Many men are walking around wounded or have been severely wounded in the past which is effecting them now. Becoming wounded is a part of growing up for a male. It usually is a major piece of the teenager suddenly breaking into adulthood through trial by fire. Just before the realization of the responsibility that full manhood brings with it.
The biggest problem with the wounded male is that it occurs in silence. Even though this wounding is part of life we all know that real men don’t cry. It’s instilled within us as youngsters. Any other older male that has a direct effect on our lives lets us know that men do not cry.
It’s like when the little boy is out fishing with his grandpa and sticks his finger with a fishhook. As the blood starts to run so do the tears and then grandpa shuts the faucet off with the words, “Hey, enough of that we men don’t cry!” We men go through life experiencing painful shrapnel biting at us and we do not flinch. Hey, man… being a warrior is noble and we are tough. But given enough wars and enough scars and the man will be seriously wounded to incapacity or dangerous consequences.
The Ancient Metaphors and Archetypes of Wounds
There is a men’s movement under way and Robert Bly believes, the roots of the movement are within all the repressed pain inflicted from the battles of life. For us to discover our manhood we must descend to the dark hallways of our souls to find all of our accumulated grief and deal with it.
Another metaphor is the thought of us wounding ourselves through all kinds of self-destructive behavior. That discovery of manhood involves coming into contact with the innermost part of your soul and staring directly in the face of all our accumulated grief. In primitive societies men go through formal rites to manhood that involve the experiences of pain and wounds to their bodies. Circumcision is certainly a wound that is permanent and daily reminds him that he is a male.
Pain seems to be the pathway to manhood. It has been that way from the beginning of time and well recognized in most civilizations. Here in our western culture that rite of passage is either denied or just plain forgotten. The emerging men’s movement could be an effort to reframe and re-acquaint men and society with this wounding experience for men.
The Bible treats this wounding with honor and addresses it as a normal stop on our masculine journey. When men experience our wounds, we wrestle with God.
ENOSH: The Wounded Male
Enosh is a Hebrew word that conveys the concepts of weakness, being feeble and incurably sick. It describes man’s mortality, calamity, frailness and the fears of men. [Isaiah 17:11, Jeremiah 17:16]
The life of Job pays homage to being wounded in the most severe form. It illustrates the loss of his family, property, his health, and his wealth.
The prayers of Moses and David show is the Enosh man as well addressing a man whose “days are like grass” (Psalm 103:15) and who will turn “back to dust”. In experiencing woundedness we learn that we are not God, nor are we a little god, and we certainly are not even a little but like God. It becomes an experience where we are wondering why or how God could possibly sohave anything to do with us at all. [Psalm 8:4] This is a normal experience yet why is it so very difficult for men to accept, talk about and heal from?
It seems both the biblical material and the contemporary literature on the subject support four convlusions:
One: The Deep Mortal Wound
The wound experienced is basically a mortal wound which means it is a death experience. Every time a man gets a physical or a psychic wound it becomes another foretaste of death. Each time we feel that pain something else dies within us. Men experience life through their bodies so when that body is wounded it is traumatic.
The wound is also spiritual and therefore the issues we face could be more of a theological nature than other issues.
When men experience midlife wounds, it could be the loss of marriages, jobs, dreams and ambitions. Sam Keen believes all men are in some way and some sense war-wounded. Because of this we have developed a well-crafted psychological armor to enable us to keep on functioning while not getting any healing. Many men are becoming aware for the first time of the woundedness they experienced in jobs, failed marriages, drug addiction, and family origin or dysfunctionalism.
Two: Deep Loss Reactions
As men, we find our significant meaning by becoming the warrior and being phallic, therefore, when we become defeated in either of these areas it brings us a profound sense of loss. When we get wounded we no longer really know who we are.
Job was a warrior and he had it all. He had wealth and he had a large family, he had a supportive wife, a large estate, good friends and good health. But then one day he was dealt a cruel blow. Likewise any of us could be hit with one well aimed cruel slug, it could be a car accident, a job loss, or a spouse walking out. What happens then is we are wounded by life so we feel the remorse for what has been lost. We begin living in the romantic past when things were better. That is what Job did. [Job 29:1- 30:21]
Three: Alienation and Incongruency
When we get wounded by those blows that life deals out we tend to have our balance thrown off. A wounded believer will feel a sense of distance an alienation from God. (Psalm 73:1-14) Extreme incongruency with God might lead us to a new understanding and a respect for the mysterious ways of God. (Psalm 73:15-28) Men will tend to isolate themselves, buy some time and lick our wounds, and we won’t want anyone to come near us. This is usually seen as not wanting any help or a rejection of help, but it is a distinctive characteristic of a wounded male.
Just like a wounded animal, sometimes a wounded male can strike out at one that try to come with help. Men can externalize their pain and can manifest hostility and violence toward others
Four: Hostility and Violence
It does not matter how the wound occurs. It could come from society or circumstances, by parents or a spouse, it does not matter because the male will feel powerless and will strike out. This hostile spirit is rooted in woundedness. Many men in our society today are lashing out toward women, society, their bosses, and even God because they don’t understand the wounding experience. Men need to learn that out of their woundedness can come significant healing, meaning and growth.
PURPLE HEARTS for BROKEN SPIRITS
In our culture in America we have devalued the role of the warrior and also the role of his wounds. By awarding a purple heart, the military recognizes, praises and awards the wounded male. This is something that civilians are having trouble accepting.
We men need to affirm and value the wounds we receive ourselves. Our own design and process as we go through life and our fathers, wives, and institutions are not going to do it. It might be that only in the circle of fellow wounded males can a purple heart for a broken spirit get awarded. Possibly from our time of wounding we could emerge as rulers of our own souls.
I believe its true that most of us men need the proverbial blow to the head with a two-by-four to wake us up and knock some sense into us. In the movies we see men portrayed as the insensitive bozo’s that have no idea what is going on in their lives. We just don’t get it, when it is obvious to everyone else there is a problem. As an example a man will continuously deny his problem with drugs or alcohol until someone that cares enough finally confronts him about it.
“I must be ever so careful to remember that my pain is a precious salve that when used in the service of others can heal a thousand wounds and more. And I must likewise remember that if I do not use it as such, I have done nothing more than wound myself yet again.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
Again the credit goes to Robert Hicks and his book, “The Masculine Journey.”
Come back for the next post as I finish this up by exploring issues with other men and the Bible. Click here to jump to next post.