Real Men Are Always In Control — Of Themselves, Not Others

Anyone who reads my weekly newspaper column or blog posts knows I try to keep life in perspective through humor. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the reasons my children are still alive today. While I joke about that, for many years humor was also part of a coping mechanism from a childhood witnessing both verbal and physical abuse by the men in my family — specifically, my father and older brothers.

The good news is that each of them eventually turned themselves, their lives and the lives of the people they loved, around. It wasn’t until I became a father that I realized the impact that a childhood witnessing abuse had on me, and how some of those wounds — as both a witness and recipient — had never truly healed.

I know this because I occasionally saw reflections of my father and brothers in myself as I fought to avoid making the same mistakes with my own children; I also know this because I came to realize that as much as we want to tell ourselves we can choose not to take any baggage with us on our journey through life, ultimately it’s always somewhere waiting to be claimed. 

There is no getting rid of it completely, only a conscious decision to leave it circling on the carousel.

Because I am a father with teenaged boys and girls, I stay hip to the way they communicate.

Wow… Did you just feel that? It was their eyes rolling.

Actually, I’m not “hip” as much as I am privy to how they talk to each other. While social media has opened the doors to communication in some ways, it has swung too far in others. Verbal abuse still takes place; it just happens in hushed Tweets and SnapChats instead. The result is the development of a disposable sense of emotions — a disconnect from face-to-face that has been replaced by Facebook-to-Facebook. As a result, spotting the signs of abuse has become tougher while becoming an abuser is easier. Thanks to social media, those opportunities are literally at our fingertips. For those with a hair-trigger temper, every Tweet, text or post sent in anger pre-conditions abusive behavior and makes it harder to recognize in ourselves. It becomes a conditioned response in a cycle that gets harder and harder to break.

For young men, their teens and early 20s are a time when they are defining themselves and establishing their place in a male-dominated world while, at the same time, trying to understand the intricacies of communicating with the opposite sex. How do I know this? Because, statistically speaking, I was a young man once. Trying to appear tough among your peers while still holding on to the part of you that is thoughtful and caring feels contradictory to what we’re taught about being a man. We see it in movies and advertising; we hear it in music: Being a man means being in control. In charge. In command.

Of life and our relationships.

It’s a social stereotype perpetuated mostly through media and advertising. Why? Because it sells. Body wash. Albums. Movie tickets. Clothes. Video games.

It’s baggage our culture has carried for generations.FullSizeRender

Being a real man does mean being in control. But not of others. It means being in control of yourself enough to understand, acknowledge and accept your strengths and weaknesses. It also means never using your strength — physically or verbally — to overpower others. Particularly the women in your life, whether it be your wife, girlfriend, mother or daughter. A real man provides protection, safety and acceptance; a weak man dishes out pain, insecurity and denial. In either case, they are reflections of your inner self. The question is: What kind of reflection do you want to see when you look in the mirror each day?

There’s no denying sexism and a male-dominance mentality are still deeply woven into the fabric of our society. And while we have made strides in some areas by recognizing and discussing matters of physical and verbal abuse, that baggage is still out there circling on the carousel.

As men, we must make a conscious decision each day to avoid claiming it.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)


29 thoughts on “Real Men Are Always In Control — Of Themselves, Not Others

  1. Reblogged this on Ned's Blog and commented:
    Brother Jon’s Page over at Stories That Must Not Die gave me the honor of running my post on domestic abuse today. With the New Year approaching, I truly hope these thoughts can inspire someone to end or leave the cycle of abuse in 2015. Tragedy is the flipside of comedy; they are entwined — and this post is my personal flipside… My best wishes to all of you in the New Year

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I love this! Thank you for sharing this!

    “Being a real man does mean being in control. But not of others. It means being in control of yourself enough to understand, acknowledge and accept your strengths and weaknesses. It also means never using your strength — physically or verbally — to overpower others.”


  3. Thank you very much for sharing this Ned, it must have been difficult. The more this message gets out and the more public it becomes, the easier it is to address and the less likely it is to happen. Thank You.


    • Thanks so much, Paul. Abuse in any form is something people avoid talking about for many reasons. In the end, the conversation that matters most is the one that ends the cycle of abuse. For that to happen, people have to be willing to communicate — and feel safe from judgement in doing so. As much fun as I poke at myself on a regular basis, it’s obvious I don’t care about being judged 😉


  4. I’m also delighted to be married to a man who is in control of himself. His father wasn’t particularly abusive, but was described as a “time bomb” both verbally and physically when dealing with his own frustration and anger. Thankfully, that trait wasn’t passed down.

    Thoughtful piece, Ned. I enjoyed that. Sounds like your kids have a great dad in their midst.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thankfully I was born to a man who was exceptionally good and he understood the fact that real control comes only when you set free.

    Ironically , this is the reason I do not find many men appealing. Either they are stupidly dumb or they are superbly egoistic and dominating. Very few of them are balanced.

    Its good that you realize and accept the flipside of your personality and are working on it since a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In my experience, egotism and the need to dominate are traits of an inwardly insecure person. If you’re truly secure with who you are, you don’t feel the need to toot your own horn or dominate others. I just toot, but not my horn.


  6. You r one of the most “real” men I have ever read about. I have so much “baggage” that I cannot carry it. Even in vehicle, let alone roll with handles. Everyone has flaws. No one is perfect except Christ. I was told by a blogger, that I was Christ-like. Millions of miles from it. We all are. It is unattainable. In my opinion. We can only try to attain a small piece of being Christ-like and will take a lifetime of trials and tribulations….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wonder Ned whether children who have an abuser for a father actually inherit their genetic predisposition to also abuse? I wonder this because my son keeps saying that he will never be like his father yet I catch him at times doing and saying things with his wife that take me back to the way that his father treated me. It scares me and I’m sure it scares him. He doesn’t want to be like his father but I can see his father in him.
    I think it is important for a man to be able to recognise this and to take steps to overcome them if that is what he wishes.
    A well written piece Ned (of course). Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a good husband. He treats me well. he always appreciates everything I do for him. We met later in life. He had been through one divorce and became a celibate hermit. I went through two divorces. If we had met when we were young it probably would have not worked. Too much arrogance and needing to each it our way. Now we mellowed out and learned how to enjoy just being in the same room together. It took a lot of learning to reach that point and i.t glad we learned it on other people! We don’t control. We don’t try to fix each other. That’s the key – not fixing each other to be what we think they can be,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like you, I’m in a marriage that came after a divorce at the end of a long-term marriage (16 years). Because of what I learned from the unhapiness in my previous marriage, I recognize what it means to love and be loved, and the importance of expressing that love on a daily basis through words and deeds of appreciation. My wife, also the product of an unhappy prvious marriage, feels the same way. A day never passes during which wee don’t take time to thank our luccky stars for the lessons we learned, and how those lessons led us to each other.

      It’s a very special gift that you, too, clearly understand 😉


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