Maybe it was your father when you were a small boy, telling you to, “Take it like a man”.
Maybe it was your mother when she ignored your tears and told you big boys don’t cry.
Maybe it was a sibling teasing mercilessly and then punishing you for caring.
Maybe it was a church leader who taught you that God created boys to protect soft, dainty girls.
Maybe it was your peers at school who called you a sissy for showing affection for others.
Maybe it was a bully who humiliated you for not fitting the prescribed role expected of boys.
Maybe it was the sitcoms on television or the music on the radio that displayed dysfunctional relationships between Neanderthal men and vacuous women.
Maybe it was the men who stood towering above you, resorting to stoic faces and grunts for communication.
Wherever the lesson came from, you were taught to reject your emotional self.
That boys and men should be tough and deny their sensitive, caring heart.
That tender emotions should be contained and held within.
That anger and violence from a man was a sign of love and affection.
That control and order was more important than sympathy and concern.
That a cool, aloof, and rough exterior was what made a real man.
That tears were a sign of weakness.
In spite of this, you taught me to surrender to my feelings.
You assured me that my raw emotion and vulnerability was beautiful.
You craved the shudder of my sobs within your fingertips, trying to absorb that which you had shut off from your self.
You held me willingly, afraid to let your walls down, as mine crumbled in the gentle strength of your touch.
For I have felt the sadness trapped behind those piercing eyes.
I have tasted the pain and bliss within your fervent kiss.
I have sensed empathy in a caress so tender that I melted into you.
For your feelings make you a real man.
What makes you a real man is choosing to ignore the label you were given to satisfy someone else’s fears.
It is whatever you define for yourself.
What makes you a real man is your concern and empathy for those you love.
It is your willingness to serve others and give freely to those who need your help.
What makes you a real man is your desire to bring beauty to the world despite the horrors that others commit.
It is the unshed tears of agony and elation that are locked beneath the deepest parts of your heart.
What makes you a real man is the sorrow of the young boy trapped inside you.
It is receiving your own forgiveness and compassion for him.
What makes you a real man is accepting the freedom you yearn for…to let go.
And I will offer the safety of my embrace while he struggles to break free.
Author: Stephanie Parry
Editor: Caroline Beaton