Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Real men don’t cry -- or do they?

In today's American society we've too much bought into the myth that "real men don't cry." This myth has been part of our culture for far too long.

It starts with little boys who cry naturally. They're just being who they are. And what do we do? "Boys don't cry."

As a result many boys grow up, confused. They have feelings, but they're told they can't show or express them. If they do, they're sissies. The boy starts down the path to shutting down his emotions, his feelings.

As a result we men have buried our feelings. We deny to ourselves what comes naturally. We lose who we really are.

The Samurai openly cries

"Real men don't cry." Nothing could be further from the truth, as I see illustrated in the movie The Last Samurai

There's a scene near the end of the movie in which the samurai, Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), proves that real men do cry, they do express their emotions.

In the story, US Army Captain Algren (Tom Cruise), a disillusioned civil war veteran, is recruited to train Japan's "modern" army. Japan's young emperor is easily swayed by unscrupulous businessmen, both Japanese and American, eager to line their pockets the modernization of Japan will bring. Standing in the way are the Samurai with their "antiquated" code of honor, who have sworn allegiance to the Emperor, but are seen by these devious men as impediments to progress.

In their first battle, Algren is taken captive to Katsumoto's mountain village where he learns through the winter months of the samurai's conviction for honor, truth and justice. Algren comes to admire the samurai. He and Watanabe become friends; Algren finds the man he once was, and comes to see through the greed propelling "progress."

When Watanabe returns to the Emperor's council, he is placed under house arrest. In a daring night rescue which Algren leads with several of Watanabe's samurai, Watanabe's teenage son is severely wounded and it becomes obvious that he cannot go on.

In this scene, Katsumoto, the warrior, the Samurai who leads all samurai, realizes that he will lose his son. The warrior, who at times appears stoic, for a few moments, holds his son and openly weeps – he cries.

This story of the samurai fascinates me. He is a man who knows his place in the world. He knows who he is. He is at once a man who is not afraid of the battle, and one who can openly grieve – unafraid to show his emotions – over the loss of his son.

He is a man who acknowledges his emotions. And they’re in balance. He is not ruled by them, nor are they out of control. They’re expressed appropriately.

In truth, most of us men today have lost our way. We’ve lost our sense of who we are and what to do with the emotions we still feel, if we can feel them at all.

I confess that I still have trouble with my feelings and emotions. For years I’ve buried mine and not allowed myself to discover my sensitive spirit. Often I have difficulty feeling emotion or identifying my feelings. One thing I’ve learned more recently in my life is that it’s OK to express feelings and emotion, even among other men.

ChristianityToday.com and MenofIntegrity.net offer a weekly email devotional guide called Men in the Word.

This week’s theme is “Buried Feelings: Real men don't try to hide them.”


In his 2004 book, The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle, James C. Hunter wrote about Mike Krzyzewski: "Duke University's men's basketball head coach for the past 24 years has amassed an amazing 601-176 record at Duke, the best college-basketball coaching record over the past two decades. Asked about his success, he talks about the influence of his wife and three daughters: 'Over the years, the girls have exposed me to an environment where they share their feelings, and I've tried to teach my players to do the same thing. I tell them it's not guys doing girl things; it's being a real person—to hug, to cry, to laugh, to share. If you create a culture where that's allowed, all of a sudden you have some depth.'"

This week is about that kind of depth.

Daily readings are as follows:

Sunday: Dug In
Monday: Poker Face
Tuesday: Three Unspoken Words
Wednesday: Shamefully Softhearted
Thursday: 'Nam Fallout
Friday: Ambushed
Saturday: Weekend Wrap-up

Start here.

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