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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Tools for the Journey – The Companion

Man cannot walk through life alone. Humans are social beings; we need friends around us. In this, the journey to the mature masculine is no different; it is a journey that should, no, must be taken with friends by one’s side. Here at Navigating the Wild, we call them companions. Why do we need both companions and guides? I’ll answer that question and provide some additional guidance in the following.

Companions stick by your side through the journey. When I think about companions, my mind instantly goes to that diminutive duo of the big screen – Frodo and Sam from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In the beginning of their journey, they had a guide, then two, in Gandalf and Aragorn. You see Aragorn teaching Frodo and Sam how to fight and survive and leading them through the wilderness up until the group of nine had to separate.

It is at that point that we see the true value of a companion. The two hobbits make the trek of their lives together, supporting each other. In true friend-fashion, they have disagreements, but they reconcile with one another and continue on to their final destination. As companions through the journey, they don’t just provide support for each other; they laugh together, encourage each other in the darkest of times, pick one another up, ponder paths with each other, and, ultimately, inspired themselves and others to do and achieve greater things.

The roles that Sam and Frodo played in each other’s lives are the roles a companion plays – supporter, encourager, helper, challenger, and inspirer. Some companions will play only one role; the best one, the one to keep in your life forever, plays all five (and, most likely, some I’m not mentioning; comment and fill me in). In your quest for and evaluation of companions, let the following qualities guide you:

  • Trust – Do you trust this person? Will they share your secrets or give you bad advice? Trust should be the bedrock of a relationship, especially when you are going through the trials and navigating the unknown territory of masculinity.
  • Accountability – Will this person hold you accountable? There are so many danger areas and ways we can slip off the path or get sidetracked or lost in our development as men that we must have someone to hold us accountable. In like fashion, we must also be able and willing to hold them accountable. Remember that although this is a shared journey, you may know one leg of the trip, but they know others. If you’re not willing to hold them accountable, or they cannot do it for you, one of you may wind up being lost or delayed on the journey.
  • Common goals/beliefs – If you don’t believe the same things, if you don’t want the same things, then your paths may look totally different. What might be acceptable to one person may be completely foreign or repulsive to you. You don’t want a companion who might lead or encourage you in a direction that doesn’t match your goals or beliefs. Thus, clarifying this and seeking out those shared essentials is a must.
  • Perseverance – A good companion never gives up. Have you had a fair-weather friend? One who is there for the fun, but bails when you need him most? Why would you want that person on your journey with you? No, the companion you want is the one who toughs things out, who is willing to forgive and ask for forgiveness, and who seeks to overcome life’s challenges. This same perseverance is shown through a desire for growth, as we shall see next.
  • Growth – Ideally, you and your companion will begin the journey together at roughly the same level. You don’t want to have to pull him along with you or feel like a burden to him as you navigate life’s trials. But, while you might begin at the same level, you also want to grow. Many a male has been held back and kept from maturing because the friends he keeps don’t want to move from their boyish lives. You must seek out companions who desire to grow and mature as well. With them, when trials come, they won’t flee but, rather, will see it as a chance to grow.
I haven’t said much about gender for companions, but I believe that many of the trials a male will face are best shared with other males. Trials and issues shared are often of a kind that only other males can understand. Additionally, the level of intimacy a male can develop with his companion is one that, with a woman, is, in my view, only suited for marriage. Lastly, if we are to live in harmony with other men, we must know how to relate to and love them.

If we walk through life without a companion and merely rely on guides, we rob ourselves of the self-discovery we gain through experience and overcoming life. A guide has already lived what we’re going through; a companion lives it with us. While the guide’s foreknowledge is important, our experience and growth as men and the support we receive from companions during it is essential. We have to reach out, reach over, and find a companion or companions who will live life with us and join us in the journey.

To finding companions to support, encourage, help, challenge, and inspire us on our journey to the mature masculine,

MD

For further reading, I highly suggest the following:

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Tools for the Journey

 

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Weekend Words – Triumph

Triumph is a naturally desired state in every male’s life. If you think about any male and the activities he pursues, more than likely, you will find some form of triumph possible. (Note: I could have used “conquest” as well, but given the negative connotation of the word, it seems better to use “triumph”.) Males want to win; that is, of course, why you play the game. A boy growing up wants to win; when he doesn’t, have fun picking up the pieces of the Monopoly board. That doesn’t change as we age; we simply become smarter in how we compete, how we choose to compete, and in what we choose to compete, hoping to maximize our triumph.

Triumph can be incredibly positive; it can build self-esteem and create drive in a male’s life. This desire for triumph can get him to work longer hours, focus harder on specific tasks, or create new solutions to problems that have arisen. It can also be negative; too many missed triumphs can lower a person’s sense of self-worth. Additionally, making life all about triumph can decrease the number of risks a person might take. Why should I play a game I’m not sure I win? This is an approach I used to take; now, I view everything as a challenge – some I can meet and triumph over; others, I learn from and try to overcome at another time.

Our challenge, then, as those who care about males and want them to enter the mature masculine and serve and love others and society, is to use the idea and desire for triumph to guide males to good uses of their time and talent.
We have to redefine triumph in itself – a victory or conquest that only helps me is not conducive to the idea of the mature masculine; our triumphs should provide benefit for not only ourselves but those around us. We have to create space for them that risks are not something to be avoided, but rather, to be approached cautiously, examined in the light of both triumph for themselves and for society. We have to acknowledge that not everything will end in triumph, and help others learn from this, preparing them for their next potential triumph. Finally, we have to celebrate those triumphs, both to recognize the accomplishments and to spur the male onto further triumphs for himself and society.

Thomas Paine writes “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.” Triumph is essential to the being of man, and, as we shall see soon, essential to becoming a man.
 
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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

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Weekend Words – Love

It seems only fitting to make “love” the weekend word after Valentine’s Day. I’ve been reading a lot about love and how it plays out in someone’s life in my daily Bible studies in 1 John, and I believe that love is one of the marks of the mature masculine.

Love, once we move quickly past the eros, is about care and compassion, about friendship (phileo), and about putting the needs and others unconditionally above your own (agape). As I reflect on my statement that “boys are concerned with me; men are concerned with we”, I see this love theme playing out even more in there. Men care about others and put them first. This is love lived out. Sometimes it isn’t fun; sometimes it’s a huge sacrifice. But, men love in this way. In part, it’s the ideas of respect and responsibility playing out together in one motion; respect for others, coupled with a responsibility to something more than just oneself.

I believe that all men are hoping to show this kind of love. Some choose to seek hollow love, hoping that it will complete them, but it is merely a substitute for the sacrificial love our inner hearts desire. This love that marks the mature masculine is found in deep, meaningful relationships, with both men and women. “I love you, man” isn’t just a comedic film; it is, in fact, one of the most important phrases for a man to learn, to feel, and to offer.

I see this idea of love backed up in Scripture – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. Jesus, the greatest Man who ever lived, offered these words before sacrificially giving Himself up for the eternal salvation of those who put their faith in Him. Through His love, we are able to fully and truly love others. How great a challenge is this to us, mere men, to love others more than we love ourselves!

Love, unconditional and sacrificial love, is a true mark of the mature masculine.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

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Tools for the Journey – The Guide

As we continue to look at the tools needed for the journey to the mature masculine, we have to also consider people who will help us along the way. This week, we will explore possibly the most important person, outside of parents, in the journey: the guide.

The guide is a mentor, a person who has been there before us and offers advice, assistance, and counsel as we experience similar trials to what he experienced in his journey. The journey before males is generally taken on as a solo adventure, but this is the opposite of what should occur. Robert Bly, writing in “Iron John”, tells us that “Ancient societies believed that a boy becomes a man only through ritual and effort – only through the ‘active intervention of the older men’.” Older men serve as our guide, as our helpers and mentors as we attempt to navigate through the wild to the mature masculine. Our guides must be elders.

What is an elder?

An elder is not defined by age, but rather by experience and consistent demonstration of the qualities of the mature masculine. I outlined these earlier, but they bear repeating with a short explanation:
  • Responsibility – not just for yourself but for others around you. Initially, you must own your life and choices; the more you mature, the more you also take responsibility to care for those around you.
  • Respect – this is about treating others with fairness and honoring them and their viewpoints. Additionally, you gain respect for yourself, decreasing the harmful choices you make.
  • Reverence – ultimately, reverence implies a belief in something greater than you and having respect for it. Even well into the 20th century, men were defined by their attendance and service in church. Now, in our more modern era, I focus on reverence as being a broader idea, with the focus more on humility in recognizing that the world does not revolve around you.
  • Reach – the mature masculine is not something for settlers. The mature man never settles and is always looking for a way to improve himself, his relationships, things under his responsibility. This is called reach.
Why an elder?

I presented on this topic at a conference recently and received the question above. Why do we need elders to help in this journey? If the comment above by Robert Bly seems like it only applies to ancient societies, think again. We are in as much need of guidance from elders in this present time as we were in ancient times, possibly in even more need. With the decline in parenting presence and the presence of so many mixed messages about what it means to be a man, an elder points the way and serves as an example as we seek after the mature masculine.

Additionally, elders help with our self-discovery and image. Therapist Robert Moore, drawing on many years of experience with males who have failed to firmly cross over into the mature masculine, echoes their plight in telling us that “If you’re a young man and you’re not being admired by an older man, you’re being hurt.” Many a young male reaches adulthood without having an elder to admire and lift him up. What happens, then, is he seeks out substitution for those feelings that only the elder can supply, and, when they run dry, he is left seeking again. This is partially the cause of many a mid-life crisis. Elders are necessary to uplift us. I know from my own youth how beneficial to my own development and psyche having an elder who not only reached down to me to help me learn and grow into a man but also saw potential in me. The elder sees the potential you have and pushes you to attain it.

Do you have a guide? Is an elder walking with you, able to give you guidance on how to navigate the journey and to help you out of pitfalls you may have stumbled into? If you do, I’d love to hear the story. If not, look around you for someone who exhibits the marks of the mature masculine. Find that person you admire and get him to guide you.

As we mature, the need for a guide does not go away, but it is replaced by a desire for companionship. A guide may even shift into that role given a long enough relationship. If you have matured, look around for a male who need a guide, just as you had one. Reach down to him. And, as you do, reach over to your guide and maintain that relationship.

To elders and guides, who provide guidance on our journey to mature masculinity, inspire us to reach new levels, and help in times of need,
MD
 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Tools for the Journey

 

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Weekend Words – Me and We

Boys are concerned with me; men are concerned with we. How do we know this?

Thinking about children growing up, they are possessive with their toys, selfish with their space, and ultimately concerned with me. You see this in their play; they don’t want to share and want to dictate the method and focus of play. You see this in conversation; it is all about me, what I’m doing, where I’m going, what I want. Until they move beyond that, they will never be a part of the community and serve the world as the men they are wont to become.

Hopefully, at some point, these boys realize that there is something greater than themselves out there. That knowledge and realizing of not being the most important thing in the world is one of the messages of ritual and one of the marks of the mature masculine. In learning to focus on the we, a boy becomes a man. He acts as a man when he sees the world around him as a community that he is directly a part of. No longer is he focused on his personal success and happiness at the expense of others, but, rather, he is focused on the we – how can he help others and play a role in the whole of humankind.

The mature masculine is about embracing the we around us and leaving the me behind. Celebrate those around you and see their purpose in your life. Engage with others and be that socially excellent person who puts the needs and interests of others above their own.
 
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Posted by on February 10, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

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Weekend Words – Reach

No man is an island. As much as Die Hard movies would have you believe, you can’t do everything on your own. Much of the time, we’re too stubborn to ask for this, but we can gain and give so much from reaching. Reaching can go three ways:

Reach down to help others. Find young males around you who need that model in their life, that person to pull them up higher or further along in their quest for the mature masculine. Reach your hand out, let them know you’ve been there before and can help them along the way, over the obstacle, or through the rough patch.

Reach across to journey together. You’re not making this trip alone; you need people by your side to encourage you and keep you on the right track. Reach across to tap into others’ strengths, to achieve something you may never have done yourself. Reaching to let someone know you care, even just with a simple touch. Reach across, pull together. Encourage someone and receive the same.

Reach up for help. Just like young males need a model in their life, so you too need a mentor. You have to reach up when you find that person to let them know that you want their help. Reach up to make a connection. Reach up to be pulled higher in your life.

All three directions of reach require something of you that will make you a better man and person. Reaching down requires empathy and mentoring; reaching across requires friendship; and reaching up requires humility. These are marks of the mature masculine, and reaching is one way to live them out.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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