There are the men who stay, and there are the men who leave. What can be done when he walks away?
Recently, the dating site Ashley Madison was the victim of a major hack where the sensitive data of all its users was leaked all over the Internet. People have been questioning whether or not the hack is ethical – after all, Ashley Madison markets itself as the destination for “discreet encounters” and “extramarital affairs”. The hack made global headlines for two reasons – one, as a heads up to people whose personal details may have been disclosed. The other as a commentary of the ethics of a tool that encourages and essentially drives cheating on your partner.
And I remember reading so many of the comments on this. This is a real touchy issue for a lot of people for sure, both for the people involved and their families.
But the one I remember most was a comment saying, “As if men need any more help to leave”.
Disclaimer: I’m a man writing about men leaving. I am fully aware that there are many situations where a woman leaves, and I don’t want to belittle or ignore that issue either. But I’ve really wanted to broach the topic for a while, and this is a good a time as any to have a look at something that is arguably one of the most pertinent issues of 21st century life.
When he doesn’t stay
Much has been said about the absence of men (that is, people of the male gender). There have been many articles written about the death of men, how men have been made redundant, how they are increasingly unneeded, and so on. Whichever viewpoint you have on the issue, the reality is we do live in a society where this is actually a major issue. And for many people, it has been the case where men who leave have left a gaping hole in many lives.
In a lot of cases, whether in a married or dating scenario, a man has up and gone. He was loved and appreciated, and it seemed like he was loving and appreciating too. His words were reassuring. His comfort was lasting. His actions were thoughtful. And then one day, he suddenly disappears from the situation. Sometimes with a phone call, sometimes with a note, sometimes with no words at all – he has walked out of the relationship and into his own future. Unfortunately, the heart left behind is left with so many doubts, questions, and hurts. Aren’t I good enough? What did I do wrong? I thought we meant more to him. The heart’s identity is called into question because of his sudden
The more widespread and well documented issue is that of a father leaving. Not only was he a husband or a partner, but he had a family that was depending on him. Who loved him. Who wanted him around. There are so many different organizations addressing the fatherless epidemic in Western society, many citing the amazing statistics of what a fatherless home can do to a child. Fathers Australia highlights a number of these – 20 times the amount of children who end up in prison are fatherless (many of them men themselves), 32 times the number of runaways, 5 times the number of youth suicides, 10 times the number in chemical abuse centres… sure, you could maybe write off a few of these, but when there are so many issues that can be seen to be associated with the lack of a father, you’ve gotta start asking the hard questions.
And maybe in your own life you’ve had this experience. There is a good chance you have. I remember when I was much younger, the last Aladdin movie (good ol Disney) was centred around Aladdin’s struggle for identity without knowing who his father was. I didn’t realize until I was older that this actually can be a very big deal for people.
And sometimes a man is present but absent. He’s there, but not really. Distracted in his career, lost in his ambitions, or trapped inside his addictions – when a man is there, but isn’t, sometimes the feelings can be the same.
A hashtag relating to many social issues around men was birthed a while ago in response to the discussion around a lot of these issues. With so many people hurting because of the behaviour of men, the “men who stay” as we’ll call them in this piece struck back and said, “well hey, not all men are like that”. Which is very true.
We can’t blame the men who stay for the men who leave.
Because we want the men who leave to be like the men who stay.
There are many, many faithful men out there. Many husbands and partners who stay committed to their significant other. There are many fathers who are consistent with their children and families. There are many men with no children whom I’ve seen to be fathers of men and women around them – even acting in a fatherly role to people older than themselves. Salute, good sir.
Calling him home
I think the person who often gets neglected in this scenario is the man who’s done the damage. The man who left. The one who walked out. Because he was the perpetrator of so much destruction, he’s the one we don’t really want to think about or approach.
But he’s probably the one who needs the most help of all.
Cause often he doesn’t like himself. He doesn’t know who he is. He can’t sleep at night. He’s oppressed by all sorts of terrible nightmares and horrible visions. He has no one checking up on him. He feels like he’s dying alone.
But he’s not alone.
I love the work of ministries like 180TC and The Salvation Army and The Men Shed who go to great lengths to bring this man back home. To look after him. To help him find his feet again.
And by and large, I think this responsibility falls to men. Usually where a man has left and caused pain, there can be a tumult of emotional conflict and broken trust which makes his family a difficult candidate for bearing the brunt of his recovery. Sure they can support him, but it’s a big ask to ask the divorcee or the abused or the abandoned to do all the outreach and reconcile him with society and with the family.
Maybe if we decided to look out for more of our brothers we could see families restored and rebuilt. We could see whole relationships and healthy friendships abound. We could see our boys out of prison and back giving their best to the world. And we could see the women and the children in our world blessed by men who live a whole and fulfilled life.
The late Myles Munroe said that if governments and organizations invested more money into families than they did into prisons, the world would be a very different place. And while I love the work that our prisons do to rehabilitate so many, imagine if we really gave our best efforts to teaching people how to make a home the most safe and healing place for people. Home is such a painful idea and such a painful place for so many people. Imagine if home was as strong as our dreams said it could be. I want to be a part of building a world like that.
I know I haven’t covered every facet of every big topic I’ve mentioned around the issue of the men who stay and the men who leave. But I think a challenge I want to throw out to my brothers out there is to leave no man behind. Go after him. Restore him. Keep him safe. Keep him strong. You can be a father, a brother and a friend to those even outside your own family.
What about you? What are your thoughts on the issues of men staying and leaving?