You're Not A Man Unless You Have Feelings

Actually gender norms have no place in this conversation. It's a conversation worth having, but fortunately we don't even have to bring it up. This is really a human topic.

But if your idea of “man” includes repression or not feeling certain stuff let me tell you why that is actually weakness in disguise.

First, let me tell you about me.

I am human who welcomes and feels a variety of emotions.

And I have a great feelings vocabulary. I know the difference between feeling sustained and feeling nourished. I know when I feel embarrassed, slightly awkward or feel deep-seated shame. I know happy, I know transcendent joy. I know the numb black hole of depression, the spinning acidity of anxiety. When I feel rejected I know how to immediately say "this hurts" instead of "fuck you".

And through naming, categorizing and, most importantly feeling all these things, I not only experience the depth of what it is to be human as God intended, but I also gain great strength. I reign over my emotions.

This is utterly different than shoving emotions down, or "not feeling" them. That is not strength. That is denial at best.

“Wait, wait, joshua! We can’t have everybody just going around being all irrational and stuff!”

If you think that, pardon my indelicate stance, but you’re silly and wrong to think there is incongruence with rational thought and fully expressed emotions. Furthermore, just like you can let emotions run amuck without disciple, so can a person become obsessed with rational thought, and the intellect. They both need discipline.

So if you say “we cannot let our emotional do whatever they like!” then you are right. It’s our job to process them and express them in a healthy way.

But this is very different to not feeling them.

I’ll borrow an image from C.S Lewis (I‘m repurposing it, but bear with me).

Let's imagine boxing. What if a boxer were to say "In my strength I will not face the opponent before me. I will avoid him altogether." We'd think he was not only stupid, but a coward.

I'm afraid that's all I hear when people (men or women) try to be more macho than their emotions. You're simply choosing to stay out of the ring. What is more, you are choosing to allow this opponent to manifest somewhere else your life — the only difference is this foe will appear somewhere entirely beyond your choosing. All that underlying anxiety may very well be unprocessed shame from your dad. That anger may be the grief of a lost one that you never looked at.

Let’s chat about Jesus for one second. It’s important to remember that the guy was not only God in a human shell, bopping around showing how easy it is to not sin. He was an example of how to be fully human.

And what did the guy show us? He had emotions. A wide range of them, which he expressed.

He yelled in the wood when he prayed. He flipped over tables because he was angry. He told his disciples how wounded he was when they didn’t pray with him. He was filled joy. He was moved with compassion and fed people. He was so upset and anxious that he sweat blood. The list goes on.

This guy, a sharp guy who could go toe-to-toe with the smartest scholars of his day, chose to express emotions in a way that the people around him could see.

And if God does it, then by god, it’s good enough for me!

Jesus, thank you for showing us how to be human, how to have a full range of emotions. Help me be brave enough to feel them all like you did.