Maslow on the strongest people in our society

February 29, 2016 in Blog


I think this passage, from an unpublished speech Maslow gave to the Saga Foundation in 1969, is especially relevant today:

“The strongest people in our society are maybe the softest– in the sense of being altruistic and idealistic… Part of the American difficulty with affection, love, and sentiment is mixed up with our never-ceasing effort to look tough, strong, invulnerable. It is as if mature adults are trying to cloak themselves in the whole adolescent interpretation of masculinity. I remember recently seeing a teenage antiwar protestor on the television news. He was carrying a placard saying, “I am a man.” Then, he began throwing rocks into storefront windows! Well, men do not throw rocks into windows. Only kids do.”

Then later, on “manliness”:

“The definition of adult masculinity– of what a fully grown, mature man is like– certainly includes softness, that is, the ability to become sentimental and affectionate. It is only the adolescent male who does not dare to show his affection. You know, adolescents today find it very hard to display affection because behavior appears weak. So unfortunately, they miss out on many good things… [Clearly stating good things] is a mature, psychologically health attitude. It is typical of the man who feels authentically self-confident and who can, therefore, be tender. But if you lack self-confidence, then you have to act tough all the time and consequently to overdo tough behavior.”


One Response to “Maslow on the strongest people in our society”

  1. Do you have a link to the full article? I would be interested in reading it.

    I think the problem is that over-time the socially-accepted definition becomes the chest-thumping, tough-of-the-outside definition, rather than the strong-but-gentle type that Maslow talks about. This then becomes problematic for both the people who try to be strong, but gentle, as well as society at large.