Yesterday I posted some thoughts about men and changing the world that garnered some acceptance and some, shall we say, disagreement. Today I’d like to elaborate a bit by sharing some thoughts from a wonderful little book called Crisis in Masculinity by Leanne Payne. I strongly urge you to pick up this book; it is excellent.
Ms. Payne identifies the crisis in masculinity today by first looking to the past:
Men, affirmed as men by their fathers and the men of the community, were by and large free to mature as husbands, fathers, and leaders. In secure possession of their gender identity, the great majority of men moved from the chest, as it were, out of hearts freed from the legalisms of childhood, the narcissisms of adolescence, or the perfectionisms of an adulthood spent futilely seeking self-accecptance (or even the affirmation of parents). Now, however, what was once the exceptional psychogenic factor has become, unhappily, a ruling feature of the culture at large. …Generally speaking, we now have a generation of sons whose fathers, for several generations back, have been unaffirmed as men. The father who is unaffirmed in his own masculinity cannot adequately affirm the son in his.
So what are the consequences for a man of being unaffirmed in his masculinity?
He will be unable to accept himself. Men who are unable to fully accept themselves lose to one degree or another the power to act as father, husband, and leader. In short, in at least some part of their personalities they remain immature and become increasingly passive and unable creatively to initiate the changes needed to lift themselves and their families out of the inevitable quagmires of life. The power is within them to do so. The masculine qualities and gifts are there, but they have not been “affirmed” into life.
The trouble with our culture today is that the vast majority of men are walking around with a slumbering masculinity. It has not been awakened. It has not come to life. Why? Because the sins of the fathers are passed down to their children to the third and fourth generations. Men with slumbering, unaffirmed masculinity cannot awaken or affirm the masculinity in their sons; unfortunately, neither can their mothers.
It is the father (or father substitute) who affirms sons and daughters in their sexual identity and therefore–because gender identity is a vital part of personhood itself–as persons. …The masculine within is called forth and blessed by the masculine without. It is thereby commissioned to be, to grow, and to mature.
…At puberty and adolescence we are listening for the masculine voice. It is the strong, masculine love and affirmation coming through that voice that convinces us that we are truly and finally separate from our mothers. We were born not knowing ourselves as separate from her. If we came to a sense of well-being or of being at all, it was through her love–or that of a good mother substitute. Her eyes, as we nestled in her arms, became the umbilical cord, the life-giving conduit of love through which our sense of being was affirmed, and we began to understand that we were separate and worthy entities in our own right. In other words, we slowly began the arduous task of separating our identity from hers.
The crisis in masculinity consists in the fact that this separation and affirmation of identity is not happening today. We do not come out of puberty and adolescence affirmed as persons. …The step of self-acceptance ideally comes just after puberty. The key to taking this step, on the ordinary human level, lies in the love and affirmation of a whole father.
Mothers nurture their children to adolescence; fathers guide them through adolescence into adulthood. Our society has mothers aplenty, and thank God for them, but the fathers are few. Without fathers, boys and girls cannot become men and women.
We cannot pass on to the next generation what we do not ourselves possess. Unaffirmed men are unable adequately to affirm their own sons and daughters as male and female and therefore as persons. Until men are once again functioning in this vital capacity, women will continue to attempt to fill the gap in vain, and will continue to verbalize their pain and confusion.
There is, in short, an overwhelming amount of gender confusion in great numbers of men today. When men are healed, the pathway for the wholeness of women will be opened. If, however, men do not begin to find themselves as men, the same gender confusion, and on the same scale, will soon cloud the deep mind of women as well.
If you want to change the world, change the men. It’s already happened, friends.