I have been in a discussion on the longhair forum, and a poignant message came in:

I been getting stressed over growing long hair and so far to me I feel it’s not worth it. I thought of positive and negative things about long hair. I came up with mostly negative things about long hair like worrying about split ends, damaging hair, peoples reactions and maintaining it. The only thing I came up with that is positive is you like long hair. When I shower I can’t enjoy hot showers any more since I worry if it’s going to damage it and so far I feel when I have short I can relax and not worry about this. When my head itches I think I am damaging it when rubbing my head. I really want long hair and don’t know what to do and feel just giving up so I don’t worry about all this. I try not to think about this but it’s hard since I don’t want my hair looking horrible so I don’t give long haired guys a bad reputation. Because a lot people don’t like long hair on guys and want to show everyone they are wrong about long haired guys. I really need some advice in case I overlooked some positive things and in case others worried about things like this before.

I answered on a fairly practical level:

You seem to have a problem of self-confidence. Of course, I don’t know anything about your age, lifestyle, job and philosophy of life. Those are things that “provide the context” about choices like growing hair and affirming your identity and personality in different ways.

The bottom line is that it is your choice, and no one will blame you if you choose to keep your hair short. I did that for many years. If you want long hair, there are several “usual reasons” like following the fashion of a subculture or because you “feel” it is part of you.

Growing hair and going through the “awkward stage” is not easy. That’s where I am at 7 months since my last haircut. We need to avoid being self-conscious. Just act natural, or be natural.

Hair is often tougher than we think. Just look after it normally without getting worried about it. Use good shampoo and conditioner and let it dry in the air without using an electric hair dryer. You can still have a hot (or warm) shower and either wash your hair or tie it back to keep it dry on the other days.

There’s a lot of anxiety in your message. Hair is something we need to enjoy, otherwise there’s not much point to it if it’s an ordeal. You seem also to be worried about what “others will say”. You can’t please everybody, and it still won’t be good enough if you fit exactly into the mould. Be yourself.

My advice is to get the basis straight. Is long hair your way? If it is, you have to take the awkward with the good and persevere with it. There are all sorts of practical things people can help you with on this board, but the essential has to come from you.

It felt incomplete to me, so I added another message:

Another thought came into my mind as I was showering and washing my hair this morning. It is all to do with our attitude in life and our expectations.

Some people are constantly worried about their health, constantly seeing the doctor for minor problems and looking for remedies on the internet. Life has to be lived, even when we do have problems. Our friend Ted on this board is a heroic example of this. We just go on, whether it is life in general, health, money problems and poverty – or the minor inconvenience of growing hair and keeping it reasonably clean and tidy.

Another analogy is saving money to buy a new car. We deprive ourselves of other things to be able to afford what we really want. That being said, the greatest gift in our life – beyond possessions and things that make us feel powerful – is our happiness and freedom in being ourselves, whether or not we believe in any kind of God or some other “being” beyond ourselves.

For many on this forum, growing hair is a journey, like exploring the sea or an unmapped piece of land. It is an exciting challenge, but there are difficulties we have to face and overcome.

My own experience over the past few years has been illuminating. I look back at my own desires and beliefs of when I was about 12, and I find many things I have missed over the years. One thing was sailing, and another was the long hair of poets, artists and musicians in the early 19th century, another (which I never put aside) was music and organ playing. Another was composing polyphonic vocal music, and all these things are adding up into something beautiful and whole.

I went up many blind alleys from my teens and up into my forties, so it is important to take up threads where we left off. This is even more so when we begin to get older and see the sand running through the glass – there’s no stopping it.

You are not me, and you have another experience in life. Look at your “reference age” and you will see the answer. You will then never let go of the precious pearl!

It occurs to me that I am simply reflecting on the notion of vocation and purpose of life, two somewhat inscrutable notions for us all, believers and non-believers alike. In the end it isn’t about hair or personal vanity, but who we are and why we’re here. Churches need to deepen the notion of vocation and the idea of a person serving God and the Church by being himself, and not fitting into a conformity mould. One has to have courage to allow people to be themselves, because we become disturbed in our own certitudes and fear of the sinfulness of others.

I have probably discovered more about the notion of vocation in the longhair world than in all my years at seminary and listening to teaching coming from many wise men. We arrive at a time when many of the things we older people knew are being swept away and replaced by nihilism and vulgarity. On the other hand, a seed is bringing forth something new and I refuse to believe that the future is only ugliness and death. There is something in the way of a reaction from The Machine and the dictatorship of exaggerated rationalism. Look beyond the tattoos and heavy rock motives, and some of those souls are opening to grace and light. Yes, I believe in miracles!

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