What We Don’t Tell Men Enough (That We Should)
Posted on May 13, 2014
By now many of you have seen Kevin Durant’s phenomenal NBA MVP acceptance speech. If you haven’t I highly recommend watching it even if you aren’t a basketball fan. Like most I enjoyed the speech for obvious reasons. Durant struck heart strings with his down-to-earth and heartwarming personality. But, I also found that his remarks and vulnerability were the antithesis of what society expects and even suggests of our men.
For centuries the system of patriarchy has associated masculinity with anything that emblazons the male ego. This idea is still pervasive in our current culture. A man is–more often than not–identified and praised based on his career; the amount of money he makes; the kind of car he drives; the shoes he wears; and the number (and type) of women he beds. Since their youth men have been told that expressing emotion was to be considered a sign of weakness. What we have been left with are men chasing after things (money, cars, clothes and women) to validate their existence while silently struggling to cope with the immense pressures placed on them. More than four times as many men die by committing suicide than women.* It seems the bravado and arrogance we have passed off as “confidence” are merely masqueraded insecurities.
Then there’s Durant, a young man hailing from some of the roughest neighborhoods in Prince George’s County, MD standing at 6’9 in front of the NBA league’s most respected. Filled with immense humility and gratitude, he thanked God for changing him and lauded deep admiration for the support of his peers. He was moved to tears when speaking of his mother’s belief in him, “We weren’t supposed to be here, but she believed in me…She’s the real MVP.”
We don’t see enough of this in our culture: Men who are not afraid to openly show emotion and vulnerability while acknowledging their faith. And, we don’t see enough men challenging the status quo by moving away from anything self-aggrandizing. I believe the absence of this–the humility, the respect of faith, and fellow man–stems in large part to not telling men the things they should hear.
We (society, culture, women, fellow male counterparts) must challenge our men by lovingly and respectfully sharing the truth about who they are while holding them accountable to a higher standard. We need to tell men they are enough. We need to tell men that their vulnerability does not make them weak. In fact, it makes them strong. We need to remind men that their true identity and security are found only in the Creator and, to paraphrase Durant, everything else is just a platform. What a man chooses to do for his profession and who he chooses to date/marry are opportunities for him to display the heart of God. We need to tell men what truly makes them attractive are humility and character rooted in loyalty, commitment and integrity.
I know this all sounds good in theory, yet the execution seems intangible. It’s been one way for so long, how do we change the broader dialogue? And I know it seems unfair to use a famous, multi-million dollar earning NBA player as the pinnacle for which men should aim. Every man can’t be Kevin Durant, or President Barak Obama, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but every man can be his best self. Every man can live out his life’s purpose with integrity. Every man can love at his peak. It’s possible if only we start the conversations by telling them we believe.
Now it’s your turn: If you’re a man, what do you need to hear the most in your life? Ladies, how are you speaking life into the men around you?
Tell me in the comments section below.
*Psychology Today, August 2013 Issue