Grin and Beard It

I recently trimmed my beard.

I wouldn’t usually consider such a thing worthy of a passing comment, let alone a post, except that– well, a few things.

First, I used to have a rather big beard, so the difference is notable.  My niece even said she didn’t recognize me when she first saw me afterwards!

Second, in the religious circles I often frequent, wearing a long beard can also be a religious act. Kabbalistically, some consider the beard to be a conduit through which G*d passes blessings, so one would not want to diminish it in anyway.  Also, Jewish law has some things to say about touching a razor to one’s face, and the corners of one’s hair (although it’s possible to shave without those issues coming to bear).

Third, often when people make a large change to their appearance it reflects some inner change, so my friends ask, “Has something important changed?”

Fourth, I’m planning a visit back to Minnesota, and some of my friends there may feel it has something to do with changes in my life (getting married, moving to California, etc).

So I thought it might be helpful just to write my thoughts about it here, rather than repeat myself many times if/when folks ask.

Many months ago I noticed that the long beard felt like it was getting in my way physically, in a way it never had before.  I kept feeling irritation when it got pulled on, or dipped into food, or when the ends brushed my eyes and my face.  For me, that kind of irritation can be a sign of some inner shift, so I asked inside to see what might be happening.  And there were several things:

  • Socially, I noticed that here in California folks reacted to my beard as more of a “statement” than I had felt it was in Minnesota, and I felt it creating distance between myself and other people as a result.  That surprised me, since, if anything, I would expect the Californians to be more easy-going about lifestyle choices.  Perhaps it had more to do with the overall perception of the beard as a religious statement, and the assumption of rigid, dogmatic views?
  • Psychologically, in accessing some old trauma issues from childhood, I was feeling the need to express some very young feelings and memories.  Somehow that was harder to do with a large beard (which is more associated with age and wisdom, I suppose).
  • Spiritually, I am in a period of openness and growth, and somehow the long beard felt associated with a settled energy.  I felt an itch to stir things up a bit and be less fettered.

So for many months I let the idea percolate to see how it might settle out.

My wife has been wonderfully supportive of whatever choices work for me, which has made things much easier.  I know many men whose partners have strong preferences that influence their choices when it comes to facial hair.

So this past December I took out the trimmer and bought an electric shaver, and now here we are.  The man on the left now looks like the man on the right.

I still don’t have much hair on the top.  :>  But I in the past many weeks I have felt that the trimmed beard is somehow “right” for my current stage, and I feel lighter and more energetic in the ways I was hoping to.

So here’s a toast to authenticity and making changes when the inner guide suggests them.

And let’s keep grinning and enjoying the ride.  With whatever facial accoutrement feels right.



5 thoughts on “Grin and Beard It

  1. Yedidya

    Now I know why all those guys with the big beards roll it up. Thank you Shimon for the explanation (especially hard for us short beatded guus to understand).


    1. shimonwalner Post author

      Yedidya, thanks for reading and commenting.
      I also did the roll-up thing for a while, and it did help with some of the physical awkwardness that a long beard can engender.


  2. Ehron Nygard

    Looks great! You may want to try an even shorter beard, as living in California makes many of the practical aspect of a beard (for the sake of warmth) less. Yet, having a little bit of a beard does protect the face from the sun. Something to think about.

    I’m proud of you for making so many changes lately – married, beard, moving – it is clear you really have taken on a lot of emotional growth in the last few years to make so many sudden changes. Your late wife would be very proud of you!

    I have been living in Chicago for over two years – graduating with an MS from Northwestern in Project Mangement – and now have two children, two and six months. I have only been married for a little over three years – my mother will be gone now for three years in March – so, big changes here too.

    Drop a line or call any time. Nice to be in touch with you my friend.


    Ehron Nygard


    1. Shimon Walner

      Hi Ehron,
      Thanks so much for reading and writing, and the kind words of support and encouragement.
      Congratulations on your MS from Northwestern (my alma mater also!), and also on your two children. I’m so happy for you.

      Have a wonderful and celebratory Pesach.



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