Bottom Line Up Front: The strong man talks about his troubles for three reasons: First, it’s how he finds a solution. Second, not talking is how we fall into the trap of isolation. Third, it builds a strong network with other good men and can lead to valuable by-products, only one of which is money.
Wait! Don’t be a big mouthed, windbag complainer.
We are not talking about information we’re bound to protect: business, legal, government, fiscal, personal, trusted. Men should know how to be discreet. We must keep some secrets. We’re also not talking about complaining. Complaining is draining, the old saying goes. We all know the difference between complaining and confiding. Talking about your troubles to find a solution, break out of a trap, get your bearings, build a network? That’s what strong men do.
“How can I talk about my troubles if I’m not supposed to complain?”
“It pays to talk about your troubles” always confused me. I thought a man was never supposed to complain. When you complain, nobody wants to help you. Shouldn’t we avoid burdening others with our troubles? Shouldn’t we be self-reliant? I got more confused, because this advice clashes directly with a fundamental behind AM’s three areas critical to a man: strengthen your Health, Wealth and Network. Men must not criticize, condemn or complain. This clash— that it pays to talk about your troubles but we should never criticize, condemn or complain-- is one reason it’s difficult to be an authentic man in troubled times. The answer: It’s all about balance. So balance carefully how much you talk against how much you are silent. Balance is crucial in confusing situations. Confusing situations demand prudence. Refine your judgment to make the right choice among many. Talking -- carefully-- helps us become prudent. It all starts to connect.
You’re Only as Sick as Your Secret
What’s the downside to silence? The three most common traps men fall into are lust, money and anger and frequently we think we can handle them on our own so we keep quiet. Ask yourself for each, “Would it be better if I talk about this?”
First, lust. You can lust after anything or anyone, but to make the point let’s take lusting after sex. Many men struggle with pornography. The internet destigmatized it, so now we can look at whatever we want, whenever we want. Gentlemen, pornography takes something healthy, the attraction between the sexes and the healthy expression of that attraction, and distorts it. If we don’t curb that tendency, we look more and more freely at what we should only see under certain circumstances. Marketing and the ability to target demographics means men are trapped in pornography addictions now more than ever. How do you win that fight if you isolate yourself? If I can get you ashamed, I can trap you. Like blackmail. If you’re ashamed, I have a weapon to beat you with.
Second, money. Most men won’t talk about money. Many of us know we should master money but aren’t sure how to achieve that mastery. We somehow think we should be born knowing all about it. Many of us carry complex money lessons we learned in boyhood-- usually from what we saw. Often these are emotional lessons and not good ones. Many men have a horror of debt, financial mismanagement, and being seen as incompetent with money. We know how a man handles money is an indicator of his character. We know, vaguely, that when money changes hands there is also a moral transaction taking place, but we are hesitant to talk about money with other men.
Third, anger. Who of us has not lost his temper with those he loves? I once recorded a horrible video for Authentic Masculinity about the Prime Directive, which is, “An Authentic Man Never Loses His Temper”. For men, the Prime Directive is that we must never lose our temper. When men get angry, violence can follow. Usually not so with women. I am proud to report I have made progress keeping my own temper. And I am happy to tell others not to lose theirs, yet the morning after I recorded that video lecturing others about the dangers of being angry… around 3 a.m. … I was up with my son who was two years old at the time. I was tired and my guard was down. I lost my temper, yelled at my son, and frightened him. I was tired and frustrated, and I violated the Prime Directive by losing my temper and I frightened my children. I tell you this because we can all fall prey to this problem. We all have weaknesses and we should not keep them to ourselves. If we fall into the trap of thinking we must face our troubles alone, we run a greater risk of being defeated.
So how do we decide when to talk about our troubles?
Ask yourself these questions:
Why am I keeping this to myself?
Am I keeping secrets from my wife? Why?
Am I keeping secrets from my accountability partner? Why?
Do I have an accountability partner?
What would happen if those I love and who love me discovered my secret?
Call to Action: If you are keeping secrets for the wrong reason, try this: First, if you are keeping a secret, ask yourself why. Second, write the secrets down. This will help you confront them and it takes some of the emotion out of them. Third, once you have thought things over, select a close friend you trust and ask him to give you his counsel on the wisdom of keeping secrets. Don’t confide them to him immediately, just ask his advice. Start building a friendship. When ready, unburden yourself. You’ll be glad you did. You’ll be stronger and so will he.