This is an open letter to all the men — especially the saved men — in America that are emotionally constipated.
The fact that you have difficulty expressing your emotions is, sadly, normal; it’s the standard because we live in a nation of emotionally constipated men. I know the term “constipated” doesn’t give you a great mental picture, it is quite appropriate for this topic. Men are stopped up; we don’t know how to properly process the events that occur in our lives and express the corresponding emotions. If you’ve ever been constipated you know that it’s painful — not a pleasant experience at all. In the case of emotional constipation, it doesn’t hurt the one who’s clogged as much as those around them.
Now, don’t misunderstand — the fact that it’s normal does not make it that it’s healthy, productive, or effective. Your lack of emotions is crippling the nation because your children, and those youngsters who watch you, don’t see your example. Or perhaps they see your wrong example when they see you hit women or compress your feelings by avoiding properly processing and expressing them. This leads the youth to lash out in violence, drugs, sex, and all types of abuse. And we wonder why there’s so much violence in school. It’s simple — the kids have no emotional outlets for their anger and frustration. They’re not taught how to properly handle disagreements and argument so they resort what they see deemed effective by fighting.
Why is it that we can show so much excitement and passion over a football or basketball game but when it comes to things like fear, failure, sorrow, regret, disappoint, and sadness, we deem them to make us less of a man? Why do we hold the assumption that men must always maintain a stoic outlook on life, seemingly unwavered by anything that happens to us?
There’s an incredible book by a pastor from New York, Peter Scazzero, that I recommend everyone, but especially you, as a man, read. It’s entitled, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” and the premise is this — you are only as spiritually mature as you are emotionally healthy. In other words: the more emotionally constipated we are, the less we properly understand, process, and express our emotions, the less spiritually mature we are. I won’t go into the entire book, but I do want to give you the top ten symptoms that you might experience if you have emotionally unhealthy spirituality:
1. Using God to Run from God
2. Ignoring the Ungodly Emotions of Anger, Sadness, and Fear
3. Dying to the Wrong Things
4. Denying the Past’s Impact on the Present
5. Dividing Our Lives into “Secular” and “Sacred” Compartments
6. Doing for God Instead of Being with God
7. Spiritualizing Away Conflict
8. Covering over Brokenness, Weakness, and Failure
9. Living without Limits
10. Judging Other People’s Spiritual Journey
After reading that list I know you have a few areas you need to work on. And that’s good; it means your human. No one has it all worked out. But what it does mean is that we have to get working on ourselves. If we first want to change the world, we have to look at ourselves and make the change first.
Don’t you dare make the “I didn’t see my father (or any other man) do it, how am I supposed to do it” excuse. You didn’t need to see your father sleep around to know how to do that did you? You want to know how you can be a pioneer and an example in this area? By the grace of God, that’s how! Men, you want to lead and guide and pioneer everything else, we’re too afraid to cry for the first time? Get over yourself, man. Stop acting like a punk and show that you care about something for once in your life.
And fathers, let me tell you something: your children need to see you cry. They need to see you get excited, to laugh, to be angry. They need to see your emotions. It helps to humanize you and makes you more relatable. Your children, especially your boys, need to know that you go through the same emotions you do, but they need to see you handle them effectively. When you lash out at your kids or your wife, the children view that as acceptable. Why? Because they don’t know any better so they believe that the wrong way is actually right — or at least the acceptable — way to handle things. The good news is, you can also show them the right, and healthy way to handle emotions.
Now, I know you didn’t start the cycle, but the fact that you’ve chosen, albeit perhaps subconsciously, is nearly as bad. You have to understand that the choices you make now have a much further reaching impact than just you. Until we open our eyes and realize that our inability to properly navigate the emotional waters has an effect on everyone around us, we will not find the proper motivation to change. Please, sir, find that motivation today. The future begs it of you.
Let’s make a concerted effort, as men, to encourage one another to learn to understand, process, and express our emotions in a healthy way. Whether it’s love, anger, excitement, sadness, or whatever, God created emotions for a reason — but we were made to rule our emotions, not the other way around. So men, step up and be the emotionally healthy man that God has called you to be!
By: Stuart McDonald
Atlanta native Stuart McDonald is an up and coming writer and communicator, who strives to facilitate dialogue about issues, such as race, religion, and relationships