These Days, Being a huMAN Sure Ain’t Easy

Photo:  Ramisi Leigh

It seems like every day a news story breaks about a man in a position of power using their sexual energy without consent or respect. The stories I hear in the news are usually about men who are respected in their chosen profession, with public personas who many would never consider to be capable of such toxic behavior. While those who are calling out this toxic behavior continue to show immense bravery, speaking out against harassment and trauma, I’ve experienced an eerie silence amongst us men.

When I hear the reports I know what was done was wrong but I also know how challenging it is, especially when I feel some sort of power or control, for me to put my urges behind my love for myself and my fellow human beings. The capacity to step over the boundary is within all of us, and when we do, as if in a trance, things can spiral out of control very quickly.

As a cisgender heterosexual man, I have been in challenging situations, been tested and been called out for putting my genitals before my brain and my heart. While it may not always lead to physical or mental abuse, this issue is systemic and can’t be pinned on a cluster of ‘sick’ individuals. It feels fair to say that most, if not all of us, who identify as men, at some point in our lives, have struggled with internal thoughts, urges and chemical imbalances that challenge our relationship with the feminine and can lead to disastrous behavior if not addressed.

From my vantage point I’ve seen so many men, including myself, suppress and hide our deepest desires out of shame or not knowing how to manage them. It seems we want to go past our edge, take control and unleash a side of ourselves that can come off aggressive, even violent. Furthermore, everywhere I turn, I find influences that are designed to stimulate my genitals and brain, centers for that aggressive desire, and shut down my heart, the center for compassion, communion and love. All of this suppression, shame and mis-directed aggression makes our collective pot of masculinity boil over and the toxicity inevitably begins to spread.

I believe that together we can design a new way for modern men to heal ourselves and each other. We all have the capacity to use our sexual energy for good, for creativity, love and expression and not abuse. This evolution requires discipline. Challenges abound along the path and as our power and influence grows, so do the temptations and tests to abuse this power. However, I feel that when we commit to embracing modern masculinity with grace and courage, the rewards for ourselves, the women and non-binary folks we love, our children, our culture and our earthly universe are immense.

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Below I’ve listed some of the commitments I am making. If this piece resonates with you and you’re also on the path, please share what commitments you’ve made in the comments. Let this article be a resource for men to align against the toxicity we experience in our world and within ourselves.

I commit to honoring all people of all gender identities that I encounter as sacred beings, royal and divine, with deep wisdom and power. For me this means…

  • I will listen fully with all senses and won’t speak until they have shared their voice first.

  • I won’t cut them off when speaking.

  • I will respectfully support their needs as they are articulated.

  • I will respectfully ask for them to share their needs if they haven’t been.

  • I will compassionately stop unwanted behavior when I see it or feel it coming up within myself.

  • I will give them the respect, time and attention I give men.

  • I will actively create spaces for them to lead and I will participate when invited.

  • I will share my wisdom when appropriate so that they don’t fall into the trap of strengthening age-old embedded toxic masculine power structures.

  • When appropriate, I will use clear communication to set mutually agreed upon boundaries for engagement.

  • I will create sacred spaces for creativity and play that honor the feminine in us all.

I will honor myself and my fellow men as divine and royal beings, capable of healing our internal wounds and the wounds we have inflicted. This means…

  • I will hold my fellow men up to the same standard I hold myself, showing compassionate intolerance for sexually abusive behavior.

  • I will not abuse substances that disable my ability to act responsibly.

  • I will be vulnerable and get help when I need it.

  • I will commit to daily embodiment practices that remind me of my worth and that of my fellow human beings. These self-love practices get me out of my head and into my body and help me uncover and release the toxicity I may be holding onto. Some examples are meditation, exercise, movement, therapy, massage and other healthy forms of energetic release.

  • I will lean on and support other men, without judgement, through group work that empowers us to confront and release the challenges we face regarding our sexual power, pain, shame, desires and worthiness.

  • I will work to call out and shift toxic, unhealthy masculine communities, media and environments into safe, healthy spaces for compassion, exchange and release.

These commitments are a response to the triangular, hierarchical masculine dynamics of power (sexual and general) and competition as they stand today and seek to support a shift towards the circular, egalitarian dynamics of feminine healing, leadership and collective love. This evolution is already underway, it is our role as modern male leaders to empower and engage with our siblings so that the shift happens within our lifetime and our children aren’t susceptible to the toxic masculine structures that have led our decisions and our society for many generations before us.

If you are reading this and looking for support on this path, I recommend beginning by joining or starting a men’s circle and finding a path for committed, daily personal practice. If you are already on the path, please share your resources and commitments in the comments.


Follow Ethan on Medium for more musings. This blog originally appeared on Medium on November 20, 2017.