Emasculated men, strong men, and God’s grace…

Of accusations from strangers:
Recently, while talking with someone who allegedly sexually violated a woman (I have seen the evidence), the individual was surprised when I encouraged autonomy and said “don’t allow people to emasculate you… Not women, and not men” and encouraged him to grow in confidence. He told me he was surprised by this, and he looked genuinely surprised, and then made an interesting statement. “One of your people told me you only have relationships with men you can control”.
I smiled. Of all statements, that one doesn’t threaten me because it has never come from someone who actually knows me and my male relationships. And this individual and I have exactly one friend in common who knows me well, and the rest are social media connections. Because of the nature of that one friendship, I know it didn’t come from her. So I didn’t give it any attention. Today, however, I want to write about it to share my thoughts on emasculated men, and ending sexual abuse.
Of being emasculated and attempting to reclaim power: 
First of all, I want to say that I didn’t feel he used that line to manipulate me. The first thought I would have if I read this, not knowing the details, is that it was manipulative, in an attempt to deflect. But he genuinely looked stunned by my advice. (If I am wrong and it was intended to manipulate, that’s not my problem to deal with. I take it at face value.) And I stand by the advice I gave: Don’t let anyone emasculate you. Truth is, a huge source of our problem with sexual abuse lies in men and women having had their God-given power taken away. Sexual abuse is about power, not about sex. About trying to reclaim what was lost, but in the very act they continue to further emasculate and strip themselves by virtue of the crime they commit; to take a vulnerable and powerless human and overpower them. That’s low.
A real man – a man who is not emasculated – picks a man as strong or stronger to fight with. He wants to prove his strength, because he knows he is strong and has a certain pride in that strength. A man who is emasculated and disempowered chooses the victim who is easiest to overpower and walks away feeling half the man he was before. He doesn’t realize that the very act of trying to reclaim power, is the act further emasculating him. Take this man, empower him, help him face his crimes and sins along with the consequences, and he can become a real man of strength and courage. (Because of his crimes against children and the vulnerable, accountability becomes a necessary part of life. No exceptions.) Having been empowered, he will be confident and not need to dominate the women in his life, but rather lead with courage and sacrifice.
If a male who has sexually offended becomes dominated by another male, he will get worse, not better, because, again he is being further emasculated. (And, I’ll throw in the mix here a wee rabbit trail to say that church systems that control are guilty of emasculating men and stripping women, thus contributing to the problem of sexual abuse and domestic violence. But that’s another blog for another day.) But, back to the male sex offender being dominated by another male, you will likely see him losing confidence, becoming more controlling, more secretive, further trapped in addictions and all around more volatile. (Alternatively, he may slip into deeper silence and addictions).  You may even see him move into sexual relationships with that dominant male, or attempt dominating other males sexually in an effort to reclaim power. I have theories about the direction this takes them and why, but at this point, beyond what I’ve already said here, much of that remains theories that I will leave to simmer and explore further.
Of empires and friends
Secondly, whoever the individual who told this man such a thing is not ‘my people’, because ‘my people’ come to me with grace and walk with me, and ‘my people’ are first committed to help me grow, not to: a) talk behind my back or, b) overlook my faults. And since not one person close to me has come to me with grace (which doesn’t take into consideration a private attack a few weeks ago by someone who doesn’t know me or my male relationships at all) I am confident that not one of ‘my people’ spoke with this man. Someone did, but not someone who cares for me, because if it were true and truly those in my ‘inner circle’ they would first help me.
On emasculated men:
Thirdly, and most importantly, men who are emasculated are far more likely to molest children and abuse their wives, than those men are empowered. Emasculated men seek control over their wives, over other women, and even other men in their lives, and some commit sex crimes. Emasculated men don’t respect themselves, and they most certainly don’t respect women. (I am respected by the men in my life.) Alternatively, emasculated men retreat in silence, or immerse themselves in addictions, or all of the above. I am not interested in dominating males in any case, but especially with knowing that it escalates abuse. When I sit with sex offenders, I try to get to the truth of the crimes they have committed, because truth is their only shot at freedom, and I treat them with respect and speak life and purpose over them. Because when they are truly empowered, they will drop the need to dominate, control and abuse their wives, children and friends. *This reduces recidivism rates.
Those who are stripped and emasculated have no right to use that as an excuse for the sins and crimes committed. None whatsoever. If anyone walks away with that as their ‘take away’, you’re not hearing me. The truth is women who lack confidence are domineering and abusive too, and the cycle between such partners is rather vicious. Those women, like the men they emasculate, need to be empowered and their confidence needs to be built up. If they are abusive, their own suffering is not an excuse for what they have done or are doing. Neither one can blame the other for their own issues.
emasculated men 2
On empowering, breaking cycles and helping offenders:
But some keys to helping offenders end abusive behaviour is making certain they surrounded by people who dare to confront the crimes, help them move to a place of acknowledging those crimes and facing the consequences, and speaking life and purpose over them, and never dominating them. Pursuing truth, refusing to give in to lies and manipulation, and holding to boundaries is not dominating them; that’s a necessary part of working with manipulators – which most, if not all, sex offenders are. But in spite of that, I choose to believe in their ability to overcome, to believe they have a future that is not about sexual abuse, and believe that with support and accountability **most can change if they are willing to do the hard work. In this way I choose to empower them.
If we do this while taking no chances, and giving them no opportunity or access to potential victims, we offer them a rare gift. And if we work with those closest to them, to  heal and build confidence, so all are empowered to help the others, we stand a chance at making a difference.
These are some necessary steps for breaking the cycles of abuse. It is possible.
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2018

*Restorative Justice, in relating to offenders, seeks to humanize them, deal with truth, and offer empowering accountability. Similar approaches  are used by CoSa (Circles of support and accountability) and in both instances, rates of recidivism drop significantly. That said, Restorative Justice is not ‘offender-focused’, but rather seeks to give all parties a voice, with the voice and wishes of the victim being honoured, first and foremost. They are never forced or manipulated into engaging the offender(s).
**Most offenders would have the potential to change if they are willing to face every crime they have committed, without excuse, and seek help. So when I speak life, I speak it from the deepest place within me. I really believe this is possible. That said,  no offender should ever be left alone with potential victims. And those who truly are sociopaths with nearly a 100% likelihood of reoffending need a whole different kind of treatment plan.

Nobody’s Doormat

I have been pondering ‘authority’ in relationships and the need to set healthy boundaries. Specifically when the person with whom we need to establish those boundaries is someone who has authority over us, or is in a co-leadership position with us. It is a sensitive thing at the best of times, and more so when someone in authority over us violates us and boundaries need defining.

We all have the ‘right’ to be respected. It is not just a human rights issue—it is a right that God has given us. He made us in His image, to reflect His heart and His likeness. Each of us, in our individuality, is made to uniquely represent Him, here on earth. This is true whether we are Christians or not.  The effectiveness and impact of that, whether we allow that God-likeness to flow through us or not, is to an extent dependent on our faith in Him, but regardless of our beliefs, God’s likeness is in us.

When we function under leadership and authority, whether that person is a boss, a father or mother, a husband or any other leader, we should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. When that doesn’t happen, we have a choice; we choose silence and allow victimization—usually ending up feeling sorry for ourselves, or we confront (hopefully gently so that we are heard), or sometimes we may need to first reach out for help. We may not initially have the strength to confront, or, alternatively, we may come off too strong because of personal defences.

Years ago, as a young woman working as a secretary, someone in leadership asked me to do something illegal—I was to ‘fudge the books’ to make things look differently than they really are.  I was the person that signed off on documents for the government reports and to do so would have not only risked the company being slapped with a huge fine, but I would have been responsible.  In submitting documentation I always signed the typical ‘I confirm that the information contained in the report is true…’ and to sign that, knowing I was intentionally doctoring reports, was not something I could do.

However, because it was a leader who asked me to do this, I was in a conundrum. Should I defy my leader and not say anything? Should I do what I was asked? Should I confront?

Me, being me, I opted for confrontation. It’s not that I like confrontation, but silence, either way, would have made me feel victimized and I don’t tend towards accepting that role.

I walked into my boss’s office, defences high, and asked him to explain exactly what it is he wants me to do. Again, he outlined the exact steps I was to take in reporting.

“But that’s illegal,” I said.

He mumbled something that didn’t support me doing the right thing and, without a further thought, I leaned over his desk, handed him the reports and told him, quite boldly, “It’s illegal, and if you want it done that way, you will have to go do it yourself!”

Stunned, he looked at me without a word. After the pause, he told me to go do the right thing.

Back at my desk, my heart was still beating like a drum in my chest. Had I really just done that? My head was spinning. I was proud of myself for taking a stand but felt bad… almost sick, over how I had done it. And yet, it had been the truth.

Maximizing Impact

My boss’s son, having heard the exchange, walked over to my desk. A quiet gentleman, only a few years older than me, he spoke with great wisdom a lesson I have taken with me for life, “Trudy, what you have to say is often bang on. If you would learn to say it differently, it would be easier to receive and would have more impact.”

I don’t remember if those were his exact words, but they were pretty close. That advice has changed the way I address leadership. The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren..”

In my pursuit of healthy boundaries I made some pretty big mistakes. And that’s okay. I was learning a new and better way. It is better to make mistakes on the journey, than to choose apathetic disinterest in growth. It is in making mistakes that we learn to do it right.

The next time my boss asked me to do something sketchy, I calmly rose from my chair at my desk, looked him in the eye, ushered him to sit down and calmly said, “If you want that done, you will need to do it yourself. I find it offensive.”

Again my boss looked surprised, but this time was different. With a new respect he said not to worry about doing it. He never again put me in that kind of a position.

When it comes to family, especially a father, mother or spouse, the familiarity can cause us instinctively to do one of two things. It can make us defensive, angry and disrespectful, or cause us to completely withdraw in fear or anxiety.  Like their wives, this can be a very real part of a husband’s journey. If we overcome these tendencies and learn to calmly speak the truth—that we have value and are not willing to be a doormat—we will have much more impact.

Recently, watching a video series on working through various issues, the one example jumped out at me, illustrating how to do this well. The speaker guided her audience on a gentle approach to establishing a strong boundary. In her example she was addressing a father, and the words were something to this effect: “Dad, I have worth. God sees value in me. I am His daughter and He treats me with respect. You need to treat me with respect and talk to me with respect. Until you can do that, I am not willing to subject myself to abuse.”

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.” More is said in the tone of voice than in the words we speak. The truth, when spoken with calmness, has authority. The same truth, when spoken in loud or angry tone, loses impact.

The key to ending the doormat lifestyle is to first see that we have worth and value, and then to live a life that commands respect, in word and in deed.

© Trudy Metzger 2012