Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Masculine spirituality means becoming feminine?

That seems to be the theme of my men’s spirituality group. I’ve been attending this group for eight weeks now hoping it would give me a glimpse into authentic male spirituality, and it has left me wanting. I can’t take it any more.

Yesterday a visiting priest led the group discussion. He began by telling us to get in tough with our feminine sides. His background in Jungian spiritually drives him to find “balance” in the human person. Men must become more feminine and women must become more masculine. I’m not sure what the nirvana of this Jungian approach would look like. Perhaps we’d have a society of perfectly androgynous people with no real gender distinction. I don’t know. We didn’t get that far.

Our Jungian proponent suggested men need to adopt the feminine qualities of compassion and nurturing. He never adequately explains why those are exclusively feminine qualities, but let’s not get caught up in minutia. He suggested men should help out around the house and take some of the tasks traditionally held by women because it will help men develop nurturing qualities.

One member of the group suggested we could look to the traditional concept of virtue to bring out the best in men. Why do men need to become more feminine when becoming virtuous is what fulfills our purpose? The priest’s response, to the best of my understanding, was that androgyny is itself a virtue worth acquiring.

Permit me a visceral response, “psychobabble baloney!” Androgyny as a virtue is utterly un-compelling to me. I joined that group to get in touch with my MASCULINE side! In growing up during the seventies and eighties, I’ve been getting in touch with my feminine side my whole life. Our church is rife with female spirituality. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to the feminine. The church is the bride of Christ and it is her nature to be female. That is beautiful and good. I love women and everything they bring to this world. However, it seems for too long men in the church have been called only to the feminine. We have been encouraged to be little more than nice guys. I was hoping for something different…something masculine.

I’m not married, but follow me in this hypothetical. If someone tells me I should help with household chores and change the baby’s diapers because it will help me get in touch with my nurturing female side, I’ll have no motivation to do what was asked.

However, tell me I should help around the house because it is the virtuous thing to do, then I’ll listen. Tell me that despite my long hard day at work, I am called to die to myself and help my wife out of charity. I’ll listen. Tell me that I am called to love my wife like Christ loves the church. I’ll listen. Tell me that being a man of God means self-denial and self-sacrifice. I’ll listen.

Tell me to be a man and I’ll listen.

Do not purport to help me grow in masculine spirituality and tell me to be a woman.


  • If I tell you to help around the house, will you tell Joe? (ducks and runs away)

    By Anonymous Christina, at Thursday, November 30, 2006 10:28:00 PM  

  • I wasn't aware that I had a "feminine side". If I ever locate it, I will be sure to touch it as often as possible....

    By Blogger Jerry, at Friday, December 01, 2006 12:07:00 PM  

  • Tom,
    I agree with everything you said exept that part where you come home from a hard day's work and clean the house you wife was supposed to clean...what was she doing all day anyway? Getting in touch with her masculine side? (ducking for shoe thrown from kitchen)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Friday, December 01, 2006 6:36:00 PM  

  • Ouch...

    I wasn't fast enough....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Friday, December 01, 2006 6:37:00 PM  

  • Joe and Christine:

    Is this what I have to look forward to when I get hitched? Dodging female footware projectiles? Right now, when Lynda gets mad at me, the worst that happens is that I get the "Look Of Disdain" followed by an entended period of "Lack Of Snugglebunnies".....

    By Blogger Jerry, at Saturday, December 02, 2006 12:25:00 PM  

  • I just saw an article somewhere that mentioned that 80% of professional chefs are men.

    So, Tom, be a man. Make your own %@#$ dinner. I had a long hard day, too.



    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Saturday, December 02, 2006 2:23:00 PM  

  • Dear Nephew,
    Take it from your psychologist aunt, it is all a bunch of hooey. Am glad you did not buy into the nonsence. Jung was virulently 'anti-catholic' and priests who follow his 'stuff' are at best...misguided. Much too complicated a subject to discuss here.

    By Anonymous AC, at Friday, December 08, 2006 7:34:00 PM  

  • I was there and I didn't hear it that way. I don't like psychobable either; maybe I'm not discriminating enough to tell the difference. There seems to me to be threshold over which the group can't cross as to the potential for "feminine" qualities or a part of male personality that is labeled by society as feminine. The major concerns seem to be androgeny or homosexuality. Neither is intended to be part of this discussion. The whole exercise of reading From Wild Man to Wise Man by Richard Rohr has been a test of patience and toleration. The group seems to be more intent on dissing teh author and rejecting his premises than in considering if there is any merit to what he says. I perceive this as close-mindedness rather than actually disagreement. Much of the terminilogy comes from psychology but that in itself doesn't make it evil. Psychology is an accepted science and there is much value to what has been learned. Perhaps blending psychology with spirituality is not a good idea. I can appreciate that. Since I am not well versed at either discipline I was hoping to get spirituality - specifically male oriented spirituality from this discussion group. Does this group lead us to God or away from Him. Can we meet and understand opther men by sharing a discussion about teh contents of this book? Can we reject the premises in such a way that others learn the distinction between becoming female or androgynous and the statement "The spitritually whole person integrates within himself or herself both the masculine and the feminine dimensions of the human spirit." This does not suggest to lose one's maleness (masculinity) or that everyone become just like every body else. There is a differenec in each of us and God intended it to be that way. I don't exepect that God wants us to ignore that which leads to greater self understanding which in turn can enhance our relationship with God. Peace. Deacon Bill

    By Anonymous Bill, at Friday, December 15, 2006 2:30:00 PM  

  • Deacon Bill,

    Of course psychology is a respected discipline, and there is nothing wrong with blending it with spirituality. I also agree that Richard Rohr has some good things to offer. You may remember my exhortations early on to see past the heterodox parts of Rohr and focus on the kernels of truth. Ultimately, he seems to be calling us to service, and that is a good thing. I do find it annoying that our group seems to focus more on Rohr’s shortcomings than on our own. It is a like finding the speck in our brother’s eye while ignoring the log in ours. A men’s spirituality group should focus on our spirituality. It should be more introspective than analytical. We are not there. I think some of us might use Richard Rohr to avoid looking at ourselves.

    That being said, there is much that is problematic with Rohr. He obviously opposes church teaching on several subjects. He therefore loses credibility in my book. I do not consider being loyal to the Magesterium of Church close-minded. Many open minds have collaborated to form church teaching. I trust 2000 years of developed doctrine over the latest spiritual/psychological trend.

    In the end, however, this post was not an indictment of our male spirituality group as a whole. It was a response to our guest speaker. Here was have a bonefide expert on Richard Rohr and Jungian spirituality available to share with us the essence of Rohr’s teaching and what does he lead with? He tells us to get in touch with our feminine sides.

    My response was more personal than intellectual. Perhaps some wild men need to embrace the feminine, but I’m sick of doing that. I’ve been getting in touch with my feminine side for the last 33 years. I was hoping that a men’s spirituality group would help me get in touch with my masculine side.

    If people find Rohr helpful on their spiritual journey, more power to them. I say pick out what is good with Rohr and discard the heterodox. I don’t find Rohr very helpful.

    I hope the men in our group (myself included) will start exploring their own spirituality. Then maybe we’ll see some spiritual growth.

    By Blogger Tom, at Friday, December 15, 2006 8:35:00 PM  

  • I wanted to qualify something I wrote in my last comment.

    Exploring spirituality from a psychological perspective can be useful, but blending the two must be done with caution.

    Ultimately psychology looks to make a human being happy or comfortable. Spirituality seeks to save your soul. We must always keep the latter at the forefront.

    By Blogger Tom, at Friday, December 15, 2006 8:43:00 PM  

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