is read about in books, becoming a legend to the world. However, these are merely superficial attributes when it comes to authentic manhood and the realm of loving.
When the noise quiets and the day-to-day struggles of life emerges as the norm, where does the man find images to support him through? How do we keep our families together in murky waters when it comes to demonstrating courage to be present with our kids and partners? How do we interact with our son when he consistently does not live up to his potential in Language Arts or is influenced by his peers in doing wrong? How do we present ourselves to our 13-y.o. daughter, after reading a text she wrote to a boy, telling him she likes him? What about the conflict that evolves with our girlfriend or wife, when she tells us she is tired of tooting our horns while her emotional needs are not being met or she is not being respected as the Queen we once saw in her? How to we respond to sensitive issues that need us to be present in the midst of our inability to address them?
We demoralize women and other men, including our sons, when they express their emotions. We convince them that being in-tuned with their emotions and ability to express them, which is really a strength, that they should avoid them–at least when around us. How does the action hero or the baller guide us through these uncomfortable situations? When we don’t handle these situations properly, they create unhealthy connections that many times lead to the breakup of families.
We display Authentic Manhood and Fatherhood when we are able to feel the pain of a loved one and be present with them during their dark moments. Our Manhood is expressed in our honesty about our own insecurities or confessions that we don’t understand or don’t know what to do. It is through being vulnerable we demonstrate the courage to admit that we are afraid or that we are wrong. We can take lessons from our Warrior Queens and stand firm in the midst of our pain or theirs or our kids and say “I am here, I don’t know what to do, but I’m here with you, help me understand.” Our Manhood is experienced when we are able to say, “I am a Man and I am hurting, but it’s OK and I’m OK.”
Let us learn to be strong in character, my Brothers and fellow Kings, away from the stereotypical expressions of the tough, emotional-less and insensitive portrayals of manhood and fatherhood. This strength is not usually displayed on the battlefield or against an opponent on the court, or in traffic or in business. It is expressed at its best during the stillness of our minds and being present with the pain. This act of courage is not for the weak-minded. We don’t run, walk away, leave the house or shutdown during the labor pains of the awakening and maturing of our souls as we encounter and live through the day-to-day struggles of making it work with ourselves and our loved ones.
Within each conflict we have a choice through courage, honesty, humility and honor to enter deeper into the awareness of who we are as human beings, as men and as fathers. Or we can choose a path influenced by an insecure mindset that at best can merely create a front of what being a man and a father is about. It is through our internal struggles that the authentic essence and character of Manhood is birthed and forged. We need to bear witness to this birth for each other and our sons and daughters. Our kids deserve to experience what Authentic Manhood looks and feels like–not from a distance or on TV, but in relationship with us and each other. We need to experience it as well, from each other. We must move away from being players of Love, and become Warriors of Love or Love Warriors. Are you with me?