October 18, 2016

When Did You Become a "Man?"

Back when I was doing research for the Man-Making book, one of the questions I asked men was, "When did you, without question, become a man?"

It's really a great question for the times, in part because of the many, confusing, and often contradictory notions of modern manhood. Some men took a stab at an answer by mentioning important moments in a guy's life such as, having first sex, getting a license, getting married, becoming a parent, going to war, and so on.

But without a clear line to cross to definitively answer the manhood question, their responses most often reflected uncertainty, a little guy-shame, and some hunger for something deep inside that was missing. The most honest, and the most common, response was some version of, "I'm not sure I'm a 'man' yet today!"

"I'm not sure I'm a 'man' yet today!"

Over the years in this blog I've profiled many different groups that offer some form of a ritualized passage experience for their boys (and men). For all that activity, it's really just a start, as though we're just beginning to realize the importance of this work and its impact on the male psyche. You have to look hard to find communities and tribal cultures that have a long and deep history of this initiatory technology.

In a few places these rituals have survived into present time. What I love about them is that wherever they are performed, and however unusual they may appear to our modern eyes, they do provide a clear answer for the man or men involved as to when the manhood line was crossed.

"When did you, without question,
cross the line and enter man's world?"

What is your manhood story? When did you, without question, cross the line and enter man's world? If you don't have an answer, like so many other men, you might feel just a little lost on your journey toward manhood. And with so many men feeling trapped in the never-never land between boyhood and manhood, how can we ever expect our adolescent males to find the door to the men's hut without guidance?

When you have a moment, check out this National Geographic Video talking about a rite of passage event of the Dogan people in Mali. It's called the Dama, and it's importance for the men, and the whole community, is very clear.

The Door to Dogan Manhood


If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

If you want to talk about how to create a rite of passage event for some of the young males in your world, give me a shout. A continuum of possibilities are waiting, experiences that vary from very brief and simple moments to something a little more involved. None of these actions are beyond you and a couple of your men friends.

How do you feel about the fact that your emerging manhood was not recognized and celebrated in your teen years? If you have a lingering hunger for that experience, perhaps it will drive you to action. It's the best way I know of to plug up those leaks in your male psyche. Trust me, you are hardwired for this work, and I know the boys are waiting.



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September 27, 2016

Helping Boys Cope with Grief

Robert Lucas lost his dad. His father had a long illness before he died, but that only made a wrenching loss a little easier to take. Losing your father is always a big marker in a guy's life, but it can be especially difficult for an angry eighteen-year old young man.

We all know loss and grief are a common and normal part of everyone's life. But for a young male, with limited emotional vocabulary and just as limited cultural permission to show up sad and vulnerable, the big losses can create a pressure cooker of big and complicated feelings. A big loss like Robert's can easily send a kid over the edge into some form of darkness.

Robert was lucky. He had spent three years with the Boys to Men Mentoring Network of Virginia (BTMVA). That's three years to learn all his feelings were welcome in their circles. With time, he was able to unpack and unpack his considerable anger. He learned he was not alone with the hard parts of his life, that he was accepted no matter what, and that he had other young guys and a tribe of good men around him for support. All that came in handy when his dad died.

Here is a collage of photos from various BTMVA events that include Robert and some of the men and boys from the group. The joy of connection and belonging is obvious.


Robert wrote a rap song/poem to his father to offer as his eulogy at his dad's funeral. When he stood to speak at the funeral, he asked ten of the BTMVA men to stand behind him to literally have his back in the most difficult of moments. If you read the lyrics closely, you can hear a brave young man trying to cope with the complex collection of thoughts and feelings that came with facing the death of his father. Here, in his own words, is what Robert said:

It been a long time coming!
Pop as I write this letter to you Understand tears was shed Hearing those four words your father is dead Gone off this earth It's crazy thinkin you gone yeah it hurts But honestly I can't be selfish Looking in your eyes pops you was lifeless Couldn't stand up and barely walking Couldn't speak you were barely talking 5 long years seeing you suffer

Witnessing it made me strong it made me tougher So many memories you share with me I still remember long summer you me and the PS3 Face bright joyful heart Our bond can never be torn apart

Dad it's still very hard to comprehend Your gone and I'm the sky you ascend No stress no more worries nor no pain

Imma be alright and gonna maintain Still thankful you seen my graduate I had to finish couldn't hesitate Thanks for giving me all that knowledge Pops I promise you one thing I'm heading back to college I'm ready to carry on the lucas legacy

I still remember those things you said to me "Jr watch your friend they you closes enemy's" this worlds crazy so be prepare mentally Some people real those relationships meant to be Some wait till you turn your back stab you and say that Dude dead to me Tell People what he did and straight fled the scene He said jr let me break it down let me explain

I said yea pops I'm listening heart filled with pain He said I been alive a while Seeing walk across that stage made me proud you should have seen my smile If only you wore my shoes probably couldn't last mile He said times is getting rougher Situations tougher All this fighting I'm doing doc said I prob won't recover So you the man that means take care of your mother

After the funeral service, BTMVA hosted a meal at a local restaurant attended by Robert's family and many of the BTMVA boys and men. His community gathered around him in support. It was as beautiful as these difficult moments can be. But for so many other boys like Robert, who are angry, pressurized, and alone, it often turns out quite different.

Robert is a success story!

The good news is Robert is a success story! He has graduated high school and will soon be moving to Pennsylvania to live with his Mom. He intends to honor his promise to his dad to attend college. He has found his heart and voice, and instead of stuffing big feelings behind a mask of teen bravado, he shared his story with the world. He asked for support, and leaned on his friends in dealing with this huge challenge. These are important life lessons he's learned at a young age.

Stories like Robert's are not uncommon in the Boys to Men network, or in the many other places where men are showing up for our boys. Here's another story from a past blog post about a boy who had to put his horse to death, and how a circle of men and young guys helped him cope.

. . . I know the Roberts of the world are waiting.

In writing this now, I'm feeling the sadness of the losses in my life as a teen that I had to face alone. I always wonder who I'd be today if I had found the support and caring for the hard parts of my life that Robert was lucky enough to find. But then, that's why I'm involved and maybe why you're reading this! Give me a shout if you're interested in joining other men in this good work. I know you won't regret it, and I know the Roberts of the world are waiting.



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September 21, 2016

Boys, Tears, and Money



If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

I have been working with young males for more than fifteen years. Much of my time with boys has been spent within the Boys to Men Network. On many occasions, I've shed tears when witnessing the raw pain and courage of so many young men. On passage weekends or sitting in a school circle, I've heard countless boys share their stories of loss, abandonment, abuse, and family dysfunction. I've been a witness to their struggles to just cope in their complicated worlds of school, relationships, and the streets. I'm way biased, but just like the video showed, I believe a lot more of our boys need what these young men are getting.

. . . a lot more of our boys need
what these young men are getting.

I've also witnessed men's hearts be opened as a result of exposure to the vulnerability and brutal honesty of the young men they encounter in this work. While I know the adult male attention is good for the boys, this work also creates better men. I know I am a better man for my involvement.

Over the years in this blog, I've profiled lots of good and worthy groups of men who are showing up for boys in different ways. But in this post, I'm going to be a little selfish. I want you to know about two organizations that are very close to my heart. Because of my personal involvement, I know the impact on real lives these organizations are having. That's also why, for the first time in the history of this blog, I'm doing what is a little uncomfortable for me. I'm asking you to consider a financial donation.

The Desert Men's Council:The Desert Men's Council (DMC) in Tucson, AZ is where I give most of my time in schools and on outdoor adventures. DMC is holding their Annual Bike for Boys - Bike-A-Thon this Saturday. It is hoped this event will raise enough money to add at least two schools to the six we are already serving. Your donation, no matter what amount, WILL help this important work go forward. I know they need the money and I support them financially. If you're willing, here is the donation link. If you miss the Bike-A-Thon deadline, you can always donate on the DMC website or just give me a shout.

Boys to Men USA:Last fall I was part of a group of men from around the United States who formed Boys to Men USA. The fourteen community-based, USA centers, like DMC in Tucson, combined their experience and passion to form a national not-for-profit corporation. The goal of Boys to Men USA is to share best practices, standardize our offerings, and ultimately serve boys in even more communities.

This October the Boys to Men USA 2nd Annual Summit gathering will be held in Tucson, AZ. Because of the financial challenges of volunteer-based organizations, some of the centers are not able to send representatives to the Summit. If you want to help grow this evolving network of dedicated men, you can make a small donation on the Boys to Men USA GoFundMe page. Even small amounts will help, and be a vote of support.

If you're not able to support young guys directly,
. . . support the men who are . . .

You wouldn't still be reading if, at some level, you didn't hear a call to action, a call to help our young men. If you're not able to support young guys directly, you can support the men who are doing that work by making a small donation. I know every donation made to these two organizations will play a role in making a young man's life better.

Thanks!



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September 6, 2016

A Powerful Call to Men to be MEN!

Denis Waitley
This video is the most beautiful call to man-making I've heard in a long time. It's by Chaim Dunbar. He is the founder and CEO of We Be ONE, ". . . a multicultural unity movement. Unified with the awareness and understanding that we are all individual parts of one human family."

If Chaim's video doesn't
touch your masculine soul,
you may not have one.

I'll let Chaim speak for himself in the video below.





If this clip doesn't show up use this link.


Onward my brothers, the world is waiting!




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August 20, 2016

A Man's 500 Ton Initiation

In a recent blog post, I wrote about how a young fisherman was initiated into his profession with a trial by waves, tobacco juice, fish guts, and heat. It was a tough rite of passage. In many professions we still see some form of testing, formal and/or informal, required of the beginner or novice in order to earn the full acceptance and privileges of man's world.

At the end of that "fish guts" post, I asked you, the readers, to let me know if you had encountered any ordeal, testing, or initiation into man's world as you went through life. One reader, Brian E., sent along this story about how he earned the respect of the men in his world of work with BIG cranes.



Hi Earl, part of my passage into manhood was about earning acceptance into my profession. I was 28 when I joined the International Union of Operating Engineers. I started as a journeyman apprentice at a crane company and, initially, my company would use me as a "yard kid." I would help the mechanics, run for parts, pick up trash, and so forth. To prove myself, I would always go beyond my regular duties to straighten up the rigging and do a good job of keeping the yard organized.


Liebherr 500 Ton Crane
The company was in the business of delivering, setting up, and operating the large cranes you see on big construction sites. One of the crane operators took notice of my work and told the office that he wanted me to become his new oiler, even though other journeymen wanted that position. An oiler has a lot of responsibility, everything from driving the crane to the site, positioning the crane on the site, and helping place the counter weights during setup and operations. So it was a kind of compliment to get picked.

...only two men ever made him cry...

This operator was nice, but was often a real jerk. While he'd compliment me every once and awhile, if I did something wrong he would yell at me and really make me feel less than human. If he caught me without a rag in my hand and not cleaning the crane while he was operating, he would yell "if I'm working, you're working," and slam his door closed. I didn't like getting yelled at so I didn't make the same mistake twice. He would tell me that I was getting off easy and that he had it a lot worse from the operator who taught him. Once he told me that only two men ever made him cry, his dad and the operator that taught him.

I'm a pretty smart guy. I knew he was really teaching me to become a darn good hand who can work anywhere and be accepted by the elite in my trade. A lot of it had to do with safety, because my profession is very dangerous. In the past ten years, I've seen many men with missing fingers, men who have been crushed, and men who have died. Behind all that gruffness, he was actually protecting me, maybe keeping me alive.

I became a better man . . . because of him.

I appreciated the tough love, and I know I became a better man, coworker, and crane operator because of him. Like I said, I didn't get a lot of compliments from him. However, when I recently went to my old company and worked with him for a day, he told me he really missed having good help around. Coming from him, that meant a lot to me.



If you're paying attention, you'll often hear these initiation stories and their impact. They are most often about building up new guy and preparing them for success in their future. If you have a story about this kind of "welcome to man's world" in your life, please send it to me. If you're really motivated, give me a shout and let's talk about how you might create an intentional passage experience in the life of a young man you know.



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