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DNA of Masculinity – Reach

In the quest for the mature masculine, how do you know if you have reached it? One method of knowing is to look for certain traits that appear in the mature male but not in boys. These traits make up the DNA of mature masculinity and are generally taught and enforced/reinforced during a boys time in liminal space. We have already examined two of them – respect and responsibility – now we look at a third: reach.

What is reach?
Reach could encompass many things. It could describe a man’s relationship to those around him – reaching out to gain and give help. It could describe a man desiring things well outside his grasp – a reacher would seek things he cannot afford or feasibly gain. But, for our purposes here, reach encompasses the spirit of man that seeks to constantly better himself and better the world around him. A man that reaches is never satisfied with where he is (this doesn’t mean he’s not content) and knows that he ought never stop improving.In work, this is the man who doesn’t settle for status quo, who always challenges and pushes things to be better.

This is the man who, while a promotion would be desirable, is more focused on making himself and all he touches better. At home, this is a man who takes the pride in his house and family that he looks for new ways to provide for and help them. This is the man who conducts home, self, or other improvement projects rather than serves as an armchair football coach. In the world, this is the man who is involved in the community and in his children’s schools, hoping that by some contribution he might be able to make things better for those around him. Lastly, this is the man who is never satisfied with his relationship with his God and Creator. He is constantly thirsting that he might know his God more; this is the man exemplified by Paul writing in Philippians 3:10:

“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death”

Why reach?

First and foremost, reach is a part of the mature masculine because the mature man knows that he is never done learning and growing. Imagine, if you will, a man who, after he has been initiated into masculinity, just stops trying; if this happens, the initiation has failed him. The mature masculine is won once, but maintained by exhibiting this and other characteristics of it. Thus, a man must constantly strive to be better, and the mature man will, knowing what is at stake in his life and the world.

How is reach taught?

The teaching must begin in childhood. Much has been said about encouraging children to do their best. We must also encourage them to be better. In the beginning, we must provide and model reach for them, continuing to read and exercise and practice and get better ourselves at those things we have in our lives. As young boys grow, we must provide ways for them to get better, subsidizing their reach until they are able to begin reaching themselves. This will occur naturally, as the boy finds his passions, but he must also be taught that reach is a matter for the whole of life. Again, modelling is key here. Pity the young boy who does not have someone sharing and showing a desire to get better and make better.

Reach is what enabled man to fly. It’s what led to the discovery of new medicines and medical techniques. Reach in a man pushes him; no longer is extrinsic motivation needed; the desire to get better comes from the mature masculine inside. There is no need for a partner to push him; he feels and acts on his internal reach on his own. The mature masculine calls us to constantly be better – reach is the internal characteristic that drives us there.

To making ourselves better men and making the community around us better by our actions,

MD

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2013 in DNA of Masculinity

 

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Weekend Words – Am I…

Am I a man because of the things I do?
The sports I play or the beer I drink?
The clothes I wear, the job I do, the hobbies I hold?
Does my masculinity come from my nots?
I’m not a woman; I don’t dance ballet.
I don’t cry; I won’t cook; I don’t sew.
Is my manhood a performance?
A script of do’s and don’t’s?

No!

I am a man because of how I am.
How I treat myself and others.
How I treat whatever work I do.
How I honor those around me.
How I strive for my best in whatever I do.
I am a man because of my struggles and my victories.
How I handle triumph and adversity.
My manhood comes from my character.
Character instilled and passed down from elders.
Traits recognized and acknowledged in me by elders.

I am a man because of how I am within the world.
I can do or not do many things.
What matters is the manner I do or don’t.
 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

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DNA of Masculinity – Responsibility

There are many traits that separate the men from the boys, the DNA of mature masculinity if you will. In liminal space, a boy ought to learn these and begin to exemplify them before he is reintegrated into society and heralded as a man. While there are probably countless lessons and character possibilities, we are focusing on seven, the seven R’s of masculinity: respect, responsibility, reach, reflection, relationship, rationality, and reverence. All of these contribute to the actions that typify a man and show that he has embraced the mature masculine. Continuing to examine these, we come to responsibility and will answer similar questions to those we answered surrounding respect.

What is responsibility?

Responsibility is, quite simply, owning your life, choices, and actions. At a higher level, it is also noticing how your choices and actions affect those around you and taking measures to positively impact them. We can divide it into personal responsibility and social responsibility.Just like respect ought to be turned inward, so also should responsibility. I should be willing to take the consequences of any action I take, not attempt to brush off the action on another or skirt around/avoid the consequences. You see, children (remember, manhood is the opposite of boyhood) try to get out of something, running away from damage they’ve caused or lying about who did what. The mature masculine doesn’t do this. He knows to say “I’m sorry, I did that…I won’t do it again.”

Social responsibility builds on the ideas of personal responsibility and of respect. When we respect others, we also begin to act in ways that look out for them. Social responsibility means that we examine how our actions are affecting those around us and seeking out ways to have a better impact on the world. It is social responsibility that drives us to do service, to give philanthropically, and even to raise and support our families emotionally and financially.

Why responsibility?

When I was first thinking about the process of becoming a man, I informally asked my older male friends when they knew they had become a man. Within each response was the concept of responsibility. Many mentioned when they first got their own apartment or moved away from their parents. Others talked about their first job out of college. Still others mentioned beginning a family. Each of these is something that generally requires a man to take responsibility for something (finances, work, others).In the cycle of transition from boy to man illustrated in “Iron John”, Robert Bly mentions the first two phases of male initiation as connection to and separation from the mother and the father. There is a level of assuming responsibility present in these steps – when a young male separates, through his becoming independent, he must develop responsibility.

Historically, too, there is a precedent set for responsibility being a trait of an initiated male. In ancient cultures, hunting was reserved only for those males who had been initiated into manhood. Moving forward chronologically, we find that societal respect for a man in America in the 18th through 20th centuries stemmed from his land-holding and work ethic (read demonstrated responsibility). Now, this idea of responsibility is reflected in men seeing one of their “rites of passage” as being financially independent/living on their own/providing for a family. You can see that its not just a cultural trend (which we try to stay away from here…if masculinity is defined by culture, then if culture changes, is that form of masculinity moot?); rather, it is a timeless pattern that has proven itself throughout generations.

How is responsibility taught?
We are fortunate with this trait because responsibility is something that can be taught over time. Even as boys are still developing, we can teach responsibility through small jobs, giving them pets, involving them in clubs and sports. Even if they don’t fully grasp responsibility, they are learning what it is like to have something expected of them. This will translate later into the responsibility of the mature masculine.In the same vein, parents must also hold their children accountable and allow them to make mistakes. Rather than attempting to defend a child who was in the wrong, or standing up for them in their place, parents ought to let the children work things out and take responsibility. Working in higher education, I receive many calls from parents who still want to solve their son or daughter’s problems. My response is almost always the same: “Your son/daughter needs to work this out…they need to learn how to solve this.” Essentially, I’m saying they need to learn responsibility.

The mature masculine is founded on respect for self and others. Respect lived out requires responsibility. As men with much physical, political, and societal power, especially, we are called to responsibility, because as Spiderman taught us “With great power comes great responsibility”. (You know I couldn’t leave that out.)

To a culture of men who own their actions, who care for themselves and others,

MD
 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in DNA of Masculinity

 

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Weekend Words – Community

“It takes a village to raise a child” the old quote goes. We offer it so glibly now, but the wisdom contained in that African quote is one that cannot be overlooked in our raising of boys if we ever hope for them to reach the mature masculine. Sadly, we overlook it all too often in our American culture.

In modern times, community is overlooked in favor of isolated families. People interact more digitally and spend more time in their homes than with those in their neighborhoods or complexes. Written over 10 years ago, “Bowling Alone” describes the collapse of community and its affects on adults. Think about how it has affected our boys.

Ancient tribes and primitive cultures have it right: boys are not meant to just be raised in silos by their parents. No, they are sent out into the village, where they can be taught and mentored by the entire tribe. This allows for two things to happen:

  • Boys learn more than one way to show their masculinity and learn multiple ways to relate to and encounter the world.
  • It is a natural transition for boys to enter manhood in the culture and to be held accountable by the males who surround them.

What can you do? Don’t be siloed in your family and home. Create a community with your neighbors. Build relationships with church members that extend beyond Sundays. As your community grows, so will your boy’s, and he will have more support and encouragement and learning on his quest. As he receives, he will also give back, and a beautiful cycle of mutual support will be started. Our time of isolation has to end, both for our boys and for our community.

I remember growing up on a cul-de-sac. I knew everyone on that circle: Bob taught me how to shoot a bb-gun, the Poe’s taught me how to swim. Neighbors impacted my life because I was in a community. I am a better man because of the community that cared about me and poured into my development. Our boys now can be too.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

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DNA of Masculinity – Respect

In liminal space, boys are taught what it means to be men. While some aspects of this training will be unique to a particular culture or family, in my research in masculinity throughout varying cultures and times, I have uncovered seven core characteristics that make up the DNA of masculinity: respect, responsibility, reach, reflection, relationship, rationality, and reverence.

As has been noted before, I choose to focus on character traits as markers of the mature masculine rather than physical characteristics, abilities, and interests. The major underlying philosophy of Navigating the Wild is that the opposite of man is boy, not woman. Thus, one might be a man by all physical traits or by pursuing interests defined by society as “male”, but without embracing these character traits, he is no more a man than a three-year-old. With this in mind, let’s delve into the first of seven: respect.

What is respect?
Respect is reflected in the mature masculine in two ways – inward respect and outward respect.

Outward respect is perceiving those around you as having value, even those you may not like. Respect comes from being able to see the world through different lenses and allowing oneself to be open to new ideas. Respect involves setting aside one’s selfishness, arrogance, and me-first attitude, and adopting a sense of care for those around you. A man shows respect to others by listening, by acting with chivalry, by not taking advantage of others, and by “in humility count[ing] others more significant than [himself]”. Respect extends to the environment and to all the world around us; we treat things with care, for no other reason than the fact that we recognize our power in the world and the role we have to treat it and all things in it with respect.

Inward respect is about self-awareness and self-respect. A man with inward respect will conduct himself with dignity and honor; he knows his place and owns it with pride. He understands those actions and behaviors that bring a negative reputation on him and strives consciously to avoid those. He cares for himself; yes, there is a portion of self-respect that deals with appearance. You’ve heard the phrase “no self-respecting man would…”? Those attitudes and actions that might fill the blank are exactly those that the mature masculine eschews.

Why respect?
Think about how a boy behaves. Much of his attitude is focused on himself. His version of respect is one that is demanded, not given. (Think Cartman’s “Respect mah authoritah!”) When a man crosses into the mature masculine, he sets aside all boyish behaviors. This means that at his core, man must set aside selfishness and arrogant pride. As a part of the education in liminal space, a man must realize who he is and his role in the world.

I believe that of the seven aspects of the masculine DNA, respect serves as the foundation; everything is build on respect for others and for self. A man cannot accept responsibility, reach for new heights, reflect on his own actions, seek positive relationships, act rationally, or revere/recognize a higher power until he has learned to respect self and others. A male that does not respect will not act with care and consideration and will not seek to be more than he already is to himself or anyone else.

How is respect taught?
Respect can never be forced. As a boy grows and matures, he must learn to see the world through different lenses; taking him to museums, reading from different perspectives, making a broad spectrum of friends, and exposing him to new cultures all will help provide a variety of lenses to view the world. It is hard to respect that which we do not understand, especially when our understanding is so limited. As we gain understanding, our willingness to respect even those things we don’t understand increases. Finally, this must be emulated. No boy will learn respect for others if he does not receive it and is not shown it in action by his elders and mentors.

Inwardly, a boy learns self-respect by recognizing what he is good at and what he is not good at. Learning limits and discovering those areas he excels allows him to form a sense of self that is aware of all aspects. For some, this may come easier than for others. Just as respect for others comes from experiencing and witnessing, so self-respect is learned as much through watching and seeing what a life could be. If an elder respects his body, his mind, his reputation, the boy watching will learn that self-respect and will emulate it as he moves into the mature masculine.Respect is the foundation of the mature masculine. Respect for others, for their attitudes, abilities, points of view, lifestyles. All other aspects of the mature masculine follow from this.

To building a society where men respect women, their elders, youths, and the very fiber of their being,

MD

For more reading on respect, I highly encourage visiting the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2013 in DNA of Masculinity

 

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Weekend Words – Authentic

“People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.”

Thomas Szasz gets right to the heart of authentic living with his comments. The truly mature masculine is embodied in authentic living, in a life conceived, inspired, and governed not by outside perspectives and opinions but by the knowledge, beliefs, and internal convictions of one’s self.

There are many males and females who will attempt to tell you how a man ought to behave, what he ought to do. Society is full of gender roles and male vs. female tasks, but the error in all of these and the belief that they define masculinity is to assume that a man is defined by what he does. A quick search reveals countless articles and videos stating that real men…don’t cry/eat meat/have no fears/don’t ask for directions…well, you get the point. All of these definitions miss what is truly at the heart of man.

At Navigating the Wild, we take the perspective that man is not defined by what he does, but rather how he does it. Allowing for any outside force to dictate what you do gives away ownership of your life; it takes the pen that you are authoring your life with and passes it off to another. To live a truly authentic life is to author your behavior in a way that is true to yourself while living out the character qualities of the mature masculine. You may not like doing (or be able to do) many of the societally defined “manly things”, but you can still live your life in a manly way, with respect, reverence, and responsibility as defining character traits. We will focus on these traits and others as we expand on the teaching that occurs in liminal space.

We must find satisfaction in ourselves, in living authentically. If not, we allow the world to dictate how we see and define us as men, which will never satisfy and will always keep the mature masculine at arm’s reach.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

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Rites of Passage Roadmap – Liminal Space

As I’ve remarked before, our culture is severely lacking in clear rites of passage for our boys becoming men. This has (and has had) several detrimental consequences, chiefest of which might be a failure to fully grasp the responsibilities and requirements of men in a society as boys are taught what a man is by their peers, popular media, or by older males who happen to be in their lives. This type of education is rarely purposeful, prolongs adolescence, and has led many a male astray into that belief that manhood is the opposite of womanhood, when, in reality, manhood is the opposite of boyhood.What is the remedy, then, for this lack of knowledge about the mature masculine, about what a man truly is? I return to my original premise and thought that we must incorporate rites of passage for young males to welcome and initiate them into the realm of the mature masculine. As a short review, rites of passage to manhood generally incorporate a separation from the “old world”, the world of boyhood, a form of training by one or more elders in what the society or culture or family expects from someone wearing the mantle of man, and a celebratory return to the community to demonstrate that they can now expect a more mature level of behavior from the initiate.This post seeks to describe what that middle step might look like, knowing that the definition and expectations of men is quite wide. Additionally, it should be noted that much of what generally takes place in primitive and ancient rites of passage is intended for boys entering roles as hunters/gatherers/warriors; much of the physical abuse and punishment is no longer necessary.To fully examine this idea of liminal instruction, we must first delve into liminal space. In studies of rituals and rites of passage, van Gennep and Turner both offered the idea of liminal space as the middle period during a rite of passage. This period is one of great ambiguity, one that literally means threshold. In liminal space, everything an initiate knows is discarded or thrown on its head so that he might learn the new rites and requirements of his soon-to-come status in the tribe.

What goes on in liminal space?

In one word, education. Education on the various aspects, expectations, responsibilities, and (sometimes) rites of mature men. As I’ve pondered the distinctions between men and boys, they’ve led me to identify several marks of the mature masculine. We’ll deal with each of them in separate later posts, but I believe that they are the core of the education because they exemplify the expectations and responsibilities of mature men. They are: reverence, respect, responsibility, reach, relationship, reflection, and rationality. Each of these marks of the mature masculine serves a greater purpose in a man’s life and in the lives of those around him. How they are taught should be unique to both the initiate and the elders instructing him, but each should be taught as a separate thought, with connections forming between the four as they are learned.
Who teaches???????????????????????????????????????????
Elders. If you missed that, I’ll write it again – elders. Not males 2-3 years older, not peers, not movies or television. Elders, known to and respected by the initiate, must provide the teaching. They’ve been there. As elders, they also will be the first place society will look when a young male acts out. Thus, they should be placed to teach the requirements of the mature masculine as they will be holding that initiate accountable throughout his life. Finally, these are the men who will be “granting” the title of man to the initiate when he finishes the rite of passage. They must be involved.
Why must this learning happen in liminal space?
We’ve already examined the need to separate as the initial phase of the boys-to-men rite of passage. Liminal space serves as an extension of this separation, but also provides for instruction in an effective way. First, because of the separation, the initiate is prepared to learn in a distraction-free zone. This is highly important; given the distractions and mixed messages that are present in the general world, a space where he can learn and internalize the messages of initiation is important. Additionally, liminal space provides a private place for initiates to learn. Not everyone will be ready or able to learn the roles and responsibilities of manhood at the same age or time. Once in liminal space, the initiate knows that he is deemed ready by the elders, a very important discovery for young males transitioning to mature masculinity. Finally, liminal space gives a very different feel from general instruction, lending a more serious and deep tone to the messages. If the messages learned during liminal instruction truly are meant to guide a male into the mature masculine and lead his behaviors the rest of his life, then they should be conveyed in such a serious space.While each of the three steps of the rite of passage are essential, I believe the instruction that occurs in liminal space is what will define a man for his future. What he learns about himself and the roles and responsibilities of men will determine his beliefs and paths as he begins his journey in the land of the mature masculine. We must prepare him properly to navigate this.To providing education in the wild, to crafting liminal space for boys to learn from elder males about the role of men,
MD
 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Rites of Passage

 

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Weekend Words – Legacy

Everywhere I turned this week, I seemed to find calls or allusions to leading a life concerned with legacy. This week, my work revolved around recognizing fraternities and sororities with awards and around celebrating two of my sorority chapter’s 100-year anniversaries. Each of these occurrences gave me time to pause and consider the importance of legacy in a man’s life.

I think society is misleading men about their purpose and what a legacy truly is. A quote from Pleck and Sawyer in “Men and Masculinity”, remarking on what men are learning at the end of the lives, supports this thought – “Some of these advantaged men are finding that the traditional masculine pursuit of power, prestige, and profit will not fulfill their lives.” Whether we like it or accept it or not, as men, we are privileged, and are called to use that in a way to support others. That is where we will find fulfillment.

This weekend, my college’s president, speaking at a retirement celebration, remarked that “At the end of the day, you won’t be remembered by how much money you made or what car you drove, but by the people you touched.” This is so true.

Men are being sold a false bill of goods, a false set of expectations about what should matter in their lives. Watch even 15 minutes of television and you’ll see advertisements for the next great car, beer, or food item. Nothing about making a difference or touching the lives of someone. We are taught to be selfish, but the true mature masculine is selfless, focused on leaving behind a world better because he was a part of it.

What will your legacy be? Will it be something that can be destroyed in an instant, or will it live on in the lives of those you touched and in the very fabric of our society? Live your life as one focused on a lasting legacy.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

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Rites of Passage Roadmap – Separation

On a young male’s journey to the mature masculine, he should ideally pass through one, if not more, rites of passage. These rites of passage serve to delineate boyhood from manhood and should provide both a knowledge piece about the new role he will be taking in society and a celebratory piece to welcome him into his new role. In studying rites of passage, I have found that most sociologists and anthropologists mark three steps: separation, liminal space/training, and reintegration.

For young males, who learn very much through experiences, separation is a necessary component of a rite of passage, both symbolically and procedurally. Robert Bly, in his seminal work on the steps boys take to become men (“Iron John”), offers that a boy must separate from both his mother and his father before being able to learn more about himself and the world. In ancient and primitive tribal cultures, this is lived out in their rites of passage for young males.  The beginning of many of these rites, documented in “Betwixt and Between” and by Raphael, van Gennep, and Turner, is a separation from the females of the tribe. Male elders come in and snatch the boys away, oftentimes from the arms of their mothers, and take them to a segregated area, where they will learn in liminal space the secrets, rites/rituals, and responsibilities of the tribal males, before triumphantly returning to the tribe – men.

Why is this separation necessary? Why must the young males be separated from women? And, what can we do with this in our modern era, where there is little time for any prolonged sorts of teaching or rites of passage?

Separation is necessary

Separation is the bridge.

Ancient societies knew that manhood didn’t happen by itself. Older men actively intervened to “welcome the younger men into the ancient, mythologized, instinctive male world” (Bly, 15). Separation creates the space in which this can happen. Think about all of the distractions in the world that a young male faces; he must separate himself from those distractions in order to enter the next phase and learn about the responsibilities of the mature masculine. Separation also serves to delineate the beginning of a young male’s change into a man. We know that males learn through visible, tangible experiences. clearly defining the break between boyhood and manhood is key: this is started by the separation in a rite of passage. Separation is the only way for a male to bridge the gap into liminal space, into the process of learning about the mature masculine.

Male initiation is a male thing

Any psychologist who has studied Freud will share how mothers potentially gain a hold on their son’s psyche during adolescence. It is only natural, but it is something that the ancients and primitive tribes got right in recognizing that part of the separation must include a young male leaving his mother. Mothers are the caretakers but can be smothering as their sons strike out on their own and seek to learn more about their role as men. A male voice is needed, echoed in comments by initiators in tribes that “only men can initiate men, as only women can initiate women” (Bly, 16). The separation from women creates a space wherein responsible males can teach the young males their roles and responsibilities.

Note: I do recognize that there may be objection to older men teaching younger males about the roles/responsibilities of men, particularly around not wanting to enforce gendered behaviors. The older males must be responsible, must recognize that their masculinity is a gift and a privilege, one that cannot and should not be used to dominate or control those around them. Rather, the roles/responsibilities of men revolve around the DNA of masculinity – respect, reverence, responsibility, and reach. These are what must be taught, combined with a healthy understanding of the power that a male has and how he can responsibly use it.

Further note: Gordon Dalbey offers that “you don’t become a man simply by rejecting and breaking from your mother. The larger masculine – the father and the community of men – must be reckoned with, harkened unto, as well. Otherwise, an edge of resentment, even hostility, remains and focuses eventually on women” (Dalbey 2, 69-70).

Making time

We must make time for this if it is to have any affect. Young males are kept busy, but a weekend, scheduled properly, is more than enough time to separate, teach, and provide a celebratory welcome. Failing to take this time is more damaging than a missed weekend; missing the separation and the rite of passage means missing an entire life.

I believe it’s fitting to close with a modern example of what the separation could look like. In a modern vision of initiation, Gordon Dalbey, imagines this separation through a Christian lens in “Healing the Masculine Soul”:

One evening, after dinner, Dad gets up, mentioning casually that he’s going out for a few minutes. Outside, he drives to the church, where he’s met by the male elders and the other fathers of boys to be initiated. The men gather in the sanctuary to worship and rededicate their own manhood to God, praying that together they might be a fitting channel for the Father’s Spirit of manhood to each boy. …

All the men then drive together to the first boy’s house, and while a male pastor approaches the door, the men stand on the front lawn, singing old hymns from our Christian heritage.

The doorbell rings. The mother opens the door. Surprised to see the pastor and the men outside singing, she stands there, uncertain.

“We’ve come for Dan,” the pastor says.

“But … but what for?” she asks. “I didn’t know there was a youth group event tonight…”

“This is not for the youth group,” the pastor explains. “This is for the men.”

“Well, I … I don’t know,” the mother says, glancing uneasily at the men singing out front. “Actually, Danny’s father’s not home just now, so you’ll have to wait until…”

“What’s all that singing outside?” the boy calls out from the living room. “What’s going on?” He comes to the door, beside his mother. Seeing the men out front, the boy draws up, tense.

“We want you to come with us tonight, Dan,” the pastor tells him.

“Dan!” his father calls out from the group. …

“Dad!” the boy calls – still uneasy, but encouraged to see his father there.

“Come on out, Dan!” his father shouts. “Come out with us!”

The boy looks up at the minister, who nods – and waits. “But it’s cold outside,” the mother protests. “And Danny hasn’t finished his dessert…”

“I appreciate your concern,” the pastor says, then, turning to the boy, “You can go and get your coat. Your dad has already put together the clothes you’ll be needing.”

The boy hesitates, licking a trace of apple pie from his lips. “Come on, Dan!” his father shouts. “Let’s go!”

A pause… then, all at once, the boy spins on his heels and dashes to his bedroom, comes running back grasping his coat. As he steps out the front door, the pastor nods graciously to the mother and puts an arm around the boy. The two head out onto the lawn as a mighty chorus arises. [The group moves to call the next boy out.] (Dalbey, 37-40)

We must call our boys out; they must separate from their current boyhood if they are ever to become men. As men, this is our responsibility.

To separation, from a boyish past and future, and to a responsible mature masculinity.

MD
Resources:
Bly, R. (2004). Iron John: A book about men. Da Capo Press.
Dalbey, G. (2003). Healing the masculine soul: How God restores men to real manhood. Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Dalbey, G. (2011). Sons of the father: Healing the father-would in men today. Civitas Press.
 
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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Rites of Passage

 

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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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