A Few Good Men, Crying

Andrew Gaertner
13 min readOct 28, 2021
me — photo by me.

I recently attended an online men’s retreat. It was a chance for me to learn from a well-respected teacher in our organization about what it means to be a man and about ways to use that understanding to become a better human.

We call these retreats “workshops,” probably because the leader asks us to do a lot of work. Our work is to participate in classes and then take turns listening to each other in pairs or in small groups. When feelings come up, we encourage our listening partners to express them. The theory is that rational thinking is blocked when we can’t express our feelings, and so after some emotional expression, we can recover clarity.

My workshop was dimmed a little because it was online. When we have in-person men’s workshops we can really get under each other’s skin and support more release of emotion. We do this by giving each other our full attention, which is easier in person. Despite being online, I could feel the good attention of the men, and I had a number of powerful sessions. It was good work, if exhausting.

Why I do this work

I do this work because I think that healing the hurts imposed on men in our society is one key to ending the cycles of oppression where men reenact those hurts on ourselves, other people, and the environment. Sexism, male domination, and toxic masculinity are all problems for men, just like they are problems for women and non-binary people. If we can heal our original hurts, then everybody wins, including us men.

Hurting others is not rational. Before any boy learns how to hurt another human, the boy needs to have his natural release of emotions blocked. When I was growing up, I learned that boys don’t cry. I personally had a hard time with this because I was a certified “cry-baby.” I remember what would happen on the soccer field when I would cry about an injury. What hurt even worse than the physical pain was my shame at having to stop the game for me to cry. Learning to control my tears was a way to survive as a child and avoid embarrassment; it was a rite of passage. Once I figured out how to suppress my tears, I felt like I could finally live my life, but at what cost?

Our society devalues emotion on every level, and uses that devaluation to specifically oppress every group of people. If a woman is…

Andrew Gaertner

To live in a world of peace and justice we must imagine it first. For this, we need artists and writers. I write to reach for the edges of what is possible.