Thoughts on men and their emotions.

Last month, a fellow blogger asked me what I — as a woman — think it means to be a man. So in a comment on his blog, I wrote the following:

I could write a whole post (and perhaps I will after I finish my book!). But here’s what comes to mind at first: A man uses words to communicate. He does what he says he’s going to do. He understands emotion to be a human thing, not a woman thing, and expresses his own. If he was raised not to express emotion, he makes an effort as an adult to unlearn what he learned (even if with the help of a licensed therapist). He has integrity, which means he doesn’t do stuff (or makes a concerted effort to avoid doing stuff) in private that doesn’t align with his public image. He practices chastity and knows love is a choice as opposed to a feeling.

Another of the blogger’s readers left a comment regarding mine:

Actually, in this, you’re buying into the mindset that tries to turn men into hairy women. No one *teaches* men to “not express emotion” — it is a natural result of being in control of yourself, which is the masculine ideal. Furthermore, no one, needs, nor even wants, “men” who wear their emotions on their sleeves, least of all women [sic]When it comes to emotions, the world was better off when women worked to emulate what comes naturally to men, by keeping a lid on theirs. Instead, most “women” thesa days mentally junior-high school girls [sic] … as are far too many so-called men.

These are my thoughts on that:

  • To my readers who are men: IGNORE HIM. You are not a hairy woman if you express emotion. You are a person who functions. A “masculine ideal” that doesn’t let you be who you are or feel what you feel is a crock of you know dang well what. Reject it.
  • No one needs men who wear emotions on their sleeves? Reminder: Jesus wept.
  • Words like the ones written by that reader are the reason an 11-year-old boy I once met is more likely to put his fist through a wall than to cry when he’s upset. By telling boys “crying is for wimps,” you don’t encourage strength. You set them up to be alarmed by feelings when feelings arise (and they will). You discourage the development of their abilities to manage emotion, because you can’t learn to manage what you aren’t allowed to experience.
  • Emotion is human. The moment you call expression of it weak, it becomes strong: evidence of a willingness to go against the grain — a grain manufactured by people like the guy who wrote the comment. (A willingness, which, for the record, is totally attractive.)
  • Women don’t want men who express emotion? First, men can’t tell women what women want. Stop it. Second, if I wind up with a guy who cries when he proposes or commits on an altar to intertwining his entire life with mine, or when our kids are born or our pets and loved ones die, or the Fresh Prince rerun we’re watching happens to be particularly heart wrenching, GOOD. I’ll cry with him.
  • The writer posits that men aren’t supposed to express emotion because not expressing emotion is “a natural result of being in control of yourself, which is the masculine ideal.” It is good, regardless of gender, to be in control of yourself. And it is normal to have emotions. But it is flawed to imply it is a loss of self-control to express them.
  • Perhaps the people who have lost control of self are not the ones who express emotion, but the ones who don’t. Who is in control when what you will or won’t do is based on what other people think of you?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • My first reaction is, “heck yeah, Arleen. You tell him!” Then as I reflect these are my thoughts.

    “What does it mean to be a man?” I think that question is a misguided posed to you Arleen. If I am learning anything from JP2’s TOB, it is that God created man and woman. Not woman a copy of man, or man and copy of her. Do I completely understand this…no. Perhaps a better question for a me to answer, “What do I [as woman] think are the qualities of a good man?”

    For me, I only had two men in my life that I can say are truly great men. I am aware more exist, but these men influenced me as examples of how men should behave in my life. I saw one that stood up when a crewman was lost and drove the rest back to work with only a small acknowledgement of grief, then later give all of his earning share to the family, standing with them during their grief. The other man, looked upon the hurting, wandering crowds and wept, yet in a burst of pure rage, angrily drove the dishonest from the temple.

    “Do I want a man to be as emotional as I am?” this is the better question. I think the answer is I want a man that can experience emotion ‘with me’. On this, I strongly agree with your statements.

    In the end, I think God created men and women as separate and uniquely different beings that were meant to be together because “it is not right that man be alone”. I also believe He created us all unique. The times in our history where we have tried to force conformity to a single norm have failed with monstrous results of cruelty.

  • Chase

    I approve. You hit everything I would.

    > No one *teaches* men to “not express emotion”
    Absolute lie, and the author has to know it. Many boys cry until they’re conditioned not to by peer taunting or punishment from their fathers.

    > When it comes to emotions…emulate what comes naturally to men, by keeping a lid on theirs.
    Oh hey, I see that vein pop out of your temple when I say something you don’t like; how ’bout you keep a lid on your emotions there! Oh hey, I see you yelling when some guy on the TV intercepts a fumble; how ’bout you keep a lid on your emotions there! Oh hey, I see you won’t let your girlfriend visit her old friends anymore because you’re jealous or fearful; how ’bout you keep a lid on your emotions there! I’m pretty sure that this guy has no idea what emotions are, solely based on the level of ignorance in his remarks.

    So yes, men do show emotion, and no, they don’t have them under control.

  • “He has integrity, which means he doesn’t do stuff (or makes a concerted effort to avoid doing stuff) in private that doesn’t align with his public image.” Right on Arleen. Put that on a plaque for your office wall 🙂

  • Sean

    I can’t entirely agree with your premise, Arleen, which seems to suggest that men being less emotional is simply a social construct. I think that God created men and women to be different and to have different roles. Men have the role of defender in the family and being less emotional makes them better suited for that role. Women have the nurturing role in the family, and their emotions make them better suited to fulfill their role. God created men and women to be complimentary, not to be the same.

    Of course that doesn’t mean that men should never show emotion or that women showing emotion is a sign that they are not in control of themselves. I just think that there truly are gender differences and that our society tends to blur and distort those differences.

    • Arleen

      Thanks for the feedback, Sean! Glad what I wrote inspired critical thought.

  • Hi Arleen :)! Thanks for this post – it inspired me to write one on something that has been on my heart lately –