Over the past several weeks I have experienced a transformation of sorts. Realistically, I haven't hardly changed at all. Rather I have finally claimed something important - my identity as a "gentle man".
I heard those two words - not the one word we typically hear, but "gentle" then "man", with a pronounced space in between - spoken by a peer at a training course for coaches. I knew that in the appreciation he was offering for that type of man that he was referring to me, among others. Those words, and that space, shot through me like a bolt of lightning. That was about six weeks ago.
A month after that moment, with the phrase still ringing in my ears, I attended the next course in the series. Many of the same people were there, including my new friend who had put a simple name to something that I couldn't quite pinpoint for a long time.
See, I actually started writing intensively about my own interpretation of manhood over six years ago. I actively launched that journey at a low point in my life, when I felt incredibly weak. I didn't understand manhood. So I started questioning and studying it. I started redefining it for myself.
Over the ensuing 6+ years, I reclaimed a lot in my life. I systematically rebuilt my mental health, my spiritual beliefs, my social life, my sense of home, my parenting style, my hobbies, and my career. It was really hard work and there were times when I wanted to give up, find a way to numb out, to quit. That didn't happen, because something had awakened inside of me and I had to see what it was.
So back in that coaching course last month, I shared over and over again with my peers about this topic of "gentle men". They helped me see what that seed was that had been growing all that time. It was my truest identity, one that I put aside a long, long time ago. In the process of tearing my life down to the studs and building it back up again, that identity somehow found its way back to the forefront. If I'm being honest, that "somehow" is my unbending strength and will, powers that I didn't even realize I had.
In sharing a version of this story recently with my friend, the one who spoke the words with the space between them, I commented that I have finally gotten strong enough to be gentle.
All of that work was worth it. I can hardly wait to see what happens next.