The mother intercepts her 10-year-old son’s poem. She is concerned, and brings it to me.
My first reaction to it is to notice the boy’s brilliance. The poem is magnificent. Several stanzas of terrific rhyme, meter and depth of thought. I admire this boy already.
“But, why the violence,” she implores. “I didn’t raise him this way. Why doesn’t he write poetry about flowers!”
It’s hard not to smile. To laugh at myself for forgetting for a moment that this patient is a woman and her therapist is a guy. Yep. Just like a guy. I missed her concern entirely.
The poem is about war. Soldiering. Blood and guts and bombs and life and death. When she read the poem, she saw violence. When I read the poem, I saw brilliance. I saw the archetype of The Warrior. And I respect The Warrior. I admire men who have the courage to call upon this archetype when necessary and appropriate.
So Mom and I talk about The Warrior.
The Warrior is not to be confused with its counterfeit cousin, The Punk. The Punk is filled with swagger, and has a desperate need to prove himself. In that sense, he’s looking for a fight, and not particularly discerning about the cause. The Punk is driven by ego. The Warrior emerges for the cause of justice. The Punk is angry, but scatters anger like a Roman candle. The Warrior is angry, too, but his anger is focused like a pinpoint laser light.
The Warrior is in charge of his anger.
The Punk’s goals include being right, being the winner and reveling in delusions of power and might. The Warrior’s only goals are to stand against evil and injustice, and to protect those threatened by same.
Modern Western women tend to be of two minds about The Warrior in their mates and sons. On the one hand, they are attracted to it. Not even feminism could change the fact that even the most empowered, competent, self-possessed woman wants a man with whom she feels safe. Feels protected. A man who would stand up with her and for her. In some cases, in her stead. Chivalry is not passe.
On the other hand, most modern women are terribly uncomfortable with The Warrior. Even horrified. Women tend to be embarrassed by and disappointed in men who can’t/won’t call upon The Warrior, and simultaneously be embarrassed by and disappointed in men who can and do!
Reminds me of a time I invited two women friends from seminary to watch me play basketball. We won. I played well. It was fun to show off for friends. But, over a couple of beers after the game, the women were uncomfortable. “I guess I’ve never seen that side of you,” one woman finally admitted.
Oh. Yeah. I’ll bet it is a bit of a shock. There’s me in my Everyday Nice Guy mode — kind, warm, empathic, good-natured, sensitive. And then there’s what becomes of me running up and down a 94-by-50-foot rectangle of varnished hardwood. Never a “dirty player,” but shamelessly aggressive. Handsy. Mouthy. Loud. Physical. And, admittedly, not very likable.
Direct confrontation is uncomfortable. It’s not “nice.” Not really focused on decorum or people liking you.
If it helps, I’d want women to know that only The Punk likes fighting. Warriors hate fighting. It takes tremendous psychic effort for healthy men to call upon The Warrior, because healthy men much prefer peace. My friend, Neeka, a Shawnee medicine man, tells it this way:
Neeka is a man of peace. But if you threaten his family, if you steal his horses or food stores, Neeka is willing to fight. He will paint the right side of his face red. The other, white. The red is Neeka’s anger. The white is Neeka’s love for peace. He will draw a black line down the center of his face. He is now a man divided against himself. You see Neeka painted like this, you run away quick! Because a man divided against himself is a very dangerous man.
I think women are right to be uncomfortable around The Warrior. The line between The Warrior and The Punk is fine indeed. And The Punk can wreak havoc.
But I also think women do well to respect The Warrior. And I suspect that would be easier to do if this culture raised women to be better able and willing to embrace their own Warrior.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling Wellness Center in Las Vegas and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at email@example.com.