Growing up it was rare to hear the phrase “I love you” from a male peer. From birth, we are taught not to display any emotion that made us vulnerable. There are three behaviors or beliefs that define toxic masculinity; 1) suppressing emotions, 2) maintaining an appearance of hardness, and 3) using violence as an indicator of power. Many men are walking around with emotional baggage they cannot get rid of. Parental rejections, insecurities, regrets, loses, and the list goes on.
On social media, the phrase “toxic masculinity” is being misused in the context of men who mistreat and abuse their lovers. This is not toxic masculinity. The mistreatment of lovers and abusive behaviors are symptoms of toxic masculinity. These men never learned how to express their suppressed emotions and as a result, they hurt the people they care about. As the saying goes “hurt people, hurt people”.
Nurturing Emotional Intelligence
We live in a four-dimensional reality. There is the physical plane, the emotional plane, the psychological plane, and the spiritual plane. As men, we are raised to suppress the emotional plane and as a result, we live in this false reality. Researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer referred to this dimension as “Emotional Intelligence”.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.
Imagine the harm we do to ourselves and those around us by suppressing our emotional intelligence. If men were taught to show more emotions, they would be able to connect with their children more within the home and thus become better fathers. They would be able to pay better attention to their wives and her needs and thus become better husbands. They would be able to detect signs of fatigue, stress, fear, and other negative emotions when they arise in the home and confront them. If men were taught to express their emotions, Father’s Day could be a huge celebration just like Mother’s Day.
Children are more in tune with their emotions than adults and often they are not able to connect with their fathers because their fathers aren’t emotionally invested in their lives. Their fathers are only invested in the physical aspect of their lives – that is, being the breadwinner and the protector of the family but children need more than physical investment. They need their father’s genuine love, support, and care. They need their father’s emotional side.
American Actor Jack Baker once said, “Every dad, if he takes time out of his busy life to reflect upon his fatherhood, can learn ways to become an even better dad.” Men, it is time we stop focusing on the physical and start understanding the emotional needs of our household. Asking your lovers questions like “How are you feeling today?” “Why do you feel this way?” Talking with your children about their emotions and not brushing them off with phrases like “get over it” and “man up”. They want to know somebody other than their mother cares. They yearn for that connection with dad.
Say “I Love You” More
If you say “I love you” nine times right now you should feel an emotional change. Those three words are the most powerful words in human history. As a child growing up in the 90s there was a television male role model that made us sing “I love you” at the end of every show. His name was Barney. Barney probably told us he loved us more times than our fathers did. His song is still catchy to this day:
“I love you
You love me
We’re a happy family
With a great big hug
And a kiss from me to you
Won’t you say you love me too”
Fathers when was the last time you hugged and kissed your family and told them you love them? 2020 was a year filled with many lessons but the biggest lesson it taught us was how fragile life is. Do not take these days for granted. Learn to become comfortable using your emotional intelligence to build better relationships with your peers and family. Society may love the macho men but your family may want something different. Learn to become the man that will serve your family and not societal expectations. Learn to start saying “I love you” more.
by Leonardo ‘Leo’ Lightbourne