Updated: Dec 4, 2018
To be honest, in the last year, I’ve cried more in the span of a year than I have in my whole life (not including early childhood).
I’m a 26 year old black man.
Now, this is not because my life has been filled with an abnormal amount of tragedy. For the most part life has been pretty great. I started an amazing new job, I’m getting married, I graduated with my masters, and my relationship with God is flourishing. This is not to say it’s been easy, but overall there has been so much to be grateful for in the last year of my life.
So why the water works? Well, I’ve simply gotten to a place of emotional awareness that I’ve never been at before. In fact, I’ve never even felt allowed to be here. And the number one reason for that is...you guessed it...I’m a man. And boys don’t cry...so that means men DEFINITELY don’t cry. Or so I thought.
I grew up with this mentality like almost every other guy I know. Most of us were raised to be “strong” and put on a bogus mask of toxic masculinity that never addressed the true pain that we felt inside. So we kept the pain inside and we fronted like we had it all together and the moment you touched that soft spot, we were ready to go. If it wasn’t fighting, it was roasting. If we couldn’t do either of those, we sought to intellectually dominate you. Whatever we needed to do to make you feel smaller than we already felt. Many of us didn’t grow up learning that true strength lies in weakness. We didn’t grow up learning that our pain could actually help lead to our healing. So we hid it...until it was forced to come out. Usually in unhealthy ways.
And let’s be honest. Many of us didn’t have safe places to express our pain. How many parents told their children to suck it up and stop crying when their child experienced deep hurt, how many girlfriends told their boyfriends that they’re too sensitive, how many teammates called each other females in the locker room when they showed any kind of physical or emotional weakness. Many of us never even saw emotional healthiness modeled well by our own fathers, uncles, and cousins.
My own personal journey to emotional liberation has been just that, a journey. And I must say faith has been absolutely significant to my journey. As a Christian, I’d always seen Jesus as God but it wasn’t until I began to reflect on Jesus as man that I began to experience emotional liberation.
Jesus was angry, and happy, and sad. In fact, Jesus wept! And it was all holy.
God Himself wept and He understood my pain. Not only did He understand it but He wanted to enter into it. This changed my world. I also joined a church community where I saw other men not afraid to share what they were going through with other men. Their pains, their struggles, their secrets, their joys. All of it. It was so abnormal to me, but it felt right.
Over the years I began to incorporate this newfound vulnerability into my life and into my relationships and saw that my relationships with people got so much deeper and so much richer. I began to realize that I was actually getting healed and that I was actually finding answers for the questions I had struggled with my whole life.
However, when I started counseling last year I realized that vulnerability wasn’t enough. And this started the next phase of my journey. I needed to learn how to read my emotions and for me to read them I needed to be aware of them. I learned you need to understand your emotions before you dismiss them. I learned that asking why you feel what you feel is vital.
I learned that anger is not a primary emotion, it’s a secondary one that usually points to deeper pain. It’s almost like a check engine light. And when I felt anger stirring up, I had to check under the hood.
I also got into a serious relationship with the woman I love and I’m now engaged to. And for the first time, my emotions were tested in ways they never were. I felt the extremes of my emotions in the context of another person's emotions. Happiness, sadness, and anger were all heightened with her. I was once again forced to deal with my emotions head on, for my sake and for the sake of this woman I did not want to lose. The stuff that has come out of me has been shameful but also redemptive. I have been humbled many times. But being in a relationship showed me something. My journey to emotional healthiness will inevitably play a role in the shaping of my future family.
As men this journey is bigger than us. Our journey to a healthy emotional life has large consequences on the world around us. Our journey affects our legacy. What legacy will you leave for your families, your communities, and the people who look up to you? People are watching and when you refuse to deal with your unhealthy emotional patterns, you are making a strong statement to all who are watching from the inside and the outside.
Cry if you need to. Talk about your trauma. Vent in trusted spaces. Get counseling. Bring your darkness to the light. Shout to God.
The things you thought made you weak, might just propel you into a strength and resilience you’ve never imagined for yourself or for those bearing witness to your legacy.
"For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10