Each week, I facilitate small group sessions with young men in different school districts in the surrounding Cleveland area. We talk about a wide range of topics, but it’s all centered on character development. On one particular day, we were discussing vulnerability and how it can be stigmatized amongst men, especially in the Black community. After I finished my lesson, I gave the floor to the young men, and one of them said to me, “Mr. Steele, I don’t like to open up because I don’t want people to think that I am soft.” At that moment, I felt frustrated, but not so much with him. I was frustrated with the fact that this was something he’d learned from society. I was frustrated at the fact that this mindset has perpetuated through generations of our culture and affected our ability to appropriately deal with our emotions. What we create in young men is hardened hearts and polluted perspectives. Later, these same young men grow up and become the adults that we frown upon when they’re having a hard time addressing how they feel. What makes matters even worse is that our inability to be in tune with our emotions in a healthy manner has a trickle-down effect on everyone we’re connected to as well.
Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Although that statement is so profound and truthful, the reality is that many of us are already in a state of much needed emotive reparation. Many of us men, again, Black men specifically, want to express our feelings and be more open about what we’re dealing with inside. However, because of our upbringings, societal pressures and preconceived notions, we bottle everything up and then either explode or shut down. Of course, these aren’t the only factors, because we have to take some accountability for our own actions. Nonetheless, this pattern of thinking is something that must stop if we want to break the vicious cycles that are damaging our communities of men. And guess what fellas? It’s going to have to start with us.
I am in no shape or form a licensed therapist or portrayed to be one, but I do believe that there are basic steps that every man can take to work on becoming emotionally well. In my book, Single to Single, I write about what I call the “Five A’s” to healing, which essentially helps us men be more attentive about our innermost feelings. Below are the steps that we should take.
How can you be healed of what isn’t revealed? Sweeping your emotions under the rug of our heart eliminates the chance of being clean from inner hurt. Many of us aren’t mindful of how to deal with emotions because we fail to acknowledge that they exist in the first please, resulting in complacency.
After acknowledging the problem, you can now pinpoint the emotional issues. Who hurt you? What happened? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Reliving these memories might make you feel uncomfortable, but the purpose is for you to face the pain so that you can be free from it.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” We all know this as the Serenity Prayer, but I like to think of it as the Acceptance Prayer. These powerful words are vital to the healing process because they remind us not to dwell on the things that are out of our control and to redirect our focus to the areas where we can improve.
Encouragement is refreshing to the soul. It’s like ice-cold water on a scorching hot summer day. Being affirmed is essential in keeping you on the right path towards healing, particularly when you aren’t feeling at your best. This encouragement and support should come from three sources: yourself, community, and God’s Word.
It’s time to take action. Some men will identify with you through situations you’ve been through that they can relate to. Please know that our issues are never in vain. Where you’ve struggled emotionally is where God may be preparing to use you to help someone else. We have to establish a culture where we are free to open up and share what we’re dealing with, and it takes a collective effort to create that.
I believe an important aspect of self-love for men is to do the work of becoming whole. Yes, it takes effort, but I encourage you to go on this enduring journey with me. We’re adored when we’re physically fit, respected when we’re mentally sharp, praised when we’re financially secured, and connected when we’re socially likable. It’s time that we are also known for our emotional stability. A wise man once said, “If I can be a young man, you can be an old boy.” My hope is that as we mature on the outside, we will also strive to mature on the inside, and that is through the awareness, courage, and willingness to be emotionally open. Get free my brother.