Peter Rosenberger on ‘Real Men Don’t Cry’ and Other Stereotypes About Masculinity and Male Caregivers

An increasing number of men, especially in this COVID-19 world, are taking up the role that is historically populated by women: family caregivers.  Sadly, male caregivers often need to wrestle with stereotypes and myths about masculinity while dealing with the all-consuming work of caregiving.  Here are some myths about masculinity and how male caregivers can overcome them.  

“Real men don’t cry.” This myth continues to create great confusion for many men. Serving as a family caregiver for any length of time will result in weeping — sometimes uncontrollably. Watching someone suffering brings agony and heartbreak.  Sobbing remains one of the healthiest things a man can do when processing grief. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength that validates the sorrow, loss, and anguish.

Courtesy of Peter Rosenberger
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Since the “real men don’t cry” myth remains so extensive, men feel conflicted on where to safely express emotion. Any soldier will affirm that the battlefield is not the place for grief. When risk remains great, sobbing is best delayed until danger has passed. Therefore, men must remain vigilant caregivers while cultivating relationships with other men who can affirm their grief and allow them to process it — while protecting them and “watching their 6.” Those relationships must never lose sight of the maleness, as well as the need to return to the fight with strength and focus. Releasing anguish results in clarity of thought and purpose — and equips one to better resume the work without the burden of unshed tears.

“Real Men Conquer.”  No, they don’t — they lead. This myth takes men down a destructive path of abuse. Rather than brute force, confidence wrapped in love and compassion serves as a hallmark of leadership. “This way to safety” remains the rallying cry of leaders. In the army, the leader can be the lowly private who remembers where the jeep is parked. When the soldier sees the plight of his unit, leadership takes over and can even supersede rank.

When serving as a caregiver, confidence steps in and points to safety. While second-guessing remains part of the human condition, confidence overrides timidity and instills focus. Real leadership by confident men inspires confidence in others. That type of leadership is always combined with humility and a sense of duty. Abusive shouting, demanding outbursts, and other offensive actions reflect weakness. Improperly applying physical, verbal, and even fiscal strength pale next to wielding strength of character rooted in conviction and love. Living in resentment and rage is unhealthy and destructive. A confident leader points to the shelter of acceptance and adapting — and infuses the confidence in others to follow.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Peter Rosenberger

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