The Costs of Toxic Masculinity

For countless decades our culture has been selling our boys and men a bill of goods about what it means to be a “man:”
•    Be strong!
•    Don’t be a cry-baby!
•    “Man-up” and stop being a wuss!
•    Don’t be a girl and show your emotions—toughen up!
•    Don’t take sh*t from anyone. If people don’t listen– MAKE THEM LISTEN!
•    Compromise is for girls—don’t compromise—show them how things are!
•    DON’T BE A GIRL! Don’t be kind, loving, “emotional”, or any other “girly” ways.
•    Be a “player” and get as many women as possible, but never allow. yourself to be “whipped”
•    Be the breadwinner, even if that means never being home—that’s what moms are for.

As a result of these messages, we have men who are emotionally shut down, disconnected, angry, addicted and lonely. If they have a close relationship with their wives, they run the risk of being called a pansy, whipped, wrapped around her finger, etc. As a result, men try to “man up” by shutting down, walling off and checking out. Sadly, this is harming far too many men. It’s impossible to feel connected to a wall. Love is hard to feel from someone who is shut down. And you can’t have a relationship with someone who is constantly checked out. As a result, wives are leaving these guys, children are ignoring them and other men are turning a blind eye to their pain because they can’t even acknowledge their own. The one close relationship in most men’s lives is the one with their wife, however our culture has so shut down men that they can’t emotionally show up in their own marriages. This leaves their wives lonely and disconnected.

It’s not enough to have a man to live with. No longer do women need men to provide for them. Women want men to join them in sharing their life, not running their life. Women have raised the emotional bar for marriage and men are coming up short by leaps and bounds. They just can’t emotionally show up in the way women want them too—and if they do, they’re seen as not “real” men.  They’re seen as “metro-sexual” men or wimps or worse. Many men don’t know how to show up, even if they wanted to. Their entire life has been spent shutting off feelings, armoring themselves, proving their manhood and shutting down 80% of their humanity. How the hell do they change all that in a world that will ultimately attack them if they do?

I see the price men have paid for buying into these messages every day in my office. I’ve also watched the pain these messages have cost the women and children who loved them.

These crazy messages have turned far too many men into shut down, aggressive, emotionally-stunted human beings who deserved so much more than our culture has given them. Our culture is more forgiving of men raping women than it is with men loving and cherishing women. It teaches men that multiple affairs, chronic porn use and the objectification of women is all part of being a man. It teaches men to take care of their own needs at the expense of others and to heal their own hurts (which men can’t admit to having) by drowning them out with drugs, sex, alcohol and work. They’re told to not talk about their pain; that would be being a wimp. instead, deny it and toughen up. Drown the pain if you have to, but, dear God, don’t be a women and talk about your feelings. MAN UP!

I’ve had a front row seat for watching the devastation these messages have caused men and the people they love. Countless men tell me they know they’re emotionally shut down, but have no idea what to do about it. They tell me they hate that they have no one to talk to about their floundering marriages, high-pressure jobs, struggles with addictions, etc. Their male friends “just don’t talk about those things.” They can go drinking with the guys, to strip clubs with the guys and play ball with the guys, but can’t talk about their pain or sadness with the guys. These men come to me at a loss as to how to save their marriages, how to feel and how to be connected. They’ve bought into the toxic cultural messages of masculinity and now are experiencing the devastation of those messages.
•    “I know I was a jerk”
•    “I know I was angry and mean to her. I just thought she’d always be there.”
•    I worked all the time because it was all I knew and I wanted to provide.”
•    “I never thought she’d leave, so I did what I wanted when I wanted. Now I just want to win her back.”

I hear these messages all the time from men. My heart goes out to them because I know our culture betrayed them (as it did women—but that’s another post ). I get incredibly angry at the damaging messages still being told to men in 2016! It’s crazy, it’s toxic and it’s harming all of us.

If we have any hope of creating a relational world—for men and women—we have to recognize the damage these messages are causing and dare to go counter-culture. Until men are “man-enough” to challenge the messages that are harming them, they will struggle with being connected on any level other than sexually. They will be so devoid of emotions and so “manly” that healthy women will want nothing to do with them, children will simply put up with them and they will be unable to be present on any emotional level—even with those closest to them.

To all the men out there who are hungry for connection, tired of running on the macho treadmill and who want more nourishing love and friendship, stop the madness. “Man-up” in the truest sense of the word. Find the courage to feel, express, stand up, support, love and succeed. The world needs ALL of you not, just 10% of you.  Dare to go counter-culture and “man-up” by bringing all of you to the table . . . for your sake and our world’s.


  1. Monique says

    This may be disjointed, but I will try to stay connected: I personally know plenty of men that care, love, work hard are very supportive and loving to their wives or girlfriends and are “manly”. I also know some that don’t know how to do that…they are much fewer. I question a woman that ignores her husband or boyfriends mishaps such as affairs and other abuse and forgives it. Secretary Clinton stayed with her husband once it was public he was doing unacceptable by modern status things and denied it repeatedly. What message is she giving other women and girls…stay the course even when you are betrayed so you can get what you want? No one is perfect and we all do stuff to get ahead. I know a guy that works hard, is very caring and sensitive, every woman he finds walks away as he is too soft, he and many others are “manning-up” as you put it 100%. We women are not making it easy for men, we want them tough (manly), supportive (mentally and physically) caring and soft and loving and do this while we walk all over them. If they are too loving or kind we treat them like little boys or push them around… we as women also need to come from the middle road. We also have to learn to be strong, self supporting and caring as well as meet the men in the middle. Neither of our candidates are doing any role modelling about this in any good way. In this world, to succeed you have to be tough, male or female, the trick is to be pliable and learning to be tough when needed and caring and supportive when needed. That is the role model we would like…I don’t see it in this election. We need to do it at home and in our schools. For me, my sons are strong, masculine, and very caring and supportive. My daughter is also strong and knows how to go the middle road. She wants a strong man (mind and spirit) and a very caring one….my husband is a great example of 100% man-up.
    I have seen that some very sensitive dads can be amazingly strong characters. Let’s get them as public figures!!! Good luck.

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