Most guys don’t have the sort of emotional life they were made for. Men just don’t know what to do with their emotions most of the time.
C.S. Lewis talked about this very issue in his book The Abolition of Man. He observed that the broader British culture of which he was a part of in the mid-twentieth century, and specifically the educational system, had stopped caring for people’s emotions.
Now, Lewis wasn’t arguing that everyone on the team should receive a trophy. Emotion and action were connected. According to Lewis, men and women had lost a sense of the “spirited element” (which he metaphorically located in the chest) that moves us to action in the right situation. Spirited-ness stands between our desires and our thoughts, and between our lust and our reason.
Men especially don’t know what to do with their passions and desires. We either give in to them recklessly, or try to suppress them, which is equally dangerous. We’ve now had several generations of “men without chests,” as Lewis suggests, who lack deep wells of emotional energy.
There are 2 options for men who lack chests:
1. Some men let their stomachs rule them.
Hedonism is their religion. Their god is their belly (Philippians 3:19). Comfort and pleasure drive every decision they make. They look for sex with no strings attached. They spend their free time and money on entertainment, food, and travel.
These guys are the life of every party, but there’s little to celebrate in their own lives. “It’s happy hour somewhere” becomes their mantra. They bury their fears and disappointments in the bottle. They may have deep care and affection for the people around them, but they’re not dialed in to their emotions enough to express it.
They are lured, enticed, and driven by their own desires.
2. Other men let their heads rule them.
Self-improvement is their main course, with a little Stoicism on the side. Rather than giving in to their immediate desires, their lives become one long three-step plan. They read all the self-help books and create life plans, sometimes in an effort to not have to deal with “distracting” emotions. They want order in and for their lives, and they’ll cut themselves off from their deepest passions to pursue it.
These guys may in fact have big chests. But they’re too enamored with their own appearance in the mirror to see the needs of the people around them. They spend all their emotional energy on themselves. Their plan might be working, but they become disconnected from their own hearts. Some guys are in control, and that is the problem. They end up viewing others as obstacles or opportunities for their own gain. They short-circuit the joy that comes from serving others.
Men With Chests
In the middle is the affectionate man, the man who allows himself to feel deeply about the world but is also interested in feeling appropriately. He’s not dominated by his emotions, but he doesn’t suppress them either. He can tap into the full range of emotional responses—warmth, tenderness, affection, grief, and joy—to engage God and others in a spirited way.
Originally published at DarrinPatrick.org