One of the best kept secrets of our culture is that many men are deeply spiritual and care deeply about their spiritual life.  It is a secret, however, because it is hidden—sometimes even from themselves. 

“Mr. Fixit and Son” passing on a legacy of showing love through service. Photo by Jason Lander on Flickr

For many men their work is often a pursuit of the spiritual, an expression of the spiritual.  Their devotion to their family is the same.  For many it is their devotion to their country, a willingness to give all for their country or their family or their ‘tribe’ as in a gang situation. Or for their lover.  Or for their art. 

Many artists are men who are warriors in their own right, trusting the universe to provide economically and trusting the muses to feed them their art life, their images for their art.  And there are political warriors as well, committed to see justice happen, eco and racial and gender and more.  And there are engineers, doctors, lawyers, taxi drivers, business people, teachers, nurses, writers, mechanics, carpenters, who give life their all.  And that is spirituality, giving life one’s all.  Biophilia.  Love of life.   Lovers of life.  Lovers.  That is spirituality.

Why do many men keep their spirituality hidden or secret?  Maybe because:

–The men’s movement was ridiculed by much mainstream media and hasn’t done so well in reaching mainstream men.

Joe Marler: “Finding the Words” on the misleading messages men put out rather than ask for help. See Men Don’t Cry: Why Men Avoid Therapy for information on the global coalition of men’s support organizations.

–Because many men are profiting still from patriarchy or a dualistic way of looking at the world, one that pits feeling against thinking, body against mind, spirit against matter, women against men and heterosexuals against homosexuals.

–Because many men are introverts and even shy about expressing their deepest feelings of joy, sensitivity and pain and men as a rule are rewarded for their more extrovert side.

–Because many men carry wounds inside they would rather forget or put aside rather than admit are there.

–Because many men, burdened with such wounds, resort to alcohol or power trips, pseudo camaraderie or addiction to work, sex, or superficial talk rather than face their wounded self.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, pp. xif.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: “The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right.” – Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

What reasons have you come across for men holding their spirituality in secret?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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7 thoughts on “Men Holding Spirituality in Secret”

  1. Avatar

    In my experience many men hold their spirituality in secret, due to the misunderstanding of the value of vulnerability. They’ve been taught that to be vulnerable is a sign of weakness. Many men, from the time they were little boys were taught to suck it up and tough it out, to be the warrior armored and ready for battle, to never let there emotions or their wounding be revealed… even unto themselves. Most men were taught to live guarded. Anything that leads to vulnerability, openness, and exposure is often rejected and denied due to this misunderstanding, this misperception, this devaluing of the truth regarding this Feminine Archetypal energy, that can and does lead to healing.

    Recently I had the privilege of holding space for a brother who was willing to go there, with regards to issues with the wounding he experienced with his biological father. Although he was able to release some of the emotional energy that had been oppressed and suppressed, the thought of even considering the idea of forgiveness was not an option… in his own words he stated that “a warrior seeks retaliation for the injustices done… and that he would go to the depths of hell to find this.” He was unable to see how this vow he had made to himself was eating him up from the inside out or how his alcoholism was negatively feeding into this, causing further wounding not only to himself, but also to those whom love him.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for this meditation. As a woman I have been encouraged to value and support much of what is forbidden in machismo. Sometimes I have been disappointed and even offended by many men’s disregard for nurturing and spirituality without understanding how they are only allowed a restricted range of expression of biophilia. Now I can appreciate my husband’s fix-its and so much more.

  3. Avatar

    I think that the lack of enough healthy rituals for men is key, as you say. I think of the rituals of the Masons and other men’s organizations that feed the need for community and spirituality, as well as the Jewish Bar Mitzvah. Fr. Rohr established a program of men’s rituals years ago and has noted that a lot of men’s anger stems from covering up fear. On the negative side, gangs have very powerful and dangerous rituals for admission and for keeping its members in line. White supremacists groups also have their rituals, I imagine, even if they are not all KKK. It seems to me that we need to find better ways to help our boys and men choose healthy practices that channel their energies for the good, instead of for violence. Voices like Matthew’s and other prophets help a lot.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, In reality we have many rituals of celebration of high points in people’s lives as well as rites of passage. In most churches a child is first Baptized or Dedicated, then they go for Confirmation and end up being confirmed. Then there is a ceremony for finishing school and for marriage and for retirement and for death. We’ve had these for years, and still have them even now, the questions are will we make use of them or create new ones that will give us new meaning for the new issues we face todays?

  4. Avatar

    I agree with much of what you say, but I taught English for 30 years in a public university, and one of my favorite and most popular courses was “The Literature of Ethics and Values” which considered novels and other writings. All is not lost.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Isabel, All is not lost, especially with women like Iris Murdock who was a novelist and a philosopher who studied with Ludwig Wittgenstein…

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