Take a quick minute and ask yourself, “how many “genuine people” exist in the circle of people who cross my path every day?” In a world of plastic, synthetic, and make belief, has society become so caught up in the distraction of what is artificial that it’s lost sight of what is genuine? Real people – genuine people have for many, become a relic relinquished to the antiquities of our past.
In his book, The Seasons of a Man’s Life, author Daniel Levinson has written, “Friendship is largely noticeable by it’s absence. Close friendship with a man or woman is rarely experienced by American men.” While his book is targeting the male of the species, he is touching on a problem that in societal terms is much broader in scope. Today, with all our advancements and enhanced quality of life we as a people have become greatly impoverished due to the sharp rise in the superficiality of our relationships.
The “Genuine” Man
In 1976, The 49 Percent Majority: The Male Sex Role was written by Deborah S. David and Robert Brannon. The premise of the book dealt with the fact that even though men accounted for only 49 percent of the population (a minority), they were clearly in the majority due to ours being a male-dominated society.
In a world of mis-conceptions and false beliefs, and in all fairness, perhaps it was a mindset typical of the 1970’s, David and Brannon defined society’s measure of a man based on four characteristics:
- Real men don’t eat feminine foods, indulge in feminine talk, or do feminine things.
- The real man needs to be “in control” and wants the world to see him as being a “big wheel”.
- Real men are tough, confident, self-reliant, and able to stand firm.
- Real men are aggressive, daring, highly competitive, and at times violent.
While there might be societal examples which support David and Brannon’s definition of a “real man”, their concept of what the genuine man looks like couldn’t be further from the truth.
Across the annals of time one thing we have thankfully learned is that “the real” genuine man is:
- Sincere – a man of integrity in word and deed;
- Simplistic – one who cuts through all the glitz, glamour, frills of life, is content with less, and gets down to the real issues;
- A man of personal conviction – a strong sense of what he believes in;
- Courageous – willing to stand up for the underdog, even at personal cost, and speak up for what is right in a situation;
- A visionary – selflessly sees past the immediate focusing on the “bigger picture” for all …the ultimate;
- A person who relates from a position of vulnerability.
The “Genuine” Woman
We can talk about men until the cows come home, and still find ourselves scratching our heads at time, but one thing is certain…the real world needs real women, and real women can often be hard to find.
Several decades ago, author Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, a book which was both powerful and controversial yet still having great influence and impact on the lives of women since. In her book Friedan identifies the primary problem for women today as being a crisis in identity. Her writings point out that the role of modern women is changing, and as it changes, many women who have been pushed out of their comfort zone are trying to figure out who and what they are. Jokingly many men will say they’ve been trying to figure out who and what women are for centuries. Friedan contends and is right in her comments when she says that our culture has stunted the development of women and deprived them of the ability to be themselves. Historically speaking, religion has had a large part in sequestering and silencing women.
Hindus teach that when a baby girl is born she is the reincarnation of a higher form which did something bad in a previous life and is returning to this world in female form, as punishment.
The Islamic Koran teaches “Allah had made one [man] superior to the other [woman] … admonish them, send them to beds apart, and beat them.”
Judaism says: “Every man who teaches his daughter the Torah is as if he teaches her promiscuity. Better to burn the Torah than to teach it to a woman.”
Martin Luther said, “If a woman becomes weary or dead from childbearing, it matters not. She is still there to do it.”
Thomas Aquinas, the Roman Catholic theologian said, “As regards for the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten. For the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex. While the production of women comes from a defect.”
In Judeo-Christian teachings, the Apostle Paul teaches, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man … she must be silent.” Paul also taught that a woman must keep her head covered because the “head of the woman is man”.
There’s little wonder as to why so many women today struggle in knowing who their genuine self is.
Wanted: “Genuine People” In A Less Than Genuine World
Many of us exist in a day to day existence feeling trapped between two worlds. Some of us are caught up in a world where we find ourselves thinking or doing, consumed with our own foolish impulses or foolish choices; paralyzed by some form of unhappiness or fear; imprisoned by some dark secretive event in our own history, never releasing ourselves to be our own true genuine self. We want to change, we want to be genuine, and we even believe there is a way to change for the better, but still we remain embroiled in the synthetic trappings of a make belief world for one reason and one reason alone – change and loss are deeply connected, and many of us would rather hold onto what is known than embrace the unknown.
Be it an abused childhood, a difficult marriage, a circle of toxic peers who continually try to manipulate you to do their bidding, we all have a story. Genuine people are those who have learned how to tell their story, if only to themselves, for all sorrows can be carried if one learns how to put them into a story.
Non-genuine people are often those who have never learned how to tell a story about their sorrows … in the end, and often without realizing it, their story ends up telling them. When we cannot tell our story, our story tells us through bad or strange dreams, the development of psycho-somatic symptoms, and our acting out in ways we don’t understand the basis for. We all have a choice to figuratively cry outwardly, or suppress and deny those tears – genuine people are people who have learned how to cry outwardly.
In 1946, while working in a leprosy colony, Dr. Paul Brand discovered that the deformities of leprosy were not an intrinsic part of the disease, but a consequence of the progressive devastation of infection and injury, which occurred because the patient was unable to feel pain. In 1972, Dr. Brand said, “If I had one gift which I could give to people with leprosy, it would be the gift of pain.”
Many of us have lost sight of who we are due to an increasing insensitivity to the pains of our past, pains that have shaped us, corrected us (a child who touches a hot stove jet learns through pain the danger of a hot stove and the need to not touch it again), and empowered us to relate to our common man from a position of empathy. Most non-genuine people have in one form or another become emotional lepers. When we succeed in feeling nothing we lose the only means we have of knowing what has truly hurt us deep inside, and why.
Some of us, who struggle in being our genuine self, fall into a trap known as “splitting” – an unconscious survival strategy which aims to keep us ignorant or blind to the painful feelings buried deep within ourselves. Typically, “splitters” put on a front, and the bigger the front, the bigger the back that carries a heavy load of inner anguish. On one hand, we want to see ourselves as good happy healthy people, but what then do we do with the unwanted painful baggage of our past? Often in our unconscious attempt to cope we deflect the aspects of ourselves we find shameful into another person or group of people.
Splitting is a form of emotional leprosy. It’s a coping mechanism we develop to blind ourselves to the pain and sometimes joy, that comes through true honest self-knowledge.
Sadly, and all too often, we see those who due to some past event may have lived up to their parents wishes to seek out a higher education and develop their intellectual abilities, while failing to develop their emotional side becoming numb to intimacy in relationship – unwilling at times to be real with how they feel inside.
Change is never easy, and people go to great lengths to avoid change, even when it’s in their best interest.
Forensic reconstructive evidence gathered after a famous restaurant fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Kentucky confirmed that 56 people died in the fire because rather than run immediately out of the building to safety, out of habit they lined up to pay their bill and died in queue. Humans often resist change, even healthy change.
We are vehemently faithful to our own view of the world, whether it’s based on reality or not. In coming to a place of being real genuine people, many of us struggle, finding ourselves dancing a fear based dance, one which begs to know what our new reality based world will look like before we step out into the unknown, letting go of our old non-reality based world. We hesitate in the face of change, because change is loss of the known…the comfortable.
Genuine people are those who walk through life, willing to embrace healthy change. When we embrace, and can tell the story of even the most painful aspects of our past, only then do we truly know who we are. In life, we are faced with a choice … be societal lepers, or be genuine people.
Writer: James C. Tanner