After reading this story KUAC reported a few days ago, I found myself writing a response. I think if I didn’t I would have internally combusted. Writing, in many ways, is a release. A way of getting the energy buzzing in my body placed, yes, just on the page, but at least somewhere.
Each and every human being needs a place of emotional safety. Especially men.
Can we talk about this? I’m not going to get this perfect, but it’s a start to a conversation on what seems to be a systemic, chronic problem. These types of issues do not go away on their own and need serious attention. In health terms, our society needs a serious detox.
So often when a woman reports a man’s behavior, the immediate response from a man is to lie. It’s shameful. And disgusting. But, it seems, men have been groomed and enabled by this society to do egregious wrongs and not accept responsibility.
In today’s society it seems all too often boys are being raised to believe their pride and toughness is the most important thing to develop and protect. But when we don’t teach the men and boys in our lives to take responsibility for their poor behavior, we are doing women, families, communities and ultimately, the men themselves, a disservice. To have the emotional safety to learn from mistakes is what men and all people need. Not more people enabling harmful behavior and actions. We must teach, especially to our boys, that we are all human. We all make mistakes. We must teach them to apologize. After all, the one who uses their mistakes as a learning opportunity is rich in moments of growth. It’s how we flourish.
When a man attacks or abuses a woman he is the one who thinks he is in power. Often men attack or abuse women to feel a temporary sense of power because, for whatever reason, they, at that moment in their lives, do not feel empowered. They feel insecure and need to do something to regain a sense of control.
When a woman reports abuse or poor behavior, she works to regain balance. She (probably fearfully) does so to ensure the abuse and poor behavior doesn’t happen again. If the man does not have the emotional safety to accept responsibility and apologize (which rarely happens), then the result is usually a man lying to regain a sense of dignity and power among his community. Because abuse of power is always shameful.
But here’s the thing. Deep down, it’s not about power. It’s about insecurities. Men feel insecure. Men feel insecure because this society tells men their pride is most important. Their toughness is the most important. Their power is most important. And when these things are missing, the insecurities bloom. Their harmful behavior and actions are a symptom. A harmful, abusive and sometimes deadly symptom. The disease is the act of ignoring, swallowing, or shoving aside difficult emotions instead of healthy processing. The treatment this person needs is safety. An emotionally insecure person needs emotional safety. They need someone to talk with. But too often men do not have or do not believe they need a soft and safe space to share emotions. They believe they just need power from somewhere. And this misdirection and response to crippling insecurity turns into a toxicity that leeches and hurts. It steals. It kills. It destroys.
MEN NEED PLACES OF EMOTIONAL SAFETY. And they need to learn to believe they can be safe to share their emotional pains.
When they have that, they will have the capacity to do the hard and courageous, and the right and noble act of taking responsibility. They’ll be able to say sorry.
P.S. I don’t mean to make harmful men out to be the victims when women are abused or attacked or killed. When men abuse, attack or kill, they absolutely need to be held responsible for their actions. What I’m saying is to fix this chronic problem we see in society today, we need to understand the root causes. And maybe I have it wrong. And I know I have a lot to learn. But we can’t stay silent.
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