RSS

Tag Archives: man

NTW – Initiation Message I – Life is Hard

A young male gets initiated. So what? Is it really that important? I argued in my last post that there are definite needs for rites of passage to mark the transition from boy to man. One major reason is the lessons that are taught. Beyond those included during the instruction in liminal space, there are several overarching themes that guide the transition process.

The first of these is that life is hard.

Now, for some of you readers, this seems like common sense. Life is hard. But, many of our males are growing up not realizing the full impact of this lesson. The fact that life is hard primarily calls for one thing.

It calls for us to transform pain rather than run from it. In our modern age, it’s easy to run from pain. Medication offers quick fixes to our physical ails and the many distractions of life can keep us from obsessing over our internal, psychic pain. The running from pain comes from a mindset that life should be easy. When we note that life is hard, we turn into our pain, to conquer and transform it. This message gives the call to young men to control their feelings (to tame the hurricane energy, if you will), instead of being controlled by them. If we don’t learn how to transform our pain, we turn it outwards, harming others as well as ourselves in our efforts to overcome/run from it. Richard Rohr (2004) notes that “if we don’t transform our pain, we will transmit it in some form. Take that as an absolute” (p. 37). We must recognize the difficulty of life before we can begin to transform our pain.

How do we teach this? I’m not saying we should overly burden our young men; many of them are carrying far more than we ever could. We shouldn’t create our own ways to teach them that life is hard. But, when they encounter pain, obstacles, issues, we cannot swoop in and solve those issues for them. We must, out of love, let them wrestle with the difficulties in life, with us on the side, coaching and supporting them through the process. Every young male will wrestle and approach these feelings in a different way. We must support them through their struggle.

The best gain we can give our boys through this lesson is to help them overcome their anger, pain, hurt, and frustration. They don’t need to turn these feelings inward (for self-harm) or outward (to harm others); rather, they must learn to overcome this. Through learning that life will be hard, but then understanding how they can approach the hardships in life, we help establish our boys on a path to productive, creative masculinity.

Rohr, R. (2004). Adam’s return: The five promises of male initiation. New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Rites of Passage

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Rites of Passage Roadmap – The New Man

Over the past year or so, I’ve described a journey for young men, focusing on their separation from their childhood, their education in liminal space, and the main lessons that ought to be taught to the boy-becoming-a-man. It’s now time for that man to rejoin his tribe, his family, and his community, not as who he once was, but as the man he now is. All of these components of the rite of passage into the mature masculine are important, but none is more important (or more overlooked) than the public re-integration and celebration of the new man.

Why is this public declaration so important?
Speaking of the importance of initiation, Ray Raphael (1988) notes that “[w]ithout the aid of a formalized rite of passage [which includes the public ritual], it is harder for a youth to be sure that he has actually changed from one state to another. His transition into manhood becomes more difficult – and it generally takes a longer period of time. In the absence of assumed ritual, the delineation between boyhood and manhood becomes obscured” (p. 15). Without the public declaration, we see a male who is capable of manly work (he’s become mentally and physically mature) but who has not yet assumed the responsibilities that come with being a man. When we miss out on the recognition, the initiation, all of the lessons that have been learned, all of the drama surrounding the coming of age, is not fully complete. The new man’s status must be publicly affirmed.

In this public affirmation, assurance of the new manhood occurs. One of the dilemmas of the modern (and postmodern) world is that identity has become very individualized. With multiple definitions of masculinity, coming from the media, friends, and countless other sources, security in one’s masculine identity is tenuous. We very much have a “melting pot of masculinity” which can lead to a young man trying to live up to a variety of expectations for manhood, instead of having his identity affirmed by those individuals who care about him (and whom he cares about).

We see, then, that public re-integration is important for the psyche of the new man. There is something in him that needs to have his new identity publicly affirmed. But, beyond that, this public declaration and acknowledgement does something else: it embraces the power of community for support, encouragement, and accountability. We don’t see this as much in our modern world. Malidoma Somé notes that “[t]he first consequence of westernization has been to make initiation private. In the old days, initiation was a village matter that mobilized the energy of every person” (quoted in Stephenson, 2006, p. 57). When the entire “village” is involved (village standing for those in the young man’s immediate community: family, friends, teachers/mentors, etc.), the seriousness of the manhood he is entering becomes apparent. Declaring publicly in front of the community – “This boy is now a man…and here is what you can expect from him” – gives the community permission to expect more from the new man and gives the new man a standard to live up to, something to strive daily to uphold. Additionally, it serves as a way for all other men in the community to commit or recommit themselves to the expectations of manhood in that community.

What might it look like?
The actually public re-integration/declaration must be tailored to fit the new man and to fit the community. The ceremony can take on a variety of formats. It must contain a few things, though:

– Elders conferring and affirming the new man’s identity. In all of the discussion about education in liminal space, the focus was on the elders sharing with the young male. We find elders playing a major role in the initiation of young males in almost every primitive society. It is a sign of respect, a way to maintain the tribal traditions, and a meeting of male psychological needs (Robert Moore notes that “if you’re a young man and you’re not being admired by an older man, you’re being hurt.”). I can imagine a moment during this ceremony where elders share how the new man has proven himself, what he has attained, and what he will do.

– Acceptance of the new man’s role. After the elders are done conferring this new role, the new man must also accept it. To publicly say “This is who I am and this is how I will behave” puts a level of responsibility and accountability in place. It shows many of the lessons of liminality in action and serves to create a form of verbal contract with the community.

– Articulation of new rights and responsibilities. As a man, we should expect someone to behave differently from a boy. There is something powerful about declaring publicly the rights and responsibilities. Beyond the new man accepting his role, articulation of these rights and responsibilities reminds the community that “this” is how men behave and what you can and should expect from them. There are no excuses anymore; it’s out there.

– New treatment of new man. No longer can childish or childlike behaviors be accepted or excused. No longer can the adults in the community treat the new man like a juvenile. In court terms, he is to be tried like an adult. It will do our new men no good if we initiate them into the mature masculine, then continue to treat them as if they were children. That would take away all their work, all their learning, and cause identity confusion – “Am I a man? Or a boy?”. We must treat the newly initiated differently and, if we are to expect more from them, we must also provide more respect to them.

Imagine the celebration and the pomp and circumstance surrounding a wedding or a graduation focused on affirming a young male’s new manhood and welcoming him back into the community with new rights and responsibilities. This is what is needed to celebrate the new man, the emergence and declaration of the mature masculine. This welcoming will start his life as a true man with the encouragement, accountability, and celebration that it requires.

References:
Raphael, R. (1988). The men from the boys: Rites of passage in male America. University of Nebraska Press.

Stephenson, B. (2006). From boys to men: Spiritual rites of passage in an indulgent age. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Rites of Passage

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

DNA of Masculinity – Reverence

As the year draws to a close, so does our look into the lessons that should be taught in liminal space. We’ve examined respect, how a man holds himself and others in regard; responsibility, how a man accepts and embraces accountability for his actions and their repurcussions; reach, how a man strives to better himself and the world around him; reflection, how a man doesn’t just look outward, but also turns the microscope inward to his heart, desires, and reasoning; relationship, how a man cannot go through life alone and must seek out other men to walk with him on his journey; and reason, how a man makes decisions after thought and reflection that can be explained. Now we arrive at the most important aspect of masculinity: reverence.

What is reverence?
Simply put, reverence is recognizing/acknowledging a higher power and giving deference to that power. You can be reverent to someone in authority, to a god, or anything else that is greater than you. In my work with fraternity men, I sometimes see the code/creed/obligations of the fraternity being revered. Reverence drives you to act outside of your own interests and desires and recognize the callings/commands/hopes of the higher power.

To speak from my own experience, reverence is acknowledging God as Lord. Once that happens in a person’s life, once it happened in my life, one establishes focus on how to interact with the world. In this relationship, all other aspects of masculinity are portrayed. In this relationship, I seek not my will or glory, but His. Knowing that I must answer to Him for all my actions causes me to consider them that much more carefully. I have a Father at my side all through life, a Friend I can call on in time of need. I seek to do my best, because to do anything less would be to dishonor Him. You can see how this reverence, this answering to God in my own life, doesn’t just draw on the other aspects of masculinity but it drives them to be more fully developed and evidenced in my life.

Why reverence?
In his third book on masculinity, Fight Like a Man, THE book to read on reverence in masculinity, Gordon Dalbey says that a man cannot know who he is until he knows Whose he is. This is all about reverence. Before you can know yourself, before you can act in the world with certainty, you must know to whom you are answering for those actions. And it cannot be you. In Adam’s Return, Richard Rohr (2004), speaking of promises/messages of male initiation, offers “five essential messages a man has to know experientially if he is to be rightly aligned with reality. … [They are:] 1. Life is hard. 2. You are not that important. 3. Your life is not about you. 4. You are not in control. 5. You are going to die” (pp. 32-33).If you analyze the middle three ritual messages, all three point to reverence, to recognizing a higher power that is more important, that your life is about, and that has control.

Knowing Whose you are has an additional affect. Yes, it gives you an authority to look and answer to. But, more than that, you can face internal struggles: “No man will entertain the unmanageable truth about himself until he knows his Father stands by him in it – not to shame him, but to deliver him from its deadly effects” (Dalbey, 2013, p. 207). Reverence is not merely a bowing down, and it’s not a crutch to lean against; it also serves to support us through struggles and trials in life.

How is reverence taught?
Like many of the previous components of the DNA of Masculinity, reverence can and should be taught through modelling. Reverence cannot be forced, however; a young male must choose Whose he will be. But, principles around reverence, how to relate to and respect a higher power, can be shown and, in some cases, taught. A child can grow up attending a church every week, but this is merely exposure to reverence. He must choose reverence; he must choose to bow his heart and will to something greater than himself. When this happens, then further instruction in how to live in this reverential relationship can occur. I wish I had a more steadfast answer than this. Ultimately, though, reverence is modeled to young men and they will adopt it as they are shown more of it in practice.

In bringing our discussion of the learning that happens in liminal space to a close, I must note that the lessons about the DNA of Masculinity do not stop once a young male has been initiated. Each of these aspects will be reinforced, strengthened, and refined as a man continues to exercise them. The way a man respects himself and others will not be the same at 60 as it was at 30. These lessons are merely those that, when learned, will differentiate the men from the boys, will demonstrate the mature masculine.

As we ring in the new year, we will investigate the final stage of initiation – reincorporation or reintegration. I thank you for following me on this journey through liminal space.

References
Dalbey, G. (2013). Fight like a man: A new manhood for a new warfare. Civitas Press: San Jose, CA.

Rohr, R. (2004). Adam’s return: The five promises of male initiation. Crossroad Publishing Company.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 30, 2014 in DNA of Masculinity

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DNA of Masculinity – Relationship

Before you really dive into this post, I want you to pause and write down the names of all of your friends you would call if you lost your job and needed help. Now, look at that list and cross off anyone to whom you haven’t spoken in 6 months. And, finally, cross out anyone who doesn’t know your story – your struggles, triumphs, and pain.

How many do you have left? How many are men? Did making that list stress you out a little? Did it inspire you or make you sad?

I begin with this, because while it is fairly easy to make the argument that relationship is one of the marks of the mature masculine, it is also, quite possibly, the hardest for men to achieve and stick with. Relationship not only encompasses a desire to have relationship with others (especially other men who will challenge, counsel, and console you) but also actually forming that relationship with at least one other man.

What is relationship?
It would be easy for me to just say that relationship is a friendship, but it goes so much deeper than that. Certainly, sharing interests and enjoying company is important, but that’s just touching the surface of relationship. When I think about relationship, I always recall my old pastor’s depiction of various relationships. He use the illustration of a house, specifically three parts, the porch, the living room, and the kitchen.

The porch: Remember when houses had porches? And people would sit out on them and greet neighbors as they walked by? The porch relationship is just that. It is one in which you engage with people on a basic level, nothing too controversial or too deep. This is the relationship you have at work, when you discuss sports around the break room or with a friend at the store when you discuss upcoming home improvement projects. It’s nothing special, but it’s the building block of all our relationships. Most people will stay on your porch; some will be invited into the living room.

The living room: This relationship builds on the porch. In addition to all of those conversations, you’ve invited someone a little more into your life. The people in your living room get to see a little bit of who you are: what you enjoy, what your family is like, and how you live. They get to understand you a little more, beyond the polite banter. Your life is more open to them. Fewer people will be allowed in the living room, but even fewer still, if at all, will be given access to the kitchen.

The kitchen: How do you know when you’ve really been accepted by a friend? For most of us, it’s when we feel comfortable enough to walk into their kitchen and, without asking, grab a cold one from the fridge. But, how many people do you feel close enough that you can do this with? The friends you have a kitchen relationship with  are let into the deepest parts of your life. They know your fears, your struggles, and your triumphs. You trust them and live your life, your full life, with and in front of them.

The desire for and establishment of the kitchen relationship is the relationship that is at the heart of the mature masculine. This relationship is rare and oh, so precious.

Why is relationship so hard?
My mother is a shining example of relationship. Yours might be too. In fact, we can probably think of many women who have deep, caring relationships with other women. But for men to have those kinds of relationships, the kitchen relationships described above, is a more difficult matter. Why? In his book, “The Friendless American Male”, David Smith lists several male barriers to true relationship:

– Aversion to showing emotions
– Inability to fellowship (to share and enjoy the company of other men without needing anything else)
– Inadequate role models
– Inordinately competitive natures
– Inability to ask for help, and
– Incorrect priorities

All of these go counter to both our nature and nurture as men, but we must overcome them.

Why is relationship essential?
It’s natural to say that relationship is essential because it makes us better. This is true. Relationship also can counteract something that is plaguing the American male: loneliness. David Smith shares that “Anthropologist Robert Brain says that unlike any other culture, our acute loneliness must be seriously considered in any search for solution to nagging contemporary societal problems. Loneliness, and a lack of commitment to others, are factors in our high suicide, divorce, alcoholism, drug, murder, rape, and abortion rates.” The New York Time reported last year that the suicide rate for men in the 50s increased 50% between 1999 and 2010. The chief cause? Loneliness.

How can you cultivate relationship?
Two things you can do to cultivate relationship and then model it for those young males around you. Both involve being willing to listen, to be vulnerable, and to share, all things that don’t necessarily come naturally to us in the presence of other men.

1) Seek out at least one male mentor who will speak into your life. Find an elder male whom you trust and with whom you can build a relationship. Invite him into your life (after you establish a friendship) and ask him for advice and counsel.

2) Don’t wait for another young man to reach out to you like above. Find a younger male, in your church, on a team that you coach or play on, and reach out to him. Share the potential you see in him and develop that relationship. As you do this, encourage him to do the same.

Man was not created to live alone, but so often we allow our competitiveness or lack of trust alienate us from true companionship with other men, men who can challenge and live alongside us in our journey. You can’t make it through the wild alone.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 12, 2014 in DNA of Masculinity

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wrapup Words – Modeling

It’s been just a year since I started sharing thoughts on men, masculinity, and rites of passage in this space. In reflecting on all I’ve written and all I’ve read in my research, one word continues to come to mind: modeling.

Modeling is an essential part of the quest for mature masculinity. If you think about the quest young males go through (in both the Iron John path and the generic rite of passage outline), both involve a male mentor, a male model. Young males can’t imagine what the mature masculine looks like; they have to be shown it. They need their fathers to show them; they need teachers, coaches, pastors, and heroes who will show them what it means to live in the mature masculine. Without a model, our young males will flounder in liminal space because they are not being taught their roles, rights, and responsibilities as they enter manhood.

Who can a young male look to to model respect, responsibility, reach, reflection, relationship, rationality, and reverence? Their peers are still (for the most part) still struggling to learn these for themselves. So, we, the older males, the ones who have been initiated into the mature masculine, must model it for them. We must show them what it means to tame the hurricane energy and to marry our inner feminine. We must embrace the multi-faceted roles of manhood – of warriors, lovers, friends, and kings.

Are you concerned about erring? About being a poor model? Don’t worry; I think it’s a fear we all have. But, fortunately for all of us, there is a model that is without error, Jesus, God made man. In Jesus, we can see all sides of the mature masculine, all markers of the DNA, all four of the pillars/dimensions of masculinity. In Him, we see the strength of the warrior, used to defend and build up, not to destroy. In Him, we see the tender compassion of the lover, calling little children to Him and caring for His mother even as He hung on a cross. In Him, we see the friend, wandering Israel for years with 12 men at His side. And, in Him, we see the King, conqueror, ruler, now and forever, providing for His people.

As we end this year and start the new, whom will you model mature masculinity for? And whom will you look to as your own model of mature masculinity? I hope to continue to provide guidance and thoughts along the way as we all quest to more like the ultimate model of manhood.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Weekend Words

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 23, 2013 in DNA of Masculinity

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.
 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Rites of Passage

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tools for the Journey – Map

 

As we continue to look at the life of a male from birth to death as a journey, one with its endpoint, hopefully, in the land of the mature masculine, we can see that there are certain tools that are required or make this journey easier. One that certainly helps is the map. 

What are maps? Maps show us where to go, where we could go, and, sometimes, where we ought not go. In new places, maps help guide us and keep us on the right path, or get us back to it when we get lost. Many people rely on GPS now, but I can’t think of a better analogy than a map for that guidance to the mature masculine, and thankfully, unlike explorers of old, we don’t have to create maps for ourselves in our journey to the mature masculine.

In this journey, a map can provide landmarks, letting a male know where he is on his way. Many of these landmarks help to keep us on track, but they also can show danger points to stay away from. Maps fold. They can be put away and ignored if we know (or, sometimes, believe) we’re on the right path. In the same way, we can also unfold the map when we’re lost to get back on track. Maps have been created already; someone before us has blazed the trail and crafted the map for us on our journey. Of course we’re going to stray sometimes, but we are never lost as long as we are willing to consult the map and find those landmarks and locations we need to go through to complete the journey.

Some landmarks that I’ve noted as I continue to think through this map include the village of mentors, the cave of perpetual adolescence, the elder’s bridge, and the land of liminal space. The land of liminal space is the in between area between adolescence and true mature masculinity. Victor Turner discusses liminal space as that time when males have left the comfort zone of what they know and are finding out who they are and how to truly be independent males. This is the region that many college-age males travel, and, sadly, the region that many never find their way out of. In the cave of perpetual adolescence, you find those males who did not separate from their adolescence properly, and are destined to act as children, never realizing their full, mature masculine potential until they do separate and enter the land of liminal space. Of course, the village of mentors provides guides to help us through the land of liminal space. They also sometimes patrol that land to help bring us back on track. Last, but certainly not the final marker in this map, the elder’s bridge is the safe, easy path out of liminal space. Elders, who have already attained the mature masculine, are the only ones who can bring males out of liminal space into that mature masculine. They are the gatekeepers of this final destination and welcomers of all males who attempt the journey.

Because of research on ritual and male rites of passage and development, we know what the map of a male’s journey can look like. We know where the obstacles, pitfalls, and good paths lie and are continually adding to it, even as we experience life. It’s up to us to help young males navigate through the wild to the land of the mature masculine. Each of us, through our own journey, has added to the map. Together, we can create a roadmap for young males and teach them to use it on their way.

To using the maps we’ve developed to help young males reach the land of the mature masculine.

MD

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Tools for the Journey

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,