Last week I had a beautiful reminder of one of the most important aspects of healing, in particular for men. I attended a fundraiser luncheon for the Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch. The Little Warriors is an organization that creates spaces (https://littlewarriors.ca/be-brave-ranch/) and programs for children who are victims of childhood sexual abuse. Their mission is truly inspiring. I was honoured to be able to attend with hundreds of other supporters. This was their 10th annual luncheon and a real milestone.
I forget how much I enjoy getting out and networking with others in this kind of community environment. I had been invited by a friend who had been trying to get me to join her for a few years, and the timing never worked out. The sense of community in an environment like that is quite remarkable. This a stark reminder of what we have all missed these last few years with COVID removing so many of our in-person events.
As human beings, we are hard-wired for connection. I work primarily with men and can see the effects of profound loneliness that many men feel, yet few are willing to admit. Most of us won’t admit it to ourselves, let alone those around us. I was intrigued to see this year’s keynote speaker, Paul Young. Paul is a New York Times Best Selling author of “The Shack.” more interestingly, he is a man who was willing to share his own journey of childhood abuse.
Paul shared a lot of nuggets of wisdom in his speech. He is a fabulous storyteller, and I can always tell an author by the wonderful turns of phrases they use to describe events, locations and people in their stories. Paul did not disappoint in this regard.
At one point, he shared a story about a shameful act that he had done and how coming clean meant admitting to his family and friends what had happened. He told the story of sharing what he had done with his father-in-law. I will not do it justice, but how he phrased the scene painted a colourful image. “When I told him what happened, I watched his heart break, seep out his eyes and roll down his cheek. No judgement, just love.” Again I am paraphrasing, Paul was more eloquent than that. It was a powerful moment in the story.
He told stories of shame and guilt and the difference between the two. “Shame is ‘I am something bad,’ and guilt is ‘I have done something bad.’” He talked about forgiveness and he talked about healing and love. He talked about the lies he had hidden behind and how to heal himself and his relationships, he had to become a ‘truthteller.’
There were many powerful takeaways from his presentation. The one that stood out the most to me was his simple statement, “The unrevealed remains unhealed.” In the context of men and masculinity, truer words have not been spoken. As a man, I know that I feel an inordinate amount of pressure to “be strong.” And while I think that “being strong” is a virtuous pursuit, I also believe that most define strength incorrectly. You can see 15 minutes of my thoughts on this in my TEDx “Redefining Badass: The Way Men Think About Strong is Wrong.”
Many view strength as ‘sucking it up,’ burying or avoiding much of what we actually feel. We think vulnerability is weakness and wear many masks to avoid showing what is happening inside us. We armour up, wrap ourselves in material pursuits and addictions, and carve away some of the deepest parts of ourselves lest we be judged ‘unmanly.’ We talk of courage as if it is all about pushing through and ignoring our trauma. Real courage is about having the strength to drop the armour, put down the masks and stand in front of that mirror raw, naked and fully revealed.
Our scars define us, they make us who we are. They are not something that needs to be covered up or ignored. They are to be explored, accepted and integrated into our whole self. “What remains unrevealed remains unhealed.” One of my favourite quotes by Eckert Tolle is, “With awareness, there comes choice. And so you are able to say: “I allow this moment to be as it is.” And then, suddenly, where before there was irritation, there is now a sense of aliveness and peace. And out of that comes right action.”
When we bury our true selves and hide our scars, we do so to the outside world and ourselves. And when we hide from ourselves, there is no chance for change.