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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Masculine? What a Wimp!

I happen to live in Great Britain. More precisely, England. Even more precisely, South East of England, in a non-touristy, high tech provincial town just thirty miles out of Central London. Therefore in this part of the world, it is natural to be very reserved, to keep a stiff upper lip, and to face personal crisis with cast iron stoicism. The British Bulldog. That sort of thing. So according to the current thought-line of national newspaper journalism, to show emotion in public is a sign of weakness, mawkish, sentimentality, and a lack of proper masculinity, or even for a case of a female teenager who was unfortunate enough to shed a tear while on air.

So it was with the case of the popular TV series the Great British Bake Off, when the youngest contestant made a mistake in one of her culinary efforts, and received a fail from the judges. During the following interview with the BBC host, there was evidence that she had displayed her emotions. My heart went out for her, and I pictured her father, who I know personally, reach his arms out to her to enfold her in a comfy embrace and re-assuring her at the same time. I knew perfectly well that had she been my daughter, I would have done the same. But after having just bought the Daily Mail newspaper just three days later, I was rather flabbergasted to read a filler on this female columnist's page. This arrogant, unmarried, childless journalist who settled in London from Australia after a failed relationship, mentioned the teenage contestant by her full name and demeaned her character, not only to the nation, but to the world. Just for shedding a tear after a fail. She then asks, if other teenagers were like this one, what kind of future will Britain face? Here is the crunch of the whole matter. If the strength of our country lies in the stoicism of its population, then shedding a tear will bring its downfall.
As a matter of fact, I have great admiration for this teenager. She was initially selected by the BBC out of thousands of hopefuls who applied for the competition. I have watched every creation she had made in very tight time schedules. It is my opinion that she was superb, especially with the nation watching her, as well as the judges interviewing her in front of the camera while actually preparing her ingredients. What amazes me was that nearly every bake was perfect. I was more impressed by her lack of failures throughout the time she remained in the contest, even beating other contestants who were older than her and most certainly had greater experience in the kitchen. I knew perfectly well that in no way I could bake a cake that would remotely match hers. She deserves every kudos she can get.
Which brings me to wonder how our columnist would have fared had she competed in the contest. But due to her long hours spent in the office running down the character of mostly female celebrities, most likely her culinary skills does not go much further than warming up ready-prepared meals in the microwave, never having felt the need to buy a proper baking stove since the day she closed the door of her former home Down Under. Then she has the temerity to criticise a skilled teenage baker under intense pressure and in public view, all for the sake of British stoicism. But this columnist is not alone. I have read articles by other journalists who had come up with crackpot ideas on what it means to be British. Among these was the suggestion from a self-confessed atheist that no male can be considered a gentleman unless he wears a shirt and tie all seven days in the week, which would include Saturday afternoons at the High Street, even in hot weather. If such a conclusion is correct, then according to what I have seen throughout much of my lifetime, a gentleman is very, very rarely seen here in England.

And so it goes back to my own childhood when it was considered cissy for a boy to shed tears. This was even brought out in pop music, such as the 1975 tune I'm Not in Love, by the band 10CC, which has the line, Big boys don't cry, Big boys don't cry, chanted several times by a female in the background. Even at school, I saw this as quite a phenomenon. During physical eduction lessons, I have watched boys of my age, forced to bend over to receive several whacks from the sole of a large plimsoll held by the master, for forgetting their kit on the day of the session. I recall three of the boys barely screwing their faces as the footwear struck with full force at their rump in front of us all, yet not a single tear shed. Afterwards they just stood aside as if received nothing more than a mild reminder. Yet I have watched another shed buckets of tears while begging the master to stop on the third stroke. Such must have been the intensity of the pain. According to the culture of our land, three of the boys who had demonstrated such stoicism could be considered truly British and the upcoming backbone for the strength of the country, while the fourth failed the test, and would have stood as a threat for the country's future. Maybe that was the case. According to these columnists, ever since Princess Diana was killed in a Paris car accident in August 1997, the British population had become very emotional and sentimental, a far cry from the days when the principal of Eton thrashed the backsides of several boys with a cane in his office every day, and each student gratefully thanked the master for the punishment as if awarded as a prize.*

I find it pitiful that British stoicism is even advocated by some believers in our churches in preference to showing any form of emotion. Our culture has even spawned the edict: The Englishman's home is his castle, which is agreed even by our elders that such an attitude is unbiblical, yet in addition to this, we are all too cautious about adult men hugging other men in case "it offends the first time observer" and "we must be unto all men," as well as "making the Body of Christ unappealing to the unbelieving visitor". If that means acting as akin to being like robots, then let it be so, according to them, as long as no one is offended. That is a cop-out, an excuse for one to preserve and protect his Englishness. As for myself, I find nothing wrong in giving another bloke a tight squeeze. It is a lot more affectionate than a mere formal handshake, but if that is what the other person wants, that is what he would get, at least to keep the peace. But there are other guys who, from time to time, actually comes to me for a hug, to receive affection as well as give it. I have read from somewhere that hugging is actually good for the health, as a beneficial hormone is released into the bloodstream, and as I also found, hugging is a wonderful reliever of stress, and I can face the world outside with a better state of mind. Personally, I wish that all men in our fellowship hugged each other, and allow the powerful love of Christ to shine between one another. I can't help thinking that the unbelieving observer, rather than walk out in disgust, will instead want to find out more about the God we worship, and how he can participate. However, I'm a bit more cautious about hugging women, unless I know them well, as they may think there might be a sexual connotation in the physical contact.

So to me, the showing of emotion in public is fine, and presents no threat to masculinity, whether mine or anyone else. Shedding tears must be good, since this facility has been created into us initially, I assume, by God himself. And rather than evolve from apes (a theory that had its origins here in England) instead we were created bipedal for the purpose to have embracing included in our day-to-day living. There is something about a man crying, and watching tears roll down his face. Yes, it can arouse embarrassment, even disgust, if believing that crying is a threat to national stoicism. But it can also bring out the love of Christ from the one observing, and together share what the issue could be, and make efforts to resolve it. And crying can also be an expression of love. And the expression of love is no more demonstrated with such force as was the case of Joseph son of Jacob and Rachel.

Joseph was one of the younger offspring of Jacob's twelve sons. He was the older of only two born of Jacob's favourite wife Rachel, who also had Benjamin, the youngest son of all, and Joseph's only full-blood brother, as the other ten were his half-brothers, all with three different mothers between them. Because Rachel was Jacob's favourite wife, it was his nature for Joseph to become his favourite son. He was something of a spoilt brat, who looked down on his older ten half-brothers, stirring up envy and eventually hatred towards him among them. He was given a special coat by his father, traditionally one of many colours (although this may not be historically verified.) The garment had set him apart from is other brothers, and excused him from manual toil. When his brother Benjamin was born, his mother died and was buried near Bethlehem in Judea. His father was crushed by her untimely death, and this was reflected in Joseph too, who developed a strong affection for his sibling, the only brother not to have any issues against him.

One day, Jacob sent his son Joseph to check out on his other ten brothers. When he had found them having a picnic, they took him and threw him into a dry well pit, where he pleaded with them to be let out. He remained imprisoned until a train of Ishmaelites passed by on camels, to whom he was sold and escorted to Egypt. Meanwhile the brothers slew a goat, and dipped the garment into its blood, and took it home to his father, who believed that his favourite son was slain by a wild beast. With both his wife and son gone, he lived out his remaining days in perpetual sorrow, constantly reciting that he will go to the grave in deep misery, believing that "everything is against me."

A long while later, Joseph ended up becoming Prime Minister to Pharaoh after interpreting a couple of the king's dreams. He was an excellent administrator, whose methods literally saved the lives of the Egyptians during a severe famine. It was then that Jacob sent his ten brothers to Egypt to buy grain, which Joseph had carefully had stored before the start of the famine. He then sent them off each with the sack of grain, after making them promise that they bring their brother Benjamin with them when they return.

The following year, the eleven brothers returned, with Benjamin among them. When Joseph saw his young full-blood brother, we are told that he wept three times:

As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother's son, he asked, "Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about? And he said, "God be gracious to you, my son."
Deeply moved by the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.
Genesis 43:29-30.

Then Joseph could not control himself  before all his attendants, and he cried out, "Make everyone leave my presence!" So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh's household heard about it.
Genesis 45:1-2.

Then he threw his arms around Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterwards his brothers talked with him.
Genesis 45:14-15.

Joseph also wept in his father's arms when the aged man arrived in Egypt. Therefore, was Joseph a wimp? By British standard of culture, that is quite a point! But I could see that Joseph was just as masculine, if not more so, as any tough-talking Brit. He was filled with the Holy Spirit who not only gave him the power to interpret dreams, but the wisdom to save both the Hebrews and the whole of Egypt from national starvation. He became Prime Minister after two years in prison for a crime he did not commit. There was no anger, no resentment in his soul. Instead he depended on the Holy Spirit within him to win the trust of the prison governor, who put him in charge of all the other inmates. His prolonged calmness was not due to stoicism or keeping a stiff upper lip, for the wicked can do these things. Instead, Joseph's peace and calmness were the fruits of the Holy Spirit within him.

Joseph was a true and proper masculine man, not a wimp at all. He would never have written any article to demean a teenager's character. Instead, had Joseph been alive today, he would have wrapped the girl gently in his arms and soothed her from her sorrow, and kindly have encouraged her. That is the way of a real man.

After all, Jesus Christ wept in public twice as recorded in the Gospels. As he was determined to go to the Cross, no one can accuse him of being a wimp! If Joseph and Jesus can both weep in public, then it is nothing weak about shedding a tear.

Even in England.

* Jeremy Paxman, The English - A Portrait of a People.


  1. Dear Frank,
    I agree -- if Jesus wept when moved to do so, why would it be wrong for any of us? That being said, I think some preachers work themselves up ingto a state where they can cry because they think it improves their delivery -- for me, that just comes across as a manipulative performance.

    I also agree with you about hugging -- this display of warmth and affection, if genuine, can do much to lift the spirits of one who is hurting. Perhaps that is what Paul was referring to when he urged believers to greet one another with a holy kiss.

    My husband told me about a cooking reality show he was watching called "Cutthroat Kitchen." In this episode, the final challenge was for the 3 contestants to make biscuits and gravy from scratch, and when the gong sounded, their first task was to run to the supply counter and get all the needed ingredients. Much to everyone's surprise, one man returned to his cooking station carrying a huge slab of meat. It turns out that he had misheard the instructions, and thought he was supposed to prepare "briskets and gravy"! Miraculously, he made it to the next round anyway!

    Thanks for the entertaining & informative post & God bless!


  2. Hi Frank,
    I don't think I have ever tried to fit in with other people's ideas of 'what I should be', and neither has my husband. He cries when he is sad and with him 'what you see is what you get'. There is nothing wrong with crying whether you are male or female. I cry many times when I pray or if I see some sad things on the television, particularly cruelty to people or animals. As for what kind of clothes we should wear, my husband wears what he feels comfortable in and so do I. What is a 'gentleman'? 'as a man thinks so he is', not 'as a man dresses', and we can not fool God. We should not try to 'compete' in anything, it is much nicer to 'co-operate'. To sum it all up - If I tried to please everyone I would end up totally confused and if I was not truly myself God would class me as a 'hypocrite'.
    God bless.

  3. Great Post, Frank.

    I grew up in an area where a person who dressed in a suit and tie was almost always either a lawyer, a politician, a banker, or a salesman. Since the Depression was largely the result of politicians and banker's decisions, and the lawyers were usually working for bankers to reposses farms or to protect criminals and the salesmen often decieved people in order to get their money, wearing a suit was generally considered to be an effort to fool people into trusting them. A man in a suit was thus assumed to be crooked. Wearing a suit doesn't necessarily indicate a man is a crook, nor does it indicate he is a gentleman. Our society, like your's, has become fixated on outward appearances and has no understanding how little that appearance may actually mean. James 2 points out that judging people by such things as how they dress only exposes the wickedness of our own thoughts.