Men in RC: A Working-Class Man's Point of View

I want to say a few things about men because I have noticed that a fair number of men take an RC fundamentals class and then quit RC.

My wife, Maggie, is teaching a class that I am assisting. One of the best parts of the class is the participation that takes place. Usually after Maggie's lecture, I say something I think is important. I say it from my working-class point of view. Then L - speaks up about his experience, and T - does the same, along with several others in the class. I think that with my male point of view out there (and respected), other men feel safe to show themselves.

It is the feeling safe part that men are looking for. It could be church, or the Forum, or Alcoholics Anonymous, or the bowling alley or local bar. They will look and look and look. If we Co-Counselors want RC to be the place, we have to be a listening place. We are preached at as soon as we start school when we are five years old. We are told how to think and act. If RC classes are just another place to be preached at, then safety is not achieved.

A few years ago I was at an RC Catholic Liberation Workshop. I didn't say much at the workshop and was restimulated during the whole thing. For the last demonstration on Sunday, I was chosen along with two others. I was asked how it was growing up Catholic. I came out of my seat screaming. I told about still feeling alone, quieted, silenced, etc. - just like when I was a child. I stomped around like a wounded animal and emptied my anger out like never before. I was allowed to speak. I took the safety that was allowed me. I broke through to many men in the audience. The safety was there for all to soak up. When we men start to really speak about our distresses, we sound pretty messed up. We look and notice if there is acceptance for all distresses, not just the easy ones. It takes time for us to figure out that it might be safe. The safety for me is from no judgment, and complete love and acceptance of all my struggles.

In the last few years, things have gotten so tight that two men cannot walk down the same sidewalk together without suspicion of their being Gay (not that there is anything wrong with that!). Yet the same two men can drink themselves sick night after night in a bar with no implications. There are not a lot of places for working-class men to go and be social without alcohol. For lots of men, their social lives depend on drinking a few beers with the guys. When men enter RC, are they supposed to give up their drinking friends? The bottom line is we have to be thoughtful. We have to know what we are asking and how to give men real safety in their sessions.

Men are lonely and terrified. We have rarely had ongoing warm, safe human contacts. Sometimes just having my counselor pet my face is enough to contradict the feelings of loneliness. Men want to weep and to unload their fear and show their rage at being so isolated. Each of us needs to be wrapped in warmth and genuine human friendliness. There must be safety to counsel on the shameful secrets without fear of judgment or preaching. For me, beer is losing its effect. Each session I get makes alcohol less and less attractive, thanks to some really safe counselors.

If you can't be the counselor you would like to be, go into a session and ask yourself what men mean to you. How important are they in your life? Then try to understand what it would be like if most of your friends were alcoholics. What would it be like if most of your friends were veterans of bloody wars? What would it be like if you were not seen as human but as part of the machine you worked at all day? What would it be like to not be used to ever saying what you thought (working-class) or being held in suspicion if you talked too much (middle-class)?

In Maggie's class, men and women each got an evening to tell their stories. There was no holding back, and it was powerful to hear. The men got to listen to women, and the women got to listen to men. With this deep respect, there is more and more safety to show the most painful hurts and fears. When this happens, men stay in RC. They know it is their place. I know it is my place.

Tom Washa
Middleton, Wisconsin, USA

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00