Previous Months' Topics

Emotions and Manhood

Let’s settle the question at the start. Real men do cry – or at least they should, on certain occasions and in some circumstances.

Your mom dies – you cry. If you don’t believe me, take it from a saint. After Augustine’s mother Monica died, he wept uncontrollably. He was told by pious Christian friends that a man of faith shouldn’t grieve in that way because he would see his mother again at the resurrection. Christians do not mourn like the pagans, they counseled.

To his great credit, St. Augustine would have none of it. As humans, Christian or pagan, we grieve the loss of a loved one, he insisted. We feel the very basic sorrow and loss in our lives. We are not angels; we are flesh and blood, and we cry with all the emotions of our God-given human nature.

However, there are larger questions involved in “Emotions and Manhood” than crying in extraordinary circumstances. How are men supposed to handle the ordinary emotions of each day? Obviously, we don’t want to let tears flow at work when a big deal falls through, and we don’t want to break down in front of our kids at home. Yet we don’t want to bottle all our emotions inside and risk a flare up or melt down at the worst possible time.

Whether we like it or not, emotions are persistent and have a way of making themselves known. The key is to learn to control them when necessary, direct them toward positive outlets, and express them in appropriate ways. No simple feat, especially when boys are told from a young age to dry their tears and get tough.

In any event, you don’t want your emotions to rule your life – by being unable to control them, or by denying them to the point where emotions have an unconscious destructive power over you. The ideal is to place emotions under the watchful eye of reason, yet be reasonable enough to express emotions in a healthy manner.

This calls for a delicate balance, a sense of self, and a sense of humor.

Anger and Forgiveness

Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a Catholic psychiatrist and family therapist, provides a number of resources that can helpful for a man to get to know himself better and to place reason (rather than impulse) over emotions.

One of the most powerful and destructive emotions for men can be anger – anger over past hurts, parental misdeeds, adolescent insecurities or adult failures. We can be angry at our parents for years after we become adults, and this anger may eat us up and ruin our lives as we redirect anger at other people, such as our wife and children, our boss and subordinates.

Dr. Fitzgibbons, along with a whole new school of psychiatry, teaches the healing power of forgiveness. The good, old-fashioned virtue of forgiving those who have hurt us – even if we never face that person – can be psychologically freeing and emotionally invigorating.

The wisdom, of course, comes from Jesus, who told us to love our enemies, pray for those who hurt us, forgive those who wrong us and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt 7:11).

Follow these links to Dr. Fitzgibbons’ website called Martial Healing, for more advice and insights on these very emotional issues. You may find helpful the surveys that will help you explore your emotional issues and identify areas to work on.

On Anger
"Without forgiveness one remains a prisoner of one's past," Pope John Paul II.

Emotionally Withdrawn
“Man cannot find himself except through a sincere gift of self,” Second Vatican Council.

Anxiety
“Be not afraid!” Pope John Paul II