Dig Deeper

All too often, men are told that they must focus on strength and overcome weakness. We are told to hit the gym, dig deeper, that pain is weakness leaving the body. Programs like P90X and Insanity are thrown around all over the place.

Yet, what does it mean to focus on weakness? From the case above, this would mean physical weakness. But there are so many kinds of weakness, just like there are so many kinds of strength.

To lead a balanced, healthy life, it takes understanding all aspects of our strengths and weaknesses.

So, as men, how do we confront our weakness? The narrator of Insanity tells us to “dig deeper” to find that inner-strength to take another step or do another push-up.

What if to dig deeper meant to find your inner-values and what you truly stand for. What if instead of hitting the gym, you took 15 minutes to reflect on your day and think about the positives and negatives that were involved in it?

How often are men asked to do that? I would guess rarely or never.

So I’m asking you.

Dig deeper into yourself and reflect on why you feel uneasy around images of women being objectified and denigrated.

Dig deeper into yourself and reflect on why you chose the major, the college, or the job that you chose.

Dig deeper to see who you truly are.

Exercise your brain and you may realize where your true strength comes from.

Manhood “Testing”

I read a short essay by Michael Chabon in his book, Manhood for Amateurs where he writes about faking his skills at home repair. It spoke to me because recently my wife and I purchased a house and as my sister sees it, “I have much more enthusiasm about home repairs than I actually have skills to do them.”

The point Chabon makes is that as men we need to fake it until we make it when it comes to fixing the house, providing for our families and being men. Yet,  he didn’t include things like knitting, child-rearing or emotions?

It seems to me that if we are testing our skills and trying to be “manly for our families,” we should apply ourselves to everything. Nothing should be off limits or too un-manly to at least attempt or “fake” in this case. Think about the time you figured out how to do laundry correctly for the first time after you moved out of your parents’ house. Think about the time you made dinner for the first time and didn’t burn it or have it explode in the microwave. While both examples tend to be roles that are traditionally seen as feminine, both are mandatory for being a functioning independent adult regardless of gender.

So, while we are taught as young men that we will “win” women by showing our muscles, I’ve learned that I’m more of a man for being present to the needs of my wife and community. This means more often than not that I’m cleaning dishes and doing the laundry and I’m pretty proud of that!

Brian Anderson serves as a Chaplain for Juniors, Seniors and Interfaith Programs at Loyola University Chicago. He received a Master’s in Student Development Administration from Seattle University where he began researching masculine identity and Men Against Violence programs. His current interests focus on how men approach their spirituality and how their faith traditions affect the formation of their masculine identity. Recently, Brian has given presentations on how Catholic Universities have addressed programming directed at men as well as received training through Men Can Stop Rape. He is a member of NASPA and their Men and Masculinities Knowledge Community.