Introduction

This book was prompted by my discovery of the great numbers of men who to one degree or another are insecure in their masculinity.  In The Broken Image: Restoring Personal Wholeness through Healing Prayer I wrote on the subject of repressed or unaffirmed masculinity as it appears in the homosexual neurosis. But the homosexual neurosis is only one of the ways in which this many-faceted and widespread problem in masculine identity manifests itself.  In the present book my aim is to show the problem as it appears in other forms and how those individuals suffering them may be healed in a context of prayer for personal wholeness. That is the chief emphasis of this book, for the need to learn how to pray for this healing is overwhelming, and the positive results of such prayer very great.

In addition, I will point out some of the causes--psychological, historical, and philosophical--of this growing cultural malady, already epidemic in proportion, that I have called the crisis in masculinity. Finally, I will examine the nature of the masculine itself, in at least some of its psychological, philosophical, and theological roots.  I will, of course, also consider the feminine, for it is impossible to consider one without the other.  As is truly recounted in the myth told in Plato's Symposium, the masculine and feminine were originally joined together and are ultimately inseparable.

Recently, when speaking to a group on the psychological problem of repressed and unaffirmed masculinity in men, I was interrupted by a woman anxiously waving her hand for permission to be heard.  "I don't think anyone knows what masculinity is," she cried out.  She is very right. We have come to a time in history when a writer or lecturer needs to explain that to speak of masculine and feminine is not necessarily to speak of the biological characteristics of man and woman.  Within the terrain of the mind and the heart, masculine and feminine are two vitally complementary poles or aspects of the human psyche.  They are "sets" of qualities to be recognized and accepted; they are also potentialities: capacities of power to be cultivated as vital virtues.  By whatever names they are called or understood to be, the masculine and the feminine within man and woman seek recognition, affirmation, and a proper balance.

Much that is called emotional illness or instability today is merely the masculine or the feminine unaffirmed and out of balance within the personality.  Merely is always, as C.S. Lewis has said, a dangerous word, and it surely is in this case if one does not recognize the potentially fatal blow an imbalance of the masculine and the feminine can wield, whether to the health of an individual, a society, or an entire civilization.  Finally, one needs to add with Karl Stern that sexuality, like "every empirical fact, contains its 'beyond'" Masculine and feminine have utterly transcendent as well as psychological dimensions.  Gender, a vital part of the true self and of personhood, is finally rooted in God.

The case of a man seriously split off from his masculine qualities and identity was at one time a pathological rarity, a condition to be met with only now and then.  Men, affirmed as men by their fathers and the men of the community, were by and large free to mature as husbands, fathers, and leaders.  In secure possession of their gender identity, the great majority of men moved from the chest, as it were, out of hears freed from the legalisms of childhood, the narcissisms of adolescence, or the perfectionisms of an adulthood spent futilely seeking self-acceptance (or even the affirmation of parents). Now, however, what was once the exceptional psychogenic factor has become, unhappily, a ruling feature of the culture at large.  Very few men indeed are adequately affirmed as men today, and many are pathologically split off from their masculinity altogether.

Though this book is in large part about the healing of men, I want to assure the woman reader that she has not been left out.  God created man, male and female, in His image (Gen. 1:26-27).  Woman, therefore, even though her sexual and gender identity is gloriously feminine, is man, man with a womb. In this day, individual women often need release from unisex ideas that could their gender identity, or even hold them back from accepting and integrating with an unaffirmed feminine.  In such cases, there is a need for getting in touch with the feminine rather than the masculine (see Judith's story, pp. 107-113).  Nevertheless, to be whole, not only must her femininity be affirmed, but the masculine within her needs to be recognized, balanced, and where necessary, strengthened.

The major crisis today, however, is with men.  When men are healed, the healing of women will naturally follow.  There is an important reason for this.  It is the father (or father substitute) who affirms sons and daughters in their sexual identity and therefore--because gender identity is a vital part of personhood itself--as persons.  Masculinity, as we shall see, is finally not a thing to be learned, but rather a quality to be tasted or experienced.  The masculine within is called forth and blessed by the masculine without.  It is thereby commissioned to be, to grow, and to mature.  Generally speaking, we now have a generation of sons whose fathers, for several generations back, have been unaffirmed as men.  The father who is unaffirmed in his own masculinity cannot adequately affirm the son in his.

An automatic and serious consequence of a man's failure to be affirmed in his masculinity is that he will suffer from low self-esteem. He will be unable to accept himself.  Men who are unable to fully accept themselves lose to one degree of another the power to act as father, husband, and leader. In short, in at least some part of their personalities they remain immature and become increasingly passive and unable creatively to initiate the changes needed to lift themselves and their families out of the inevitable quagmires of life.  The power is within them to do so.  The masculine qualities and gifts are there, but they have not been "affirmed" into life.

We are all familiar with the story of Sleeping Beauty and the power of the Prince to bring her to life with a kiss.  This is a wonderful picture of the power the father has to affirm the feminine within his daughter, and of the ongoing power of the virile prince in her life to appreciate and affirm they beauty and the giftedness of the feminine.

But in our day we lack the creative images needed to express what happens to a young lad when his father bends over him in love and blessed into life with appropriate word and gesture his inherent masculinity.  The quiet tree of masculine strength within the father protects and nurtures the fragile stripling of masculinity within his son.  It is chiefly and quite naturally in this way that masculinity is tasted and passed on.

Although a mother's love and affirmation of a son or daughter is important in a thousand ways, she cannot finally tell her son that he is a man, nor her daughter that she is indeed a woman.  There are a number of reasons why this is so, and why it is the father (or father substitute) who affirms sons and daughters in their sexual identity and therefore as persons.  The most important one is that a puberty and adolescence we are listening for the masculine voice.  It is the strong, masculine love and affirmation coming through that voice that convinces us that we are truly and finally separate from our mothers.  We were born not knowing ourselves as separate from our mothers.  We were born not knowing ourselves as separate from her.  If we came to a sense of well-being of being at all, it was through her love-- or that of a good mother substitute.  Her eyes, as we nestled in her arms, became the umbilical cord, the life-giving conduit of love through which our sense of being was affirmed, and we began to understand that we were separate and worthy entities in our own right.  In other words, we slowly began the arduous talk of separating our identity from hers.

The crisis in masculinity consists in the fact that his separation of identity is not happening today.  We don not come out of puberty and adolescence affirmed as persons.  Psychologists have long pointed out that the progression from infancy to maturity involves many steps of psychosocial development, and when we miss one of these we are in trouble.  The step of self-acceptance ideally comes just after puberty.  They key to taking this step, on the ordinary human level, lies in the love and affirmation of a whole father.  Just as the mother is so vital in those first months of life, so is the father in this later period.  No matter how whole the mother is psychologically and spiritually, she cannot bridge the gap left by the missing father.

The father need not be literally absent to be missing from the child's life.  We're all familiar with the father who is overinvolved in his work and has no time to spend with his children.  There are others who, though present, are unloving and remote, or weak and unaffirmed themselves--and so unable to affirm their offspring.  One should point our, however, that this rupture between the parents and the child is not always something for which they are responsible. There are many whole fathers of mothers who desire to be present to their teenager, but have lost him or her to a culture that encourages its young to look only to their peers for affirmation and acceptance.

We cannot pass on to the next generation what we do not ourselves possess.  Unaffirmed men are unable adequately to affirm their own sons and daughters as male and female and therefore as persons.  Until men are once again functioning in this vital capacity, women will continue to attempt to fill the gap in vain, and will continue to verbalize their pain and confusion.

There is, in short, an overwhelming amount of gender confusion if great numbers of men today.  When men are healed, the pathway for the wholeness of women will be opened. If, however, men do not begin to find themselves as men, the same gender confusion, and on the same scale, will soon cloud the deep mind of women as well.

I begin this book with Richard's story, one of the more complicated and serious cases that illustrate the pain a gifted young man undergoes when he is split off from a vital part of himself.  His story also illustrates the incredible joy of tasting a transcendent masculinity, one that puts him in touch with his own. 

Excerpted from Crisis in Masculinity,by Leanne Payne.  Published by Hamewith Books, 1985,1995. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents                    Leanne Payne Interview                                                                                                  

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