At a small ocean side shack, I sat down with an old friend from grade school. As we shared a meal, he updated me on his life, career and marriage. This man is thriving. Less than two decades before I witnessed him eat dirt as a child and now, he is thriving. As the night progressed, we laughed and shared stories about growing up in Haiti. We questioned: did that childhood strengthen or scar us more? The jury is still out.
The subject of emotional intelligence kept coming up in our conversation. We couldn’t help but discuss the perception of manhood in our shared culture. How often does a toxic perception of manhood destroy families, relationships and communities? As a product of a multi-cultured, multi-layered extremely complicated, yet simplistic upbringing, I know I’m not the only man to consider how I’ve been affected by or even perpetuated toxic masculinity.
So much of the human experience can be explained in one word. From the lowliest worker to the CEO, we share a commonality. We all communicate. Recently I traveled to Ghana and was very quickly reminded of the simple beauty of human communication. Humans spend over 80% of their day communicating with hundreds of people and have done so for thousands of years. Certain civilizations have mastered the art of communication better than others, but regardless, we all do it. So my question is: why are we so bad at it?
I believe communication produces peace. The solution to toxic masculinity and animosity in our communities and families is communication. My friend brought up some interesting points as we sat at dinner. He said he could count on two hands how many times he heard “I’m proud of you” and on one hand how many times he heard “I love you” from his father in his whole life. This may surprise some, and sound pretty typical to others, but regardless of your experience, it’s not difficult to see how this can be damaging.
The most destructive part to me about what my friend said wasn’t the words themselves; it was the years of missed opportunities to influence. Men have a unique responsibility to influence and build in a way I think is a gift directly from God himself. But even if you don’t believe in God, I’m certain you can point to a specific situation where a man in your life directly influenced you. The moments you experience, good or bad, have made you the person you are today.
This is not a post picking on men, quite the contrary. I encourage you (ladies, you too) to consider your sphere of influence. Who are you allowing to shape you? The bigger question is, who are you influencing and where are you leading them?
Every meeting, every fight, every interaction is an opportunity for growth. These exchanges shape and mold us into better versions of our forefathers. As my friend can attest to sitting at a small ocean side shack, these opportunities make and break a generation.
Do not miss your opportunities.