Written by Jesse Kane
That shame you feel from being blacklisted by a whole women’s dorm at college—it’s haunting you. It’s nakedness without a fig leaf. It’s humiliation on a high place. Granted, asking several of your ex’s friends out directly after your breakup wasn’t the best choice. But belabouring your responsibility is just salt in the wound.
It’s much easier to toss the salt behind your back and claim you’re a victim than it is to own your own poor choices. You read posts on incel forums, demonising women instead of facing up to your own mistakes. Self-righteousness is a hell of a drug, and the Church hardly has the market cornered. Trench-coated Reddit vendors are happy to be your plug, trading upvotes for lies to dull the isolation.
You’re hearing a story right now that says the road ahead is seclusion. You’re hearing that it’s a long, dark road that you have to walk alone, but you don’t. You aren’t alone, and you never have been.
Incels are “involuntary celibates,” people who feel like they have, for one reason or another, been excluded from romantic relationships. Most feel too inadequate to have a relationship, and they are angry at whatever system sent them solo.
In joining these forums, it feels like you’re finally being honest. You know you’re socially awkward, whatever, but at least you aren’t burying that with self-improvement or denial. You are facing reality, in all of its brutality and loneliness. You know it’s toxic. Yet you deny they’re hurting you, and that’s less because you’re blind and more because you’re afraid it’s all true.
Groups like incels, or the broader “manosphere,” are born from very real and all too common feelings of inferiority. Some people try to cover up their self-doubt through self-improvement, while others try to deny and overcome it through force of will. But with incels, there’s a kind of honesty in the recognition that they don’t fit the “Chad” mold and that means they are going to be alone. The hurt, loneliness, and even anger that they feel is a human reaction to the pain of isolation.
People’s advice adds insult to injury: Fish in the sea, keep your back straight like a lobster, and so on. People peddle techniques for earning love when you’d rather be loved for who you actually are. But that’s the rub—you feel like you actually are unlovable.
But you are loved. You have a small dorm of men around you who are like brothers. Your friend Jordan sits there for an hour listening to you verbally exorcise your demons. Braeden sympathises with your outrage at being blacklisted but then invites you for a burger. Kolten drags you to the gym every day. They pray with you, study with you, and take communion with you. Despite the way your emotional pain turns you inward, they draw you out.
And they don’t try to fix you. Jacob never oozed an ounce of contempt; he was always with you in your pain, experiencing it with you. I sometimes wonder if he was lonely too, but he had found a way to be with other people in their pain, to be with you in your pain. Tell me that isn’t love.
You’re going to keep seeing that therapist, Brian. It’s going to feel like you’re spinning your wheels for a while. But then one day he’s going to ask you about a time you felt loved, and you’re going to see this picture in your mind’s eye of your dad beaming at you, a child. At that moment you’re going to crack and break and flood out onto the floor and weep for the entire session with no hope of pulling yourself back together.
I don’t really have words for what happened. Things got a lot better after that. It’s like you finally saw everybody’s love all at once—God’s included.
Now, listening to my wife play with our dog in the kitchen, I’m sobered by the knowledge that you would recoil from us. You would think I had life handed to me, and you’d be right. Everything I have now is a gift from God that I cherish.
I still struggle with the same fear that I’m not worth loving, and it puts me outside my marriage—like the other son in the prodigal son story, insisting on a portion he’s always had. The Father’s invitation to come inside and belong calls me to repent of my fear now, just as it calls you out of the resentment that has intoxicated you.
Lord, journey with this wayward traveller.
Journey with me now as you did then.
The road is winding, and we are prone to getting lost.
Keep drawing us back to your path.
Your future self.