Unconditional love doesn't exist for a man.
Men in America have a perpetual fight for survival. They fight to achieve to accomplish the goals established by society while simultaneously fighting themselves and those around them. A lot of the fight is in the discord between traditional expectations of masculinity and a person's basic socioemotional needs like... feeling loved, appreciated, and valued. Everyone needs love but men are often seen as unlovable, unappreciated, and devalued if they’re unable or unwilling to produce something others can use.
Unconditional love doesn't exist for a man.
All of our love and support feels conditional. Picture the life of, average man #4. He got a bachelor’s degree in communications. He goes to work for 8.4 hours each day. He makes about $20 hourly. He’s not extraordinary at anything, so he never gets promotions or raises, but he shows up on time and never clocks out early. On the way home from work, he passes strangers on the sidewalk who look away when he glances at them. Some people cross the street when they see him coming. His fiancé is waiting at home, but immediately asks why he didn’t cover his half of the light bill. He tries to accept that he may not achieve the ultra-male status celebrated by all. When stress hits him hard, he calls off work but doesn’t have a doctor's note, so he gets more points off. These are some of the plights of the average man. Even the successful man fights many of these battles. This struggle is not race, age, or wealth dependent.
Most men understand the assignment of life: Produce something that generates power, knowledge, applause and then exchange it for money. Bring that money home to care for his family. While home, be wise and intelligent. Know how to build and fix everything. Be big and strong enough to protect this family he built and the things he has bought. The very fabric of the masculine identity is woven with threads of productivity. Everything runs smoothly when men can achieve this ideal.
What happens when men fail?
Sons are lazy and good for nothing. Husbands and boyfriends lack ambition. Dads are deadbeat. These common themes in our society work so well because they highlight the failure of productivity is in direct opposition to the role of a man. Think of how you’d feed if the WORLD thinks you're worthless. How must it feel to experience the embarrassment of failure then having no one to turn to. Think of that isolation. Think of the profound loneliness. Think of the loss of confidence and self-efficacy. Think of the suffocating opportunity for depression to creep in.
Being a man is a fight, not just out in the workforce. A man fights for soft eyes and pleasant smiles in public. He fights for respect in their homes. He fights for love inside their his head from his own ego.
Life teaches men at a young age that only accomplishments are appreciated. Parents yell when they don't do chores and don't have good grades. If they don’t excel at sports, the family won't show up to cheer. When they're older they're useless if they can’t pay at least half (and preferably all of) the bill: dinner, rent, utilities. Spouses and parents ask, “If you can't pay… why are you here?” In dating, the tallest and most handsome guys get nearly all the attention. All the average guys have to fight for the gaze of their crushes. In nearly all aspects of life, men must become noteworthy or else they fade into oblivion.
Spouses see men like a household appliance- the Action-Matic 3000: now in a new disposable version. Testimonials include phrases like; I can do bad all by myself. I don't need a man. He can't even change my tire or my oil. You can't put this IKEA furniture up for me? Why can't you make me climax in bed? Spouses often ask, "Why is he even here if I have to do it myself?" What you may not realize is that, the men ask THE SAME question. But their questions turn darker. Why am I even here? If the world can't see my value, my closest "loved" ones devalue me, and I have zero self-worth, then why exist? Should I unplug by OD on pills? Could I Self delete by with a Smith and Wesson? Would I commit suicide by suffocation?
Maybe, eventually, with hard work, he can become worth something to someone… somewhere.
I remember guys from high school who were average at almost everything they tried. They were solid people with a bit of charm but only a little. They weren't ugly, but far from handsome or sexy. They could walk and run but were noticeably unskilled athletically. They were witty but not hilarious. I felt sorry for those guys because I knew society wasn't giving them the social encouragement they needed: respect, appreciation, adulation, and admiration. I'm not surprised some of those men are no longer alive. RIP.
The current solution for men in our culture is this. Hope to goodness that he or someone around him recognizes his natural gifts. Then pray that others continue to encourage and value those gifts. Then, eventually, he can cultivate those gifts into something more significant. Eventually, if he works hard enough and becomes good enough he'll be worth something to someone… somewhere.
That’s not good enough.
The fights men fight are no more important than the fights of other people, just inherently different and under-recognized. A better solution is community. When you have a man in your life, remember that your husband, brother, son, dad, or friend needs love and support like he needs air and food. He needs it because of his inherent value, not his production value.
So what does a C+ average, mediocre kind of guy have to offer the world? Testosterone and cultural norms govern their thought process, senses, bodies, and emotions. A man's perception is unique. Men and women literally see, hear, and feel the world differently, and there are studies to prove it. So, a man's value is inherent to him being a man, present, and active. He can see, hear, feel, think, act and react. He can walk through life with you, helping you experience the world instead of being alone. The man's perspective has lost its value. Men think differently. Men guide and motivate differently. In practice, men even teach life lessons differently.
I've cared for many overwhelmed male patients who lost their will to fight. They were often estranged from their wives, children, siblings, and parents. His life after losing his will looks a lot like desperation. It looks like a fifth of vodka each day. It looks like crack, cocaine, prescription opiates, meth, heroin and other addictions. It looks like joblessness and homelessness. It looks like crime. It looks like depression. It looks It looks like suicide.
Questions about suicide are common in men. Men account for 79% of suicides in the US. I've questioned it myself at different times in my life. What kept me around was the truly unconditional love and support of a strong family. At my lowest points, they spoke life into me, not death. They lifted me up. They did not insult and embarrass me for my failures and shortcomings. They poured into me instead of draining me. Without that love, any questions about self-harm may have turned into ideas, plans, and shopping trips. Then maybe the loudest silence of all.
Here are your doctor's orders:
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide please seek help. Call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988.
Exercise patience and show care, compassion, and love to the men and boys in your life. Everyone is fragile and you never know how much life has beat a person down.
Tell the men in your life what you value in them.
Challenge your own beliefs about the value of a man or a woman. Why are people valuable in your life besides what they can do for you?
Self-improvement is a life-style. If you’re at a roadblock in life or you just want to be happier, subscribe to my newsletter at The Doctor’s Orders for a new perspective on self-improvement. Think of it as common sense on steroids.