Becoming a Compassionate Man

by Mark Votava

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In a society that wants to make the male identity violent, aggressive, colonial, successful, arrogant and a host of other things; I have found this extremely difficult to remain compassionate in the midst of it all.  As a man in the twenty-first century, I am searching for what is authentic for me as a compassionate human being.  Compassion is not deemed a positive quality of being if you ask a lot of men in our North American context.  It is rather disgraceful to be vulnerable, nonviolent, kind, honest and compassionate.

  • What is it to be a man?

In my journey of life, I have been living out my existence wondering about what it is to be a man.  What does it mean to be human?  What is authentic?  What do I do with all the pain and shattered dreams as my days pass by?

  • Vulnerability, honesty, humility and gratitude

I am coming to see that an authentic man is compassionate and is deeply connected to his humanity as created in the image of God.  A true man is vulnerable, honest and embodies a sense of humility.  Gratitude is one thing that I long for as I do not want to become an angry old man as I see so many have.  Gratitude and compassion just might be the values that hold me together as a man.

  • Unlearning the ungrateful patterns

It seems gratitude and compassion are intertwined to bring healing to the fragmentation within?  Wrestling with unlearning the ungrateful patterns I have used to protect myself is helping me to become compassionate in everyday life.  My hunger for compassion is deep, mysterious and growing within me.  I am discovering that this compassion is my true self.

  • Many men choose violence, greed and hate

Compassion is what I desire to live by as many men choose violence, greed and hate instead.  Compassion does not judge others, but finds solidarity with others through their pain.  Compassion is about a life broken open each moment to love rather than being broken apart by fear, anger and bitterness.

  • Reimagining my masculinity

I have had to work hard to reimagine my masculinity in a culture that promotes male dominance, in a country that is wealthy, powerful and individualistic.  I like how Jesus’ masculinity was based in humility, kindness, love, compassion, simplicity, vulnerability, grace, honesty and gentleness.  This is so different than the masculinity that many men in North America pursue as their identity.

  • Longing for authenticity and compassion:

I long to be an expression of compassion through all the seasons of my life.  Help me to share life together with others in humility, love and grace.  Reveal to me what a healthy masculinity looks like without violence, slander or bitterness.  I want to be a compassionate man who learns to love himself and others in the world around him.  Bring my true self to life each moment as I seek to practice gratitude and experience all of life as gift.  In my frustration, let me find a way of peace.  In my pain, may I find a way to face life.  In sorrow, may I find tears of healing.

What do you think a healthy masculinity is?