Monthly Archives: March 2013

Weekend Words – Matter

I could use this post to spout of cliches about mattering: Don’t waste your life; make a difference; be great. But, most of these focus on mattering for the world around you, mattering so that your life affects those around you in a positive manner. Yes, this is important, but doing something that matters, finding your sense of meaning, helps your psyche even more than it helps the world.

Michael Meade, writing about finding our sense of meaning, says that “Those who grow old without finding a genuine sense of meaning in their lives tend to become repositories for fear and anxiety.” This is not what we are called to as men or as humans.

Victor Frankl demonstrates the truth in this. A psychologist imprisoned in concentration camps during World War 2, he wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning”, speaking from his experiences and his survival mechanisms throughout them. His survival didn’t come because he was tough; in fact, if you think about those Nazi prisoners, they lost most of their physical strength over time. He survived because he found his sense of meaning and purpose. He survived because he loved his wife and wanted to see her again, never knowing if she was surviving as well. He survived, and in his survival, he found that rather than focusing on the pleasure in life, man’s primary drive is the discover and pursuit of what we find meaningful.

So, what is meaningful in your life? What matters? You can look for it in three areas: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), or in courage during difficult times (Kushner, in “Man’s Search for Meaning”). All men have the opportunity to matter in each of these areas; it’s the real men among us that seize the chance.

Seize the opportunity to matter. Take hold of your work. You should never resign yourself to a life of rote striving; that’s not the way of man. Take hold of your love for others. So many ‘men’ never care or show that they care about those around them; don’t let this be true about you. And, be courageous. Life will get hard; it’s the man that has meaning in his life that knows what his purpose is and how even these struggles are making him matter.

You are not meant to be silent, actionless. Find what has meaning in your life; make your life matter.

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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Weekend Words


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Rites of Passage Roadmap – Introduction

There are a few things that are lacking from our modern society today that have existed and helped males realize and take ownership of their place as men in society. The most visible of these is the lack of a distinct rite of passage for boys to become men. In their book “Wild Things”, Stephen James and David Thomas (2009) tell us that “we cannot emphasize enough how significant these rites and rituals are in the lives of boys. As experiential, spatial, and tactile learners, boys need events and ceremonies to help mark significant moments and transitions in their lives.” (p. 275) A male needs to know when he has become a man, but more than that, he must know what rights, responsibilities, and requirements he has as a man that he may not have had as a boy.

This is where the rite of passage comes in. The rite of passage serves multiple purposes:

  • It provides a distinct mark of separation from one stage of life into another.
  • It instructs those going through it in their responsibilities in the new stage as well as the expectations those already in that stage of life have for them.
  • It offers a celebration of the new stage of life for the participant and the providers.

Each of these purposes is extremely important. David Gilmore (1990), in examining cultural rites of passage for men, offers that “real manhood is different from simple anatomical maleness, that it is not a natural condition that comes about spontaneously through biological maturation but rather is a precarious or artificial state that boys must win against powerful odds” (p. 11). This leads to one of my personal favorite expressions – there is no “bam! You’re a man” moment that happens naturally. We must provide this distinct mark of separation, one that is meaningful for its participants. Failing to do so, I and many¬†psychiatrists¬†believe, causes males to be stuck in a perpetual state of boyishness, never claiming their responsibility as mature men, or to revert back to boyish ways, also known as the mid-life crisis.

Each rite of passage that I’ve examined offers instruction for its participants in the traditions of the culture. Many of these rites of passage come from primitive cultures, so the belief system/religion and gender roles and expectations are fairly rigid. Thus, it becomes essential for the older men to initiate the young males into the secrets of the culture that only the males know (regarding religion, mystical beliefs, and other ceremonies performed by the culture). We don’t have such straightforward educational needs in our melting pot of society, but there are certain expectations and responsibilities that come with the mature masculine that are not expected of boys. We must provide this instruction so that 1) males know what is expected of them as men (more to come on this in future posts) and 2) males are able to exist, interact, and thrive with mature adults, both males and females.

Finally, the rite of passage provides a celebration of new life. I see many males in my work afraid to take full hold of the mature masculine in part because it is not celebrated, but rather seen as a burden, as a set of responsibilities without much carefree life they live currently. Providing the celebration of this new phase gives them something to look forward to. It allows them to see that just because they are embracing the mature masculine and taking responsibility for their life and actions (one aspect of the mature masculine) does not mean that their life is forever ruined. Additionally, this celebration allows for everyone to see that ______ is indeed now a man, and you can celebrate with him, encourage him in his masculinity, and know what you can expect from him as a mature male.

What do rites of passage look like and how can we re-incorporate them into our society? In the posts that follow, I will explore the three most common steps of rites of passage – separation, liminal space, and reintegration – and offer ideas on how these might look in a modern society and how concerned males and females might work to provide safe rites of passage for younger males.

To providing positive rites of passage and safe, impactful initiations into the mature masculine for young males,

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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Rites of Passage


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Weekend Words – Strive


In a conversation with one of my students this week, he brought up a motivational speaker who reminds us that to be successful, we must “want to succeed as much as we want to breathe”. This is an idea and area that I believe many men struggle with – that of striving.

While the mature masculine is a status to be reached, it is not something to be settled in. A mature male continues to strive. He focuses on making this day better than the one before, leaving each person he encounters better and more inspired, improving the world around him one piece at a time, and, most of all, better himself as a person.The immature male gives up or makes a lackluster attempt at things around him, not wanting to put forth the effort, to strive to be better in every way.

Our striving affects those around us. It inspires them to do better, be better. It shows them that we care about people and the world around us.

Will you strive? Will you look around you for what can be better and what you can impact? Everyone has potential; striving allows you to put that potential into action. Can you imagine what the world would be liked if it was filled with mature men and mature women who strive in their day-to-day? The possibilities are endless.



Posted by on March 17, 2013 in Weekend Words


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Weekend Words – Purpose

What’s your purpose in life? What do you exist for? What avenues of life are you expending your energy on? Do you have a direction in life, and what/who is that direction focused on (me or we)?

These are questions that, sadly, many males have trouble answering. Many of them have never thought about it which is quite a shame. Instead of using their life in pursuit of real, mature purpose, males get caught up in selfish pursuits: collecting the most toys, chasing/bedding the most sexual partners, crafting the most leisure time in their lives. That is the life of the boy.

Does what you do each day make a difference in the world? If not, it’s time to re-examine your purpose. Men make a difference in the world, even if it just impacts their small corner of it. Men selflessly seek to better themselves (to serve those around them), the community they work and live (to serve its members), and the world (knowing that they are a part of it).

If we are ever to take our place in the land of the mature masculine, we must first define our purpose, one that is focused on the people, community, and world around us. The boy and man-child sit and chase self-oriented, inward-focused things; the mature man seeks a purpose that is greater than himself. Our purpose defines who we are.

A man of purpose leaves a legacy behind him; a male without purpose leaves a wasted life.

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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Weekend Words


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Weekend Words – Speak

In his book, “Manhood”, author Stephen Shapiro discusses the need for men to learn how to speak their mind and talk about who they are, what they’re feeling, and how they wish things were. This led me to recognize the need for boys to learn how to speak and for men to speak up more often.

Boys need to learn how to speak. We have this image in our culture that males don’t talk; in fact, we base jokes off of it, citing statistics that males say half as many words as females do. So, the image is true, but what is not talked about is how this lack of speaking can be hurting our males. When we don’t speak, we fail to articulate emotions and thoughts. When we don’t speak, concerns go un-uttered. When we don’t speak, the good and the bad thoughts that are inside of us say there and fester, only to be released at some later point of frustration or ire.

Boys must speak. Learning how to articulate their emotions and thoughts means that they are actually thinking about them, that they are becoming self-aware. They must be able to tell when and why something is bothering or encouraging or puzzling them. Speaking out about it encourages and fosters this practice and presses self-awareness and self-reflection. Without it, we risk a group of angry young men who know they are mad (or confused or depressed or even excited) but cannot articulate what they’re feeling or why. We must teach our boys how to speak.

As our boys learn how to speak and then move into manhood, they must continue to speak, not just out, but also up. They must speak up about the injustices that are in the world. They must speak up when they see another male (or female) mistreating any person. They must speak up to tell our boys words they should hear, words the men themselves wish they had heard growing up. Silence is not an option for a man, except as he forms the words he ought to say.

The time for the “strong, silent male” is past. Boys must learn how to speak out of the emotions of their hearts, out of the trials and joys they face. It is only through speaking out that they will be able to speak up when they are men. The world needs more men who speak up, taking a stand for what is right.

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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Weekend Words


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