Recently, I started thinking about why we, men, tend to avoid emotions. I have obviously not met every man alive, but a pattern I have observed is that men tend to disengage when it comes to the topic of emotions. It appears as though a lot of men often run from their emotions, building walls and burning bridges in emotional connection. This is quite concerning given that we are all created with emotions, and fullness of life comes when we engage with and handle our emotions well. So, why is it that as men we tend to trade genuine emotional connections for distance,
disconnect, and emptiness? Why do we shy away from emotional commitment? Why do men avoid emotions?
Before we started dating, my wife shared how much she prayed for a healthy relationship. I remember her saying that she dreamed of having a healthy marriage, and instantly the wheels in my brain started turning. I started realizing how much I lacked the desire of getting into a relationship prior to ours. Her dreams of a healthy family sounded like a lot of responsibility, and I didn’t feel capable of providing. It was around this time that I had reached my breaking point. I felt unhealthy and I told myself and God that I needed a change. I felt as though my emotions were trapped inside and I had no more space to stuff them down. I felt tired, cynical, and hopeless. It was in my realization of feeling emotionally unhealthy that I decided to intentionally tackle my emotional health.
On this journey, God took me back to the beginning of my life. I grew up in a single parent home where my mom tried her best to be both mom and dad. She overworked to be able to provide for my siblings and me. However, it is absolutely impossible for anyone to execute both roles. As it so happens, the lack of parental figures stunted my emotional development. I didn’t have any healthy examples of men engaging with their feelings. Instead, I just avoided them because that was easier. With no guidance in identifying and expressing my emotions, I began living in fear that any emotion I felt would completely take over and consume me. I didn’t want to drown in feelings, so I did what I thought was best: I suppressed and controlled my emotions until I could no longer feel any pain. I didn’t know it then, but my lack of emotional engagement restricted me from living a full life, because feeling no pain also means not feeling the fullness of joy. And that is the death of emotional health.
I avoided the gift of true intimacy. I was emotionally unhealthy and avoided addressing it. For a long time, I ultimately avoided the challenge of putting in the work to become healthy. Now that I am living a life of emotional health and awareness, I realize that avoidance isn’t worth it. Being able to provide intimacy, connection, and health for my family is my full potential. I encourage you to do the same. You are capable of it.
I pose these questions: What is causing you to avoid difficult emotions? What are you missing out on when you avoid your feelings? Why are you delaying the experience of living a full life? What can you do to work towards emotional health?
I believe it is God’s plan for us to live a full and abundant life (John 10:10) and having emotional health is a big part of that. I challenge you, as I challenge myself daily, to engage with all of your emotions and seek to process them well. It is hard work and can be painful at times but the results are incomparable. We get to live free and to the fullest.
This brings me to my conclusion: I believe that as men, we can and should engage with our emotions. It is not enough to be in a relationship, be married, or be a father without also providing emotional intimacy and connection. We must fight for our own complete health, and strive to bring in the best version of ourselves. We must choose to live to our fullest potential, because that is what we, and those closest to us, deserve. That was God’s intention when he created us–to live fully and abundantly.
I would love for nothing more than to share my findings on my journey of emotional health to help more men in creating a life of fullness, health, and emotional awareness. Emotional health isn’t something just for girls or a dumb thing to do. To deprive ourselves of complete health (especially our emotional health) is damaging. We don’t need to be complacent or fearful of our emotional health, given the reality that feelings can’t kill us. Even the strongest, most intense emotions are temporary and cannot harm us.
Here are a few things that practically helped me when I was starting to connect with my emotions:
- Be aware of your feelings throughout the day. Get familiar with the range of emotions you can feel, even the subtle ones. If you’re struggling to identify specific feelings, I encourage you to google “Feelings Wheel”.
- Share your feelings (both negative and positive) with a trustworthy person. Talking about your experience with emotions brings more clarity for you and helps you practice communication.
- Spend time with Jesus to reflect why you feel the way you do. Let the Holy Spirit guide you through the origin of those feelings.
- Radically attack complacency with a good support system. Accountability helps in counteracting your normal tendencies of avoidance, withdrawal, shutting down, or disengagement.
- Reading and resources. Keep yourself educated by reading, researching, and asking questions. Be curious about yourself and reflect your growth process. Recommended readings that helped me: “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere, “Scary Close” by Donald Miller, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero.
I hope this sparks something in you and challenges you for the simple fact that you deserve to live a full life. The aim is not perfection but progression. Set goals for yourself and let’s continue to grow, learn, and journey on the road of emotional health together.