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Where are the truly strong and noble men?

I am truly a lucky man. I grew up in a family where men had a profound respect for women. I never, and I mean never, saw my wonderful father Frank hit my mother or even raise his voice against her. In all of my years I have never seen either of my brothers hit or even raise their voice against women. I have four great nephews and the example of their fathers has been born wonderfully within them as well.

Abuse in its many forms is NEVER ok, never justified, never ‘cool’, never the done thing. In one way I have little credibility to write in this space as you all know that I am a Christian Brother and some of my Brothers have abused children. Abuse of children is the antithesis of everything that we stand for as Brothers. As Brothers we commit our lives to the building up of children, of forming and nurturing them, doing all we can to support families in this most sacred of trusts. So when a Brother has abused we who live this title of ‘Brother’ do and should feel shame. Once again, to any who have been abused by Brothers or priests, from as deep a place within me as I can, I say “I am so sorry!”

Sadly, we live in a world where too many children, women and the elderly are abused. Any ONE abused is too many. Sadly too many children, women and the elderly do not feel safe – even in their own homes. What should be a place of safety, of nurture, of care, of growth, of respect and of love becomes a place of fear and confusion.

Some men physically abuse women. Some men emotionally abuse women. Some men take out their weakness upon women. Some men manipulate and control women. And those same men carry around a whole backpack of justifications for their actions. There is a warped and ridiculous belief that men are the superior gender: what utter bullshit! This warped and ridiculous belief spurns attitudes that men are ‘owed’ a meal on the table, sex when they desire it, that they are the dominant voice in decisions and that the world revolves around them and their needs.

Nothing, nothing justifies violence. The true man stands with dignity and true strength in the face of every provocation. In the face of verbal abuse from the other, poverty and needs, confusion and sense of failure, tiredness and frustration the true man still stands tall with true strength. They may have lost their job, wonder where the next meal will come from, how they will pay their bills, how they will come through the complexities of family relationships and struggles – but none of this justifies violence in any form.

Immediately as I write, many men who are reading this will naturally respond with some degree of defensiveness. “I have never abused a woman!” “I am tired of ‘pick on men’ week!” “The Me Too movement has gone too far!” It can at times appear as if masculinity itself is under attack. This is just rubbish. It is not masculinity that should feel under threat but the warped, compromised sense of what it truly means to be a man. Yes, ‘most men’ do not abuse women. Yes, ‘most men’ respect women. Yes, ‘most men’ are loyal, faithful and are in respect filled relationship with the key women in their lives. Deo Gratias!! Thanks be to God!

But the time has come for ‘most men’ to speak up and speak up to their fellow men. We need empowered men to boldly and courageously name what is means to be a true man. I apologise in advance for my language but, “Real men don’t cry” Bullshit! “What happens on tour stays on tour!” Bullshit! “She was looking for it!” Bullshit!

Sadly too many of our young men grow up with ‘absent fathers’. Sometimes physically but often emotionally. Young men need fathers who want only for their sons to be their best self. Young men need fathers who can be vulnerable, who can cry when they need to, who can say ‘sorry’, who can admit failure and weakness. There is NOTHING, absolutely nothing weak in any of that. Young men need fathers who can, without fuss, say “I love you son!” when they need to. No son (or daughter for that matter) should go through life wondering if they are loved by their father. There is something in the human spirit that physically needs to hear the words, “I love you!”

It is not good enough to say, “He knows I love him!” Does he? Saying it, showing it, does not make you weak. I am not asking for bubbling, emotionally all over the place, boundary less emotionally diarrhoea. But emotionally intelligent men who can display affection and when it is needed, say “I love you” liberate themselves and their children.

Apart from a warped sense of masculinity – where does abuse of women come from and what has led to many men lacking in self-respect? Sadly too many men, both young and old watch pornography. Pornography would have to be the greatest robber of dignity that I know. Porn robs women of dignity and worth. Porn turns beautiful innate dignity gifted women into nothing more than physical objects at the whim of some man’s sexual urges. Porn robs the man as well and compromises his own sense of worth and dignity to some short term ‘fix’ or hormonal driven habit.

Probably the greatest gift my mother gave to me, other than the gift of life, was the witness of her fidelity. My father was not well – his whole adult life Dad struggled with physical and mental ill-health. And Zena walked beside Dad every single step of that difficult journey. Theirs was no ‘rose-garden’ marriage. Zena who graduated from Sydney University at a time when possibly only one in every 100 women went to University, gave up so much to love and honour this fragile dreamer – my father. But she did and she never ever displayed any indication of regret.

So, beside the scourge of pornography, the lack of self-discipline and self-respect in relationships has much to contribute to a ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’ attitude of some men as regards the dignity of women. A one night stand culture leaves empty spirited men the following morning. A ‘if it feels right it is right’ approach to the use of sex and drugs, robs men of any resilience when the storms of life come. A selfish ‘what’s in it for me’ approach to relationships never births the true and deep freedom that true selfless giving brings.

Sure women have a part to play in this battle – and it is a battle. We are needing women to claim their own dignity and worth, their voice and their self-respect. I was recently at the home of a dear friend on the night of his son’s Year 12 formal. His partner for the formal turned up scantily clad to the extreme, leaving nothing to any warped imagination, and leaving me at least, wondering about her sense of self.

Much of what I have written about in this blog applies to men’s attitudes towards men who are same sex attracted. One of the proudest moments in my life as a teacher was to have an old boy of mine introduce me to his gay son with pride. The lad I had taught was one of the toughest and roughest young men, a demon on the football field and had lived a hard life. But in fatherhood, he had the strength and humility to accept and celebrate his son for who is is.

Enough said. This is written to ‘most men’ in the hope that as most men strongly and deliberately frame and reframe what it truly means to be a man – then all men will be liberated to be their best selves. As this is done – those men will stand tall proud in their masculinity and standing beside women who will feel and know they are safe, honoured, respected and called to tango on the dancefloor of life – with proud and liberated men.

Letter from my New Zealand granfather, Charles Price to my father Frank, just after the Second World War:

“Dear Son, Mother and I wish you a happy birthday on May 21, and very many happy birthdays to follow. We send you all our love. Nothing will ever change that. We pray for you always, that you may reach your goal even though you have ‘hitched your wagon to a star.’ Keep well and keep cheerful. Dad!”

Photo at the start, my nephew Daniel and I hiking in the New Zealand alps.

2 thoughts on “Where are the truly strong and noble men?”

  1. Thank you so much Damien for your voice of wisdom and reason, sadly lacking in much of the current conversation. I particularly appreciate your acknowledgement of the importance of individual women respecting themselves; so necessary if anyone else is to respect them. Keep up the good work!

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