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The 25 Most Helpful Things Ever Said About Men, Masculinity, and Marriage

My father tried to commit suicide when I was five years old. He recovered, but my life was never the same. I went to medical school, then graduate school. For the last 44 years I have specialized in helping men and the women who love them. I think I\’ve been trying, on some level, to understand what happened to my father so that I can be a better father to my sons and daughter, a better husband to my wife, and a better friend to myself.

My first book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, was published in 1983. In the introduction I wrote, “The Women\’s Movement first helped me question the roles we had all built our lives upon. It stimulated a desire to have the support of men who were going through similar changes. I joined a men\’s group and received tremendous help and insight.

Inside Out was a very personal book and most publishers refused to take it on. One editor confided in me that “it was just too raw. It cut too close to home.” I didn\’t pull any punches. In the first chapter I listed the Fears That Drive Me including:

  • My feelings will destroy me if I let them.
  • I\’ll go crazy like my father.
  • I\’ll be a failure at work and lose my family\’s respect.
  • There\’s something dangerous and violent in me waiting to destroy the people I love the most.
  • Women will “love me, but underneath the surface, they\’ll feel pity and contempt (like my mother felt for my father).
  • I continued with a list of the 10 Commandments That Move Me.

  • Thou shalt not be weak, nor have weak gods before thee.
  • Thou shalt not fail thyself, nor fail as thy father before thee.
  • Thou shalt not keep holy any day that denies thy work.
  • Thou shalt not express strong emotions, neither high nor low.
  • Thou shalt not cry, complain, or ask for help.
  • Thou shalt not be hostile or angry, especially towards women.
  • Thou shalt not be uncertain or ambivalent.
  • Thou shalt not be dependent on anyone, but must always be strong.
  • Thou shalt not acknowledge they death or thy limitations.
  • Thou shalt do unto other men before they do unto you.
  • Over the last 44 years, I have accumulated hundreds of quotes and bits of information about men that I have found helpful. I offer the following 25 for your consideration. Let me know what you think.

    25. “When a woman calls, you must go.” –Zorba the Greek.

    24. “My own preference, if I had the good fortune to have another son, would be to avoid circumcision, and leave his little penis alone.” –Benjamin Spock.

    23. “The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives—the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the death of awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or glory of other men in oneself.” –Norman Cousins

    22. “Wake up. Men have traditionally been the guardians of the earth. We need a new kind of warrior. Men are now called on to be warriors for the earth.” –John Stokes.

    21. “The man who has the soul of the wolf knows the self-restraint
    of the wolf. Aimless executions and slaughterings are not the work of wolves and eagles but the work of hysterical sheep.”–Gary Snyder.

    20. “Masculinity is not something given to you, something you\’re born with, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor.” –Normal Mailer

    19. “She called to me from across her beauty. It stretched between us like a maze. I disappeared inside it, never to be seen again.” –Sy Safransky

    18. “If a person continues to see only giants, it means he is still seeing the world through the eyes of a child. I have a feeling that man\’s fear of woman comes from having first seen her as the mother, creator of men.” –Anais Nin

    17. “It was slow in dawning on me that WOMAN had an overwhelming influence on my life and on the lives of all the men I knew. If the text of my life was ‘successful independent man,\’ the subtext was ‘engulfed by WOMAN.\’” –Sam Keen

    16. “There are two questions a man must ask himself: The first is ‘Where am I going?\’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?\’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order you are in trouble.” –Howard Thurman

    15. “The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege\’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically and physically.” –Herb Goldberg

    14. “It was a great mistake, my being born a man. I would have been much more successful as a sea gull or a fish. As it is, I will always be a stranger who never feels at home, who does not really want and is not really wanted, who can never belong, and who must always be a little in love with death!”
    –Eugene O\’Neill

    13. “A man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to let alone.” –Henry David Thoreau

    12. “Men do not face enemy machine guns because they have been treated with kindness. They face them because they have a bayonet up their ass.” Neil Simon

    11. “I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed and humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed, and that did not represent the attempt to prevent or undo this ‘loss of face\’—no matter how severe the punishment, even if it includes death.”
    –James Gilligan

    10. “If menopause is the silent passage, ‘male menopause\’ is the unspeakable passage. It is fraught with secrecy, shame, and denial. It is much more fundamental than the ending of the fertile period of a woman\’s life, because it strikes at the core of what it is to be a man.” –Gail Sheehy

    9. “One out of three black men are in the criminal justice system in some form. Their despair is beginning to resonate through the entire culture; that is why suburban children want rap music.” –Robert Bly

    8. “When a man does not live with his children and does not get along with the mother of his children, his fatherhood becomes essentially untenable, regardless of how he feels, how hard he tries, or whether he is a good guy. Almost by definition, he has become de-fathered.” –David Blankenhorn

    7. “We can\’t be comfortable in intimacy with women because we have never been comfortable in being distant from them.” –Sam Keen

    6. “The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems. The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy.” –Simon Baron-Cohen.

    5. “There is a biological basis for the observation that ‘Men never remember and women never forget. It plays out through our hormones.” –Marianne J. Legato

    4. “Testosterone is a sex hormone, and I think it is the most social of hormones. The major social effect of testosterone is to orient us toward issues of sex and power. By the end of puberty testosterone levels in males are 8 to 10 times higher than in females, but decrease with age.” –James McBride

    3. “Try not to become a man of success, rather become a man of value.” –Albert Einstein.

    2. “A Cree Indian legend says that when the Earth is sick and the animals disappear, there will come a tribe of people from all creeds, colors and cultures who believe in deeds, not words and who will restore the Earth to its former beauty. This tribe will be called The Warrior of the Rainbow.” –Twyla Dell

    1. “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life\’s most urgent question is, what are you doing for others.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I hope you find these helpful whether you are male or female. Of course I don\’t really claim that these are the “most helpful things ever said about men.” They are just the ones that resonate with me. I look forward to hearing your own.

    Jed Diamond, PhD, LCSW Boomer Male Expert

    Jed is Founder and Director of the MenAlive, a health program that helps men live long and well. Though focused on men's health, MenAlive is also for women who care about the health of the men in their lives.

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