Characteristics of powerful men

September 22, 2010 · 2 Comments
Category: 2010 September - Men and Power 

by Steve Norcross

When I was a kid, I feared powerful men. Now upon reflection, my fear was based on observations that were real. In the world I grew up in, many men were powerful to the extent that they were dominant if not domineering over members of their families. Their work tended toward the competitive, and their life styles were punctuated by alcohol and a love of high contact sports.

Since then, I have come to appreciate power in new and much more human ways. The truly powerful men in my life have these characteristics.

Powerful men protect Unlike the false description of powerful men of my childhood, the man of power today protects those who, because of nature or level of ability, are weaker. The so-called powerful man of my childhood exploited and abused the earth. Today’s man of power protects the earth, even and especially when he may forgo convenience and favor with the establishment.

Powerful men love with heart, soul, mind, and strength. The man of power uses both his head and his emotions in his decisions and in his dealings with those in his life. The man of power does not hesitate to weep with those who weep, laugh with those who laugh. He will oppose oppression through his actions and through his influence.

Powerful men are constantly growing in their knowledge of the world and of their leadership within it. They are not afraid to fall back sometimes, allowing others to take the lead, for by being faithful followers they are showing wisdom.

I am glad to have discovered that men of genuine power are not to be feared, but are to be honored.

SteveNorcross Steve Norcross is an Episcopal priest, the director of pastoral services at William Temple House, and the Priest-in-Charge at Ascension Parish. He is married with two grown children and a granddaughter on the way. His blog is at

Gender differences: Are men or women more likely to be mentally ill?

June 20, 2010 · 1 Comment
Category: 2010 June - Mental Health 

by Steve Norcross

Part of my training as an Episcopal priest was to go through a summer of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).  I accomplished this as an intern at a state mental hospital in Texas. Years later, I advanced my education to become a supervisor in CPE, and did so at a large federal mental hospital in Washington, DC.

My training assigned me to several wards, some of which were coed, and others one-gender. In this article I noted some of the key differences between them.

If I had been blindfolded and a door opened that would take me into a men’s ward,  I would have known from the sound which ward I was on. Men’s wards were noisier. While many women seemed to be completely absorbed in their own thoughts, men were more likely to be active, moving, or in conversation with other patients.

This is an interesting observation against the widely held view that women talk more than men. Maybe there is something about being a patient that brings out the activity and words in men while directing women toward the interior life.

I saw several men restrained, but very few women. Restraining is a big issue in mental health hospital care. Mmost enlightened professionals see it as a last resort in preventing a patient from harming self or others. The frustration that many mentally ill people feel in comprehending their world and their situations sometimes results in physical attack. The men in my sample seemed especially prone to this.

Suicide and suicide attempts are another factor in managing mental illness. While more women attempt suicide, more men succeed (if suicide can be called success). Men have access to weapons more than do women. If a troubled man suggests suicide, the possibility that he will follow through is very real.

In brief, my observation was that fewer men were admitted to the mental hospital, but the ones who there were seriously ill. Men may seek medical care less readily than women, and men may have more cultural freedom to set boundaries and make alternative choices.

Men aren’t necessarily any crazier than women, but the form and result of being crazy may differ, as in most other areas of life.

SteveNorcross Steve Norcross is an Episcopal priest, the director of pastoral services at William Temple House, and the Priest-in-Charge at Ascension Parish. He is married with two grown children and a granddaughter on the way. His blog is at

Gender Differences: Women love by sentiment. Men love by action.

March 20, 2010 · 3 Comments
Category: 2010 March - Men and Love 

by Steve Norcross

Women give and receive love as sentiment. Men give and receive love as action.

Already I’m in trouble. I have made a sweeping generalization with many exceptions. In this time of discovering that men and women are more alike than different, and in this day of a blurring of the lines that formerly defined the gender roles, I may be politically incorrect to describe inherent differences between the sexes.

Actually, I’m glad it’s no longer possible to state categorically that “men are like this” and “women are like that.” I grew up in a time and in a place in which gender roles were quite rigidly defined. A man rarely raised a child, and a woman rarely held a professional job. Thanks to a more enlightened time, and admittedly the victories of feminism, women and men have more equal access to both the world of action and the world of sentiment.

Having said that, I see evidence that in spite of attempts to equalize the genders, there are differences in the way men and women express their love for one another, for those they care about, for the world, and for the values they hold in high regard. Rather than being imprisoned by gender roles, the differences between men and women can be expressions of innate preferences, and the differences can give permission to explore deeply held desires.

Been in a greeting card store lately? I haven’t, but I remember going into one a few years back in search of a card for someone. I counted eight women customers while I was the only man. I began to notice some other things about the store. The color pink was much in evidence. I detected the scent of candles. The background “music” was, well, sweet. The place seemed crowded with narrow aisles. The customers (except for me) seemed to want to hang around for a long time. Generally, the ambience was feminine.

In contrast, I visited a building supply center a few days later to shop for a new kitchen faucet. The gender ratio there was still eight to one, but men occupied the higher number. The items there were tools and building materials. The aisles were wide and straight. There was no music playing in the background. The scent was that of sawdust. No one lingered. It was strictly go in, get what you need, and check out. Generally, the ambience was masculine.

Yes, we have discovered that life is much the same for men and for women. Yet, there are innate differences. And the particular ways that men and women express love may be similar but tend to be different.

After 25 years of marriage, my wife Sandy and I sometimes find that our expectations of love run up against gender differences. There have been times that she has tried to turn me into a woman, and there have been times that I have tried to turn her into a man. None of these ploys work, of course, and generally we are happier and more content if we leave each other be for who we are.

On her birthday, I tend to prepare a special meal or to take her out someplace. These gestures are appreciated, yet I know her well enough to realize that a card — for which I have gone into that scary card shop to stand for an hour as I go through the stacks of cards until I find just the right message — a card that I bring home with a kiss and assurance that she is the most special woman in the universe, such a card would surpass her greatest dream as a birthday present.

On my birthday, I repeat my frequent phrase that the greatest gift is to keep me well fed and well sexed. Everything else is window dressing. She recognizes this and generally pleases me all the time, especially on my birthday, but I know she believes that these things are everyday and not particularly special. To me, the action speaks more loudly than the sentiment. Vive la difference!

In 1992, John Gray published the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The book was a sensation because he was able to articulate what people had instinctively known.

Sometimes Sandy and I go to meetings without the other. When I come home from mine, she wants to know who was there and what was said and how everyone felt. When she comes home from hers, I want to know what decisions were made and what the next step will be. Mars and Venus.

‘By now, I likely have enraged several readers who will want to dismiss me as a chauvinist pig. In self defense, I need to say that I believe in equal access to all of life’s blessings and curses without regard to gender. I love it when a woman becomes the head of a corporation and the head of state. I love it when a man wins custody of his children and raises them as an capable single parent. More to the point, I am pleased when women love men with their bodies and men love women with their hearts.

But after a generation of men who have been labeled as “New Age,” it’s time to recognize that men and women have distinctive styles of loving. Men are rediscovering their deeply masculine selves. This is the self of firm leadership and assertive action.

Women love by sentiment. Men love by action.

SteveNorcross Steve Norcross is an Episcopal priest, the director of pastoral services at William Temple House, and the Priest-in-Charge at Ascension Parish. He is married with two grown children and a granddaughter on the way. His blog is at

‘New Warrior’ men make good fathers

June 21, 2009 · Leave a Comment
Category: Fatherhood, Men and Parenting 

by Steve Norcross

Once again, the third Sunday in June is Father’s Day. Greeting card publishers, clothing manufacturers, distilleries, and long-distance phone operators are hoping to realize a profit from the once-a-year obligation many feel to honor their dads. I hope my own kids, at least, call and wish me well, tell me that they love me.

I’m put in mind, this time of year, to recall and honor my fathers and grandfathers. I hope to be so honored by my descendents.

The New Warrior Training Adventure offers – among other opportunities – the chance to face, honestly and courageously, those important people in our past who contributed to our lives, or who prevented us from becoming the men we could be.

For most of us, parents were the most important people in our childhood. Our mother and father both emerge as having a huge influence during the NWTA. Many men going through the weekend choose to confront their mom and/or their dad.

Flawed as our parents were, the new warrior men (graduates of the NWTA) who choose to move on in life will deal cleanly with their memories of how they were raised.

The lessons we  learn during the New Warrior Training Adventure soon begin to become integrated in our daily lives – where we work, where we play, and where we live.

I came home from my weekend (Camp Melacoma, Washington, February 1998) resolved to not repeat the same kinds of mistakes that I judge my father had made. I intended to be a better father to my grown children. In some ways, I am succeeding.

Below are the some of the lessons from my weekend that now support my resolve to become a better father.

All of me is welcome here

Looking back to my family of origin, I realize that only some of me was welcome. “Nice” was an enormously operative word in that time and place.

In contrast, when we check in at a gathering of our men’s integration group (i-group), we admit clearly, cleanly, and honestly what we are feeling. There is no censorship or shame about sharing honest feeling.

Clean emotional expression was not permitted in my home, possibly due to verbal violence in my parents’ past. The new warrior dad will welcome his children’s honest expression of emotion. He will demonstrate by his own example, by his acceptance of their emotions, that whatever they feel is welcome.

I statements

Looking back, I realize that I really didn’t know my dad. He rarely shared with me (or anyone else) his innermost feelings and thoughts.

The warrior dad begins to speak for himself, and only for himself. This lets the kids know where their dad stands and who he is. It can make a child’s day to hear his dad say, “I’m really happy with the way you did that.”

Be the man in my kid’s life

We suffer in the U.S. from a national tragedy of absent fathers. Even when dad might live at home, he’s often not around the house very often. When he is home, he’s not really emotionally present.

New warrior dads are given the chance to claim back their balls, especially if they lost them to their moms or their mom’s replacement, be she a wife or a female partner.

I clearly remember my dad warning me not to upset my mom, because once she grew unhappy, she would make life miserable for him and everyone else in the house. I judge that my dad had resigned his job as a parent, in deference to her, which has caused immense trouble for me as an adult male.

New warrior men can turn this around for themselves. We do not expect our partners (female or male) to do all the parenting for us. We show our boys (and girls) what it means to be a strong man in the family.

Provide leadership in my world

Children, especially boys, are looking for strong male role models. They want men they can respect, who will respond to them openly and honestly.  They want men who will set boundaries for safety yet also support their courage to break the rules if it does not endanger them.

During the course of the NWTA weekend, new brothers will be challenged to be all these things, and more. If you take the training, for instance, the changes in you will make a real  difference in your kids’ lives. They are looking for you to be a leader in their lives and your own, to show them how to be a leader.

Through mentoring your children through the years, how would it feel if the difference you make in your children’s lives leads them to become strong leaders?

Show up and be here now

A man’s life is pulled in many directions. Any job, especially in recessionary economies, challenges us to work more and more, harder and harder – just to hang on to the job. Outside of employment, the activities  we have chosen can enrich us but can also ask a lot from us (men’s work being a sharp example!).

Coming home from staffing an NWTA weekend, for example, I may be tempted to retreat into a book or a drink or collapse in bed, a video or the computer for escape. First, though, my focus is on my partner, and then my focus is on the kids. When it’s time for my family at home, they deserve all of me, not half of me because I’m still working in my mind or still caught up in the world.

New warriors  know how to focus, to be here now, to devote 100 percent attention to the present moment. Our brothers will call us on our inattention if our minds appears to be somewhere else. Our children may not be so up front with us, yet they still deserve full attention, our full presence.

For these and for other reasons, new warrior men make better fathers. One man, and one family at a time, we are making a gigantic difference for ourselves, for our sons and daughters, and for our world.

Experiencing Father’s Day in June with a phone call, a new necktie and a greeting card may be all that some men ever get. For the New Warrior dad, every day can be a father’s day. By being a real man, an authentic gift to your children,  in due time, the blessings of your love will return to you a million times over.

SteveNorcross Steve Norcross is a leader in the MKP Northwest and Portland Councils. An Episcopal priest, he is the director of pastoral services at William Temple House and the Priest-in-Charge at Ascension Parish. He is married with two grown children and a granddaughter on the way.