When I was 17 years old, waiting to board an airplane, I caught an older couple sneak in a quick kiss. It was the kiss of a couple who’d been together for many years, a mere peck on the lips, a silent “I love you.”
Unremarkable as the kiss was, it provoked feelings of frustration inside of me. I distinctly remember thinking “man, he just got more action than I’ve ever had in my life.”
These days, I run a business which teaches men to be great – for themselves first, then for (and with) the women in their lives. That’s not always how it’s marketed, but it’s how the message ultimately reaches them. My early impediments with women drove me to seek answers, which became passionate learning, which became a mission to share with others. And now, with about half a million newsletter subscribers, I’ve been asked by friends, family and readers to offer some commentary on the UCSB shooting.
In a few short days, many words have been spilled. Mostly, I see shallow reporting, predictable finger pointing, and the typical commentary about public policy. I see reflexive responses on social media, virtual pitchforks being sharpened, and virtual effigies burned.
I wonder when the #NotAllMen hashtag is going to start, because the actions of this idiot, and the misogynistic crap he piled into his brain, are NOT an appropriate characterization of men in general, or even most men who are trying to become better with women.
(edit: apparently there’s already such a hashtag, and people are offended.)
But I don’t think any of that is going to move the needle much. (edit: as evidenced by the hashtag shootout, it doesn’t seem to be). Anyone with a heart will grieve for the lives that were needlessly, and stupidly, ended. Meanwhile the NRA will retrench their position, the anti-gun crowd will raise the banner once again, the PUAs will have some dumb things to say, and the newsmedia will have another series of nonevents to call Breaking News.
Great. But I think that all misses the point, and the real opportunity here.
Elliot Rodgers was unhinged. We don’t know by how much, but we know that his brain operated on the fringes of “well-adjusted.” He was a killer first and foremost, and a misogynist second. It’s unlikely that he had the agency which you and I have: to choose what to focus on… to choose what to believe.
You and I do have that choice.
Let’s consider attitudes towards the opposite sex.
To take a few stereotypes: you can believe that all women are gold-diggers, and that all men are sexual opportunists.
Heck, you can even find research studies or theories of evolutionary biology to back up these beliefs… in either direction. I’ve seen too many men use evolutionary biology to explain away their misogyny, and too many women use sociology to justify their contempt.
Believe these things strongly enough, and you’ll find yourself joining communities of like-minded people. Keep going down this road, and you’ll develop an identity, and maybe even a holy mission. Some of Elliot Rodgers’ influences made names for themselves by spewing hate, fanning the flames of frustration, and offering salvation to those who will “take back what’s rightfully theirs.”
Sounds to me like the same playbook that Terry Jones and Osama bin Laden ran.
But when we chose a belief or identity which holds that people who aren’t like us are to be feared – and thus, fought and conquered – we make things worse.
When we choose a belief or identity which holds that we’re entitled to, well, anything – we make things worse.
When we choose a belief or identity which holds that retribution – to ANY degree – is justifiable – we make things worse.
None of that is progress. It’s a black hole.
And I don’t know a way to make things much worse than to hold such a belief about 50% of the world’s population – the opposite sex.
We may never know the genesis of Elliot Rodgers’ beliefs. Right now, it seems like it’s more nature than nurture.
I can speak to the pain of social awkwardness and romantic frustration, and so can many other men who follow me. I’ve met clients who have autism, aspergers, or a general lack of social intelligence. I know the darkness that grows in the heart of those who can’t connect with others.
A Frustrated Lad
I receive daily messages from men who are hung up on a particular woman. Do they feel entitled to her? No. They just like her, and they want their feelings to be reciprocated. They don’t think it’s their right, but they’d sure like for it to happen. And many of these men will make great boyfriends.
Lost in all of the commentary I’ve seen so far, and also, in many of the less friendly messages I receive, is any sort of sympathy for offering these men a helping hand. “Just be yourself,” they’re told. “If she doesn’t like you, just accept that.”
Well, that attitude drove Van Gogh to cut off his ear. I get frustrated by the shallow answers and the lack of support for men who want to improve with women.
And then there are the endless stories of couples who ended up together because “I didn’t like him at first, but he persisted, and eventually we went out on a date… and twenty years later, here we are.”
The fact is, there’s every reason to be hopeful for men, and women, and men and women together. There’s great information out there for those sane enough to seek it, and more communities of support than ever before. We’ve seen the garbage that Elliot Rodgers’ was feeding upon; great information and great community, it was not.
Yet don’t we know the cycle all too well ourselves? When was the last time you read – with open heart and mind – an opposing viewpoint to your own?
When was the last time you challenged a belief you held?
The prejudices we hold about others are more reflective of our own shortcomings, than they are the group we fear or don’t understand.
When was the last time you thought to make a change in your own heart, instead trying to force your belief upon others?
Changing others becomes infinitely easier when you are the one whose empathy bridges the gap of understanding.
If you’re working with a full deck, then you have the unique privilege of asking how well your beliefs are serving you, and others. And if you feel frustration about the opposite sex, then its time to question how well that’s serving you.
I chose to believe that there are amazing women out there, and sure enough… there are.
I chose to believe that men can go from zero to hero, and I’ve received enough messages to know it to be so.
I chose reconciliation, understanding and love instead of frustration, anger and hate.
I chose to explore my beliefs, to challenge them, and to grow.
If you’re a dating coach, a PUA or men’s right activist, or a voice on gender relations (yes – this goes for feminists too), then the same is demanded of you in this moment.
To those outraged and to those seeking answers, I’d encourage you to do the same. When your beliefs give you the strength to reach out to others with love… to take the time and space to understand them – even those who hate and fear you – that’s the humanity in you at it’s very best.
About the Author: http://www.jch.me/christian-hudson-bio/