I was at our local park with my kids earlier this week during “normal business hours”, and noticed I was the only man their with his children. All of the other children were there with their mothers, or female care providers. While negotiating a descent off one of the climbers a little boy fell, skinning his knee in the process. He cried from the fall – maybe out of fear, maybe out of pain, maybe out of embarrassment, probably a combination of a number of things. His mother rushed over to make sure he was okay – he received a hug, which was welcomed; and his tears were lovingly wiped away. A few minutes later he was back playing, seeming to have completely forgotten about the fall. A couple of days later I was back at the park in the evening, hoping to get my kids good and tired for bedtime. There were a number of men there, most of them actively playing with their kids. One of the dads clearly did not want to be there, and was trying to get his kids to leave with him. His son fell off the slide, and although the boy did his best to hold it in, he ended up crying. His father told him “boys don’t cry from little falls.” He told him to “keep his tears inside, nobody wants to see them.” Parents in the vicinity looked at each other awkwardly. The boy left with his father, who seemed more annoyed than anything else.
Maybe this father wasn’t having a very good day. I know nothing of him or his circumstances besides what I saw at the park. I am guessing his son was not feeling very good about himself, and was in the process of learning how and why to keep his emotions to himself. He was learning that being open is not a good thing.
Many of us grew up with this messaging. Being open with our hurts was not welcomed, so we learned to keep them inside. We did not learn to ask for help when we struggled with things. When pornography and masturbation became a struggle, the shame that kept us from asking for help before only grew.
Much of the power pornography and masturbation have over us is the secrecy it requires. If we are open about our struggle, it allows for us to share our journey together. Openness promotes a community approach to helping and healing, one that brings us together as men to share one another’s burdens (Gal.6:2).
Our lives function best when what we say, do, and think line up with one another. The freedom that comes along with integrity is incredible if we allow for it. Openness is a vital part of this, and is a very good thing when put into practice. Share your struggles together. The payback for the initial awkwardness will make you wonder what you were so scared of in the first place…
Andy Lundy is a psychotherapist working in private practice (www.junipertree.ca). He lives in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada with his wife and their two children.