November 26, 2014

The Season of Gratitude


In the U.S., Thursday, November 27, is Thanksgiving Day. For most, it's a time of family, food, and, sadly these days, shopping. However, I want to take the meaning of the holiday literally and use this moment to express gratitude, real thanks-giving.

I feel quite blessed to have your support.

This blog's subscribed audience is about a thousand and growing. I know there are many other site visitors who pass by regularly. Taken together, you make up a good and loyal group, and I feel quite blessed to have your support. It really does make my heart sing to know there is a global collection of people who care enough about our young men to let these posts into your lives a few times every month.

I'm grateful for the possibility that some, or even many, of you are already involved in some form of Man-Making. Or because of what you read here, some of you will be moved to take an action in support of a young man. Now that deserves some real thanks-giving!

So, in this season of gratitude, let me simply and directly say, Thank You!

Earl Hipp



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November 20, 2014

Father Hunger, Son Hunger, Two Songs, and the Father Wound

I was in a men's circle last night. It was a meeting for men interested in working with young males. To help men get anchored in the teenage male experience, they were asked, "As a teen, who were the men who were, or were not, there to support you?" It was a rich conversation and, as is always the case, men learned that when we speak our "truth," when we are real with each other, we are all way more alike than different.

As a teen, who were the men
who were, or were not,
there to support you?

One of the common themes that showed up in the conversation was about the father who was physically present but emotionally distant: workaholic, alcoholic, womanizing, angry, sometimes abusive, and/or a man without any skills for intimate connection. One man labelled him a ghost father, visible, but was not really there. For some men, it felt more confusing, painful and damaging than having a father who just left, leaving a fatherless boy.

Men, sometimes teary, talked about the profound longing for time and connection with their dad, the most important male in a young man's life. They described how, without this man's guidance and direction, it was so easy for a life to take a wrong turn. Each man, in different ways, and for different reasons, spoke to deep father hunger that was never satisfied, and the wound they have carried into adulthood as a result.

Daddy, where are you?

The film clip below is titled Papaoutai and performed by a Belgian singer named Stromae. It was sent to me by a brother in mission, Andrew MacDonald, who lives near Ottawa, Canada. Loosely translated, Papaoutai means Daddy, where are you?. I don't speak the language of the song, but no matter, it's message is painfully clear.

In countless young guy circles, I've heard "Daddy, where are you?" asked many times by so many young men . . . too many young men. It's at the literal heart of what I often call "the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys." Men and young men carrying this kind of father wound may find Papaoutai hard to watch, especially the ending.


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


As almost a direct counterpoint to Papaoutai, I want to offer up another song. This one comes from the other direction, a song about a father hungry for time with his son. Mark Chandler, in his song Making A Man, is speaking out for so many good men cut off from their sons by life's circumstances. Mark is a military officer approaching retirement. It's been difficult to get time with his son because for three of the last eight years, Mark has been deployed. On top of that, he's been divorced for the last four years.

Mark feels the core message of the song is it takes a man to make a man, and it's what "poured out of him" when he was longing for time with his son. Again, for men and young men carrying a father wound, Mark's longing, love, and commitment, as expressed in this song, may dampen your eyes.


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

To connect with Mark Chandler, visit his Facebook page.

These songs represent two very different and profoundly deep calls for connection between fathers and sons. When that bond is broken, everyone suffers. What's left for us to do is to support men and young men who've been damaged in that unique way. Today, in so many ways, we're paying the social costs of not offering that support. We can do better and we must.



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CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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November 14, 2014

A Young Man's First Shave and A Different Movember Challenge

A strange wave of joy and sadness hit me when I noticed a can of Barbasol shave cream in a friend's bathroom. I had seen it there before, but this time it took me right back to my early adolescence and those first few times shaving. I've written about that sad rite of passage event for me in previous blog posts. I guess the impact of that time in my life is still very much alive in me.

The feeling of joy was from the memory of all that white and fragrant foam in my hand and then all over my face. And I do mean ALL OVER my face. Somewhere underneath all that white stuff hid a few tender facial hairs signaling, not the need to shave, but the first hint of approaching manhood. I don't think the foam helped me get a better "shave," but it was a helpful guide showing the path the razor had taken.

I can also remember a rather evil green liquid aftershave. When the shaving ordeal was over, I'd put some of this potion on my hands and rub it on my face. I then had to endure the rush of burning pain as the liquid met up with all the dings the razor had left behind. I'm sure it made me smell odd at best, but in my naive adolescent mind it all made me irresistibly manly.


...in my naive adolescent mind
it all made me irresistibly manly.

The sadness in that Barbasol moment was not so much about the painful nicks from poor shaving technique or even the resulting shameful face dotted with little pieces of Kleenex. I felt sad because, in that important moment in my life, I was again left alone to figure out another aspect of manhood. In a way it's like a first menstrual period for a girl; it was an occasion that begged for guidance. My only real guides were the terrible shaving commercials of that era. As it was then and is still the case today, what I saw on the screen was seductive, but really poor training for real life and manhood. Here's an example:


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


If you haven't heard, "No Shave November" or Movember is when men don't shave for 30 days in order to grow a moustache (Movember = Moustache + November). It's a global campaign designed to invite conversation about men's health and to raise funds to improve the lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems. Think of it as the male version of the pink ribbon breast cancer campaigns. The Movember Foundation, the leading global organization, has raised $559 million todate and funded over 800 programs in 21 countries. If you want to get involved, you can visit the U.S. Movember website or just Google Movember and your city, state, or country. It's a very good cause.

...here's a different Movember challenge for you.

But here's a different Movember challenge for you. Use the idea of Movember, or just beards, to start a conversation with an adolescent male in your world. Ask him if he knows about Movember. Ask him if he's shaving, how did he learn, and how is it going? Tell him your story of learning to shave and your approach today. If you know the young guy is an under-male-nourished kid, all the better.

Sure, the young dudes can find the information about shaving themselves. However, showing an interest as an adult man in this part of a young man's life, or starting a conversation about this common male issue, carries a lot of weight. It really doesn't matter exactly what you talk about. The important thing is the fact that you are recognizing his emerging manhood and offering some support. In this way, you'll be honoring this young man's small but important rite of passage, and possibly passing along some needed shaving tips.

If you didn't get any good training on how to shave or how to teach a kid how to shave, Shaving Tips for Teen Guys is one of many great websites.

If you have a first shave story, please send it along. I'd love to hear it, and if you're willing, I'll post it in the comments to this post.



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October 25, 2014

Protecting Our Young Men From The Call To Jihad

There is a lot of talk in the news today about how young men are being "radicalized" by religious extremists and being seduced into going off to fight wars in foreign lands. It's a sad story to be sure, but it's a very powerful call for young men.

The call to Jihad, at its core, is really the same call young guys hear to join street gangs, to join our military, or even to be on a school sports team. These organizations put out a call to action that matches up perfectly with the psychology and physiology of our adolescent males. What our young guys hear is a call to be a warrior. The surprising thing for me is not that some young men are answering that call, but that even more young men aren't responding to that message.

If we want to prevent our young men from being lost in tragic ways to the warrior call, we have to learn a little about the adolescent male experience, and then come up with alternative activities that really speak to them. Here's a four-item, short course in what I've learned about why our young men are vulnerable to extremist messages or any call to become a warrior.

. . . why our young men are vulnerable
to extremist messages
or any call to become a warrior.

1. The Biological Imperative: From adolescence to around the mid-twenties, young males are biologically vulnerable in at least two ways that set them up for a warrior call to action.

They are experiencing something like seven to ten surges of testosterone a day. Testosterone has been referred to as an aggression hormone, and it causes young males to feel powerful as their muscles are getting stronger and their sexuality is emerging. Testosterone drives a combative nature and hungers for physical activity, testing through competition and physical challenges, to demonstrate skills and prowess. You can see all this working on neighborhood basketball courts or skateboard parks.

The second biological issue is a young male's well researched and poorly wired prefrontal cortex. Simply stated, it's the part of the brain that helps them to think through the consequences of their choices. Sadly, up until the mid-twenties (and possibly beyond), this part of the brain is still under construction and is marginally functional.

If you take this biological picture as a whole, you come up with a very restless young guy, who is feeling powerful beyond reason, who is naturally combative, ready for action, and who isn't thinking clearly about his choices. This is the perfect young warrior.

2. Tribal Nature: Simply stated, guys need a tribe. Men have operated in packs for eons. Look at the fans in any sports stadium. You'll find mostly men, wearing similar colors, and cheering on "their" team. This sense of belonging, membership, and being part of a pack, is very masculine behavior. For the young guys, being part of a tribe, having an identity as a member, is pretty important.


Males also like hierarchies, think of a military or bureaucratic structure. In a hierarchy, the pecking order is clear and a guy's place in the order of things is laid out. Beyond just belonging in a pack, you know your place in the masculine order of things.

Being in a male tribe gives a young man access to the book on manhood. A tribe gives a young man a smorgasbord of men he can look up to for guidance. He's surrounded by masculine role models and men who may teach him important life skills. There may even be a path of testing or ordeals necessary to achieve full membership and acceptance into the group. This is a perfect match with a young man's need for challenges and proving his worthiness.

Tribe = the book on manhood!

Getting blessings from older men and ultimately acceptance into the adult male club, getting a place around the fire, or honored status in the pack, is a big hunger in young men. A Jihadist group, street gang, or football team all meet the young guy hunger for a tribe.

3. Honor, Respect and Contribution: What our young males want is to be seen (at all) and then respected for who they are and for their unique gifts. They want to stand for something, and if it's a good or noble thing all the better. And though you might find it odd, young guys want to contribute, to make a difference, to be in service. After a community service project, I've see young men smile and stand straighter in the sunshine of gratitude expressed by the food shelf staff, habitat house owner, or elder food delivery service.

They want to stand for something. . .

What too many young guys get in our communities today is pressure for invisibility and often no young guy park or guy place to hang out. Their graffiti "art" is criminalized and over-painted as soon as possible. Their appearance is ridiculed and their music often disrespected. They slink around in alleys, the woods, or at the mall trying not to attract negative attention. So if someone offers them honor, respect, and an opportunity to contribute to an important cause, why wouldn't they say "yes."


4. Hope: Too many young men simply don't see any kind of a desirable future. There is little hope for good work, advanced education, or any legal economic success. Without those things, the idea of being a family man, father, provider, husband, are all just distant concepts for other people. So many young men have been fatherless or under-male parented and don't have good role models for any life but the street. Living with chronic hopelessness as the background to your life is sad business and makes angry and resentful young men. If someone shows them a quick path out of that place, and offers some hope of reclaiming self-respect with a few goodies attached, why wouldn't a lost young man choose that path?

There are lots more reasons many of our young men are vulnerable to the call to warrior. Whether or not they make good choices is really up to us. What is clear is that our young men need our support, intentional guidance, positive community, and especially good men around them.

When it comes to Jihad, like Ebola, we don't have to wait till the epidemic of under-male-nourished boys is at our door and starts taking even more of our young men from us. We can start acting now. It's not really that hard to do, we just have to be willing.

If you want to talk about what you, your group, or your community can do four young men, give me a shout and let's talk about what we can create. The young guys are waiting and the time is now!



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CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

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October 19, 2014

How to start a Man-Making Movement

I'm all about inspiring others to take the risks of stepping forward to try a man-making activity. From witnessing countless men trying to find a way to show up for young guys, there are two things I know to be absolutely true. The first is that it's really hard for men do it wrong. In fact, when a good man steps forward, it most always leads to making a positive difference in some young guy's life, and him becoming a better man in the process. The second truth is it's really hard for men to get beyond the initial fear of looking bad or sounding foolish.

. . . it's really hard for men do it wrong.

Here is a funny and inspirational video clip that pretty accurately describes what it takes for a man to start a movement. It also shows how, if a person can find the courage to move past his fears, his actions can organically grow into a movement others may join. Look closely to see who, in addition to the guy who takes the first big step, shows up to make the big difference between success and failure.

Hope this inspires you to do something in service to yourself, men, and young guys today!


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

If you want to talk about easy, low-risk, man-making options that may be possible for you, give me a shout and I'll brainstorm with you.

Another thing I also know to be absolutely true is there are young males in your community who are at this moment waiting for you to get up and do something!


SHARE: If you enjoy this blog, please click the Facebook "Share" button below to support the Man-Making Facebook page! (The button is only on the MM Blog, and NOT in email post delivery, sorry.)


CONTACT: Send Earl a message. I'm very interested in your thoughts on any man-making post or topic. I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization.

SUBSCRIBE: If you're not yet a subscriber to the Man-Making Blog, and you'd like to receive these posts by email 3-4 times a month, use this link for a free subscription.

TWEET: Send this post along to your friends or follow me on Twitter!