I recently had a conversation with one of my longtime friends who I haven’t spoken to or seen in a very long time. After speaking for a while about why we haven’t stayed in touch, I realized that our masculinity and our Jamaican culture played a huge part in our friendship. We both were too scared to tell each other we needed each other and missed each other. Me, being a young man who is blessed to have been mentored and loved by men who are Christ driven enough to openly say with their mouths that they love me, was quickly compelled to break the barrier between my friend and I. And so I explained to him the need for men to show affection to each other. “Because we need it”, and that beneath our tough exterior, way deep under our rugged ribs is a soft heart that needed manly love. I said “Jamaican men need to start saying the ‘L’ word without thinking it’s gay”. And at the end of the conversation, for the first time in our friendship, I said, “I love you bro!” and he said “I love you too bro!”
Now this wasn’t an easy conversation. It didn’t come easy to me and to be honest, my heart still skips a beat when I think about telling male members of my own family that I love them. But I remember Tony, my friend and someone who I consider to be a mentor; how he was the first man to say he loved me. He was the type of guy to randomly yell across the room to his son that he loved him. He didn’t care how often he said it or how other families looked at him, but he made sure that his son and the rest of his family knew that he loved them ALL THE TIME. And that’s how he made me feel. After every conversation, he wouldn’t walk away or hang up the phone without telling me he loved me. After a while I started questioning myself like how come I can’t say this to my own father, or my own brothers. I told Tony that I can’t remember hearing my dad say that he loved me, or if I ever said those words to him even. Tony quickly challenged me to START NOW! And so I planned it, and my dad came over my house one night and I waited. I waited until he was ready to go home so I wouldn’t have to bear his response. But I said it, right at the door as he stepped out into the hallway, “Daddy, mi love yuh” and he looked at me for a couples of seconds quietly and said “I love you too son” and we hugged. I was 27 years old.
I started to remember times when I was living in Jamaica and my friends would ask me if I loved my dad and I would say “No, mi no love man!” as if it was gay to love my father. Our natural response as Jamaican boys was to say “Mi rate mi faada”. A less compassionate word than love is to “rate”, meaning to have high respect for someone. I think a myriad of men today are calloused by the lack of affection we were trained to display to other men. I think our culture and tradition to “burn fire” on all forms of homosexuality made us shun the idea of building healthy relationships with our fathers. Some of us will never know what it feels like to have a strong bond with another man, a bond that strengthens and connects heterosexual men with genuine love. Eventually my father and I, as well as my brothers; while we’re not throwing around the ‘L’ word all day, are now more open to say we love each other every once in a while and I think our relationship has grown tremendously because of it. We’re more open and honest, and can mend broken parts of our past and masculinty because we know that we love each other and isn’t afraid to say it.
As a Christian, I can’t help but to peek into the lives of the biblical men of the times and see how they related to other men. Men like King David, the Apostle Paul, Peter, and even Jesus himself all had strong bonds with other men and were far from feminine or weak. For example, Jesus loved all his disciples but he especially loved John who most scholars believe to have been his best friend. Throughout the New Testament, the Apostle John is referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved. John 13:23 says “ One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side”, John 21:7 says “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’”. Jesus had a special bond with John and it was obvious to the others. Yet Jesus was more authoritative and manly than all of them put together. Even Paul and Timothy shared a loving relationship that propelled them into a ministry that brought the gospel across the world. King David, ruler and King who slew hundreds of men by sword, and had wives and concubines, had a deep relationship with his friend Jonathan. See what David says in 2 Samuel 1:26; “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” David knew what loyalty was, and he knew the importance of friendship among men that was in some sense stronger than the bond between women. David and Jonathan shared a real friendship that epitomized what love should look like among men.
To conclude, I think a lot of us, including myself never realized that love is more than a feeling, or emotion. But that love is an action and a type of union that isn’t just seen between man and woman, but can be seen between children and parents, and even between friends. There are different forms of love, and when I say to my brother I love him, I don’t mean it the same way when I tell my wife I love her, or my children, or my mother. I think we should all recognize that and for the sake of our children, especially our boys, we should openly tell them we love them with our mouths. Love conquers all, let’s normalize that in our culture.
READ: 1 Corinthians 13 (The Love Chapter)