While this article is vastly different than most all that I write, I hope you’ll take the time to read it, as this deals with a topic that’s rarely discussed but which needs to have a light shown on it.
Recently, I posted on Facebook a beautiful and exquisitely written article, with amazing insight, by an unknown author (seemingly whoever is the administrator of Healthy Food House), entitled “Check Up On Your Strong Friend. They’re Usually The One Bleeding In Silence.” Before reading the rest of this article, please read it.
After posting it, an extremely dear friend wrote me and said “[i]f you ever find [an identical] article on ways to check in on men without emasculating them, please send it my way. It would be good to share with my friends.” I was somewhat taken aback. Although I did notice the use of “she” and “her” in some portions of the article, it never occurred to me that it wouldn’t apply to men and women alike. Yet, my dear friend, who knows more about “holding space” and being able to communicate in truly neutral, non-confrontational ways then I ever will, believed it to be very different. She was truly concerned that checking in on a “male Strong Friend” in the same manner as the article articulates, could be offensive or worse.
In my experience, a true “male Strong Friend” does not have a fragile ego that would ever be emasculated by another individual, regardless of friendship and gender, asking if he were ok or letting him know that you care and are there for him. Yet, I understand some, like my dear friend, may be worried about doing such without support and potentially jeopardizing their friendship with that perceived “Strong Friend.” So, let me be that support and if I’m wrong, blame me (but please, don’t tell Attorney General Shapiro that I was wrong…as far as he need be concerned, I’m always right, but I digress…). Sending a message saying “hey, how are you doing?”, “hey, you’ve been taking on a lot lately, I’m here to help, if you ever need a hand”, or “hey, I know you’re always there for and helping everyone else. Know if you ever need someone, I’m always here for you” are ALL PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE and do not emasculate a guy, especially a true “male Strong Friend.”
We are all in this together – some of us are just far better at carrying the cross than others. Perhaps more importantly, while many see carrying the cross for others as a burden, a true “Strong Friend”, regardless of gender, gains strength, meaning, and virtue by carrying those crosses for others. The carrying of those crosses shapes their character, moral compass, and meaning in life. It gives them the purpose they strive for – to help those, who in their time of need, cannot do it for themselves. There is truly no better expression to sum it up than “Hold my beer, stand out of the way, I got this for you.”
BUT, “Strong Friends”, regardless of gender, as the article recounts, are FAR from invincible; yet, they will not display their vulnerability to anyone. (There are an infinitesimally small group of individuals that they will disclose their vulnerability to, but those are generally only other “Strong Friends” and those who they trust, unconditionally). They may be carrying the crosses of 25-50 people and look emotionally, psychologically, and physically fit on the outside, but are hemorrhaging on the inside. They too need and yearn for compassion and love to cauterize the bleed, but will never reach out for it.
Thus, if you know someone, who you believe to be a “Strong Friend”, regardless of gender and regardless of whether they’ve been there for you, reach out. Let him/her know you’re there and that he/she is not alone. That, in and of itself, will mean more to that “Strong Friend” than you will ever know.