The isolation of narcissism prevents empathy. Empathy is a natural ability we were all born with. It’s “feeling the feelings of others, as if they were your feelings.” But most boys got this emotional talent squeezed or beaten out of them during their upbringing. Most of us were told, or shown, that it’s “not manly” to feel deeply, or cry, or share in the suffering of others. We were expected to be tough, impervious to pain. Too often we were taught how to inflict suffering on others. Empathy is not a valued emotion in competitive sports, military operations, or the cut-throat world of business.
As men, we can re-learn this crucial skill of empathy. Stretch your awareness out to the other person, and feel what they’re feeling. You don’t have to agree with the feelings, or even like them — you just have to feel them. When you lower the impervious shield you’ve built to stay invulnerable, you become more willing to feel. This opens you to more of your own suffering, and the suffering of others, but it also opens you to compassion and joy.
Men who are shut down into egotistical narrowness are missing out on the glory of true masculinity. Full masculinity includes both vulnerability as well as strength, the ability to cry as well as laugh, and the ability to feel grief as well as joy. In our full masculinity, we can care more openly, and receive the potent love and wisdom of the feminine.
And by the way — this increased awareness, openness and care prove useful in business relationships, too. Research shows that compassionate leaders produce better business and financial results, and their employees are more productive. (See Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education for more information.)
It looks like a long journey from narcissism to true love, but it can be accomplished one step at a time. Care a little more each day. Practice one intentional act of kindness every day. As you care for the well-being and feelings of others, you grow to be more fully human, and certainly more masculine. And the sooner you get there, the better, not just for your self, but for the women and children whose lives you touch.