Sometimes what looks like a fight is only the fierceness of love. At the moment, the honest struggle going on between men and women is less comfortable but more loving than the old false peace. We have moved from a condition of silent hostility, buried resentment, and covert low-intensity warfare to open conflict. So, the first thing we need to do is acknowledge the strong, strange interchange that is taking place between us. We are wrestling together, changing roles in the hay, engaging in honest intercourse, yessing and k(no)wing each other. And contact is the first condition of love.
Don't mess with us if you are looking for somebody
who will always be "nice" to you.
("Nice" gets you a C+ in life.)
Perhaps there is nothing more important for men to learn in their relationships with women than the difference between fierceness and violence. Fierceness is an expression of inner strength; violence is an expression of frustrated, unconscious impotence.
Equality Between Men and Women
Equality between men and women means that what is true for the goose is true for the gander. In liberating themselves, women undammed ancient rivers of anger and pain that swept away much that lay in the path of the flood the unjust and the just.
As men liberate themselves, they must also expect the swamp of hostility to erupt into a deluge of uncomfortable emotion that will certainly include torrents of rage and sorrow.
Respecting Each Other's Anger
For men and women to love each other, we must learn to respect each other's anger. Presently, like porcupines trying to make love, we circle and try to avoid the barbs. We are so terrified of the residue of accumulated anger that has been generated by the battle between the sexes that we settle for superficial contact rather than risk expressing our deepest "negative" feelings and start a new round of warfare.
When we do not express our anger, we simmer in silent hostility and make ineffective love and war at the same time. We hone our defenses against each other at the same time we talk about peace. Not a very wholehearted or hopeful way to live!
Men (and women) should be forewarned that, in the process of sorting out our experience, we will provoke anger -- both righteous and unrighteous. There is no reason to assume that as we begin to speak our bitterness it will be automatically wise, or that our anger will be appropriately directed. Some of the discoveries men make as they explore their intimate experience of manhood will be pleasing to women, others will not. As a rule, women cheer us when we become more sensitive to the nuances of feeling, when we surrender our compulsion to control.
Anger is Part of the Dance of Love
As we move tentatively toward reconciliation, it is helpful to remember that anger is a necessary part of the dance of love. Think of clean anger as the voice of the wise serpent on the early American flag who says, "Don't tread on me." Without anger we have no fire, no thunder and lightning to defend the sanctuary of the self. No anger = no boundaries = no passion.
Good men and good women have fire in the belly. We are fierce. Don't mess with us if you are looking for somebody who will always be "nice" to you. ("Nice" gets you a C+ in life.) We don't always smile, talk in a soft voice, or engage in indiscriminate hugs. In the loving struggle between the sexes we thrust and parry.
Honoring Your Righteous Anger
Honor your anger. But before you express it, sort out the righteous from the unrighteous. Immediately after a storm, the water is muddy; rage is indiscriminate. It takes time to discriminate, for the mud to settle. But once the stream runs clear, express your outrage against any who have violated your being. Give the person you intend to love the gift of discriminating anger.
The above was excerpted with permission
from Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen. Published by
Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, 10103.
(article published in the print edition of InnerSelf Magazine, June 1992)
About The Author
Sam Keen holds an MA. from the Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate from Princeton University. Mr. Keen's latest book is Learning to Fly: Trapeze--Reflections on Fear, Trust, and the Joy of Letting Go. Visit his website at http://www.samkeen.com