Empathy, My Badge

I am a sensitive man.

It seems easy to openly state the fact, but what does it really mean for myself, and more importantly, how I interact and exhibit the trait of active empathy with the world?

I contain several masculine attributes that I would venture denotes me as more of a “manly man” at times, as depicted or expected in some aspects of society:

I can diagnose and repair car issues; I can confidently handle minor home repairs, and given the time and teaching, can adapt my fix-it skills to bigger projects for the home; I have a passion for heavy metal, and find absolute rapture in a live metal concert; though I usually decline to spectate sport events, I’m no stranger to an aggressive game of football or the competitive finesse of basketball; camping to me consists of roughing it in a tent, not a leisure vacuum-packed trip in the RV; having a beer with buddies and talking about video games is an enjoyable pastime; you could call me confident, maybe even brazen in some instances; relying on my brawn or stubbornness has both resolved and created predicaments, in equal measure.

Sure, these are all reasonable qualities of a man, the stereotypical guy that does guy stuff. I do those things. I guess this makes me an average guy in some aspects.

And though I exhibit some dominant male traits, below the veneer of the vanishing 20th century expectations of a strong, aloof adult male, there is more to view.

I love to bake, or cook in general, for that matter.

I enjoy romance, and built into me is a wide streak for the romantic.

I would rather provide a hug than a shove or a fist, most especially to the people that prove the most difficult or challenging in my life.

Treating others with compassion, respect, and encouragement is the foundation of how I engage with other people and animals.

If I notice somebody in my day is frustrated, upset, or vexed, I will reach out to them to see what’s troubling them, even if it’s just to give them a chance to vent.

News and media outlets reporting atrocities or violent events can cause me to become overwhelmed by tears and emotion. (Why stop there; a conversation can bring out the feels)

I have no qualms nor find it uncomfortable discussing my emotions, or another’s.

I write poetry, and more specifically, I wax long on relationships and breakups from my own life.

Feelings are a core backdrop to my existence. A skein of tangled thoughts, urges, needs, and thoughts that connect the dots of the events in my life. We are all connected by what we feel, whether it’s suppressed or put out on public display.

For most of my life, until more recently, I usually kept my empathic nature covert. Afraid of judgement, or ridicule, red faced embarrassment; it had been better to be guarded, aloof. By doing so, I denied an intrinsic component of my character; one that may be the most vital of all.

Without empathy, there is little understanding and association among people. We share and relate; forming the ties that nurture friendship, compassion, and altruism.

We are here to love; as goofy as it may sound. Or at the very least, to be kind to one another. I’ve always pretended to not care as much as I do, or to remain seemingly detached. I realize this holds me back; diminishes my own life.

In the age of progressively more cruel and derogatory actions highlighted by a constant stream of media bytes, we need to continue to advocate empathy.

Most significantly, I employ my empathic nature more and more often, to teach my three year old son that men can be caring and kind. Being verbally expressive of your feelings is not a weakness. Acknowledging your own and other’s emotions can only pave a more tranquil road to a more peaceful world.

As one of my most highly regarded literary characters, Atticus Finch is a model for a gentle, humble man. One who knows that quiet conviction and understanding of another soul is deep strength.

I am a sensitive man, and it is one of my preeminent qualities.

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