Approximately a year ago I entered a stage of relative confusion. It was a point in time where I lost my clarity and began to question what exactly I was doing and what path I was even on. I was operating from a place of need and hope instead of the certainty and courage I would generally prefer. In all honesty, it was a great process for me to experience at that specific point in time. It provided me with a reason to define my vision, to consider things I enjoy about my lifestyle, and to analyze the steps I can take to eventually and hopefully create a pretty awesome reality for myself. It was a point in time where I came to reflect on masculinity as a whole, and chose a new way that I wanted to define the entire concept for myself.
A few of my favourite thinkers of our time have brought up the topic of a ‘crisis’ in our youth. A ‘crisis’ strongly emphasized in our young men. Young men like myself grow up in an era where our lessons about masculinity now come from two opposing sources. The first being the soft and delicate perception, and the other being that of aggressive machismo. Neither of which being a truly healthy approach to guiding ones interactions with the world. Though I believe the term ‘crisis’ may be a little harsh, I have witnessed this dilemma from the inside out, and recognize this societal confusion very clearly.
I recently heard one man (who’s name I can’t remember) describe masculinity as the following: “The preferential set of behaviours, actions and principles an individual born with a male biology can use to succeed in finding purpose, happiness and health”. As subjective as the concept may be, this is certainly the best definition I have stumbled across yet. As our world changes quickly, so are the demands and expectations set upon each of us. In a nutshell, the requirements of a man have changed tremendously and it’s about time we stop and consider the implications of this. What exactly does this mean for the modern man? A man who lives in a world where hunting and brute force are not our primary offering? It means something simple; it’s time for masculinity to adapt.
“Masculinity is not something you are given. It is something you gain.” – Norman Mailer
We live in a world where manhood (and I literally mean men) no longer benefits from the archaic nature of outward aggression and violence. But before just assuming we should flip the switch entirely and become a soft, delicate, doormat of a man, lets talk about what masculinity is not. Masculinity is not a constant assertion of physical dominance. It is not being rigid, inflexible, or selfish. And a masculine man is certainly not someone who is burdened or influenced by the problems, opinions or demands of others. These are all characteristics that are coming to be known as “toxic masculinity”. Although the psychological reason for many of these qualities still applies today, it is simply their expression that is misunderstood.
Similar to the characteristics mentioned above, true masculinity is indeed about power, though of a very different nature. It is about being vulnerable and having empathy for others, but doing so from a place of fortitude and vitality. The masculine man is fully aware of his emotions, but he is a master of controlling them. Life’s trials do not waver his decision making, creating a reliability that is difficult to replace. He does not pursue his goals from actions of desperation, but trudges forward with a mindset of allowance. He lets the right circumstances manifest naturally, without forcing or resisting them. This man has purpose in his life. Where he does not find it, he simply creates it, compounding his confidence along the way. These men have a mind that is wide open, and are accepting of new ideas while simultaneously possessing the ability to say no whenever that expression is called for. They think for themselves in a world of thoughtless conformity and accept who they are in every way. Last but most importantly, these men possess moral courage; the ability to do what they know is right despite what others may say or think, a quality that unconsciously gives everyone else in their lives the strength and permission to do the same.
Modern masculinity is rational, respectful and caring, although it accomplishes these qualities from a place of strength. A concept entirely misinterpreted by both toxic and tender masculinity as a set. Strength can be defined in a lot of different ways, and it is often done quite wrongly. Society teaches young men that the answers to this brand of male contentment lie in very external vices. Materialism, money, girls, muscles. The list goes quite deep, but these certainly are not answers. In my own life, fostering a healthier understanding of masculinity has aided me in a few different ways. It has inspired me to take action in areas where my courage was low, and create results for myself in new and different ways than before. Of course, just as in my own case, no man will ever be flawless with his execution of this sort of thing. Although we open the potential to thrive when our purpose and values are very clear to us. It creates better decision making, and knowing which decisions to make in the first place. I truly believe that when our principles are in check, we all have the ability to create a lot of positivity for those around us. Discussing and actively teaching a modern view of masculinity just may help us move past this ‘crisis’ and into something great.