April 21, 2017

Grief and Gifts For Boys in Schools

As the school semester winds down, in the boy's support group circles I've been in, we've begun the process of talking about endings and transitions. The end of a school year is coming on fast and in addition, some of the seniors will be leaving and never returning. We want to support the young men through the natural feelings of loss and grief that accompany any form of moving forward in life.

In a culture that doesn't offer us much training in healthy ways to deal with endings, creating a space where it's safe for young men to express sadness, and then help them give a voice to talk about their sense of loss, is really important. It helps them grow their emotional vocabulary and helps them release some of the internal pressure they feel but often can't explain. These are important skills for a young man to have in his tool kit on his journey toward manhood.

... we don't have to teach them to have feelings.
They are full of feelings!

I've written a number of Man-Making Blog posts about helping young males deal with grief and loss. My common reply when asked about boys and emotionality is that we don't have to teach them to have feelings. They are full of feelings! We have to help them find language to sort out and then describe their complex and often pressurized internal emotional experience.

As one early step in the group's transition process, we asked them to answer the question, "What will you miss about our meetings?" Many of the young guys check in saying things like, "I'll miss the brotherhood...," "This is the only place I feel really safe...," "You guys are like family to me...," and "I'm going to come back and visit this group next fall." These are powerful statements about the impact the group has had on them and the sense of loss they are beginning to feel.


In addition to helping young guys develop their emotional vocabulary, here's my list of "gifts" young guys get from being in a support group with caring men. There are many more, but this is a good start.

Ten Gifts Boys Get in Support Groups with Men
  • A safe place to speak their uncensored truth.
  • Adult male allies.
  • Support for their existing life challenges.
  • Good information about life/being a man.
  • An evolving vision of positive manhood.
  • Development of emotional vocabulary – language to describe the complex emotional experiences and feelings they are having.
  • Decompression: To un-shame, not be alone with the anger and pain. To talk about their real-time life challenges.
  • Belonging: Being a member of a good tribe, feeling included, valued, honored vs just a few “what’s up” friends. Experiencing "brotherhood."
  • A place to practice being a man - how they will show up in their lives (authenticity, accountability, responsibility, speaking directly/assertively, supporting others, and giving and receiving constructive feedback, etc.).
  • Praise and honoring from men for who they are, their courage, creativity, intelligence, playful humor, victories, and their aspirations.

A very special thanks to Boys to Men Mentoring of San Diego for this beautiful video, and to the boys from their school circles who are speaking their truth.



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

If you are interested in launching a support group for young men in a school or church in your community, give me a shout. It's amazing the difference a few caring men can make.



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

FACEBOOK 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 subscription posts delivered by email.)


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

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

© Copyright 2005-2017 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
Sharing with attribution allowed. All other use require permission.

March 15, 2017

A Continuum of Men's Involvement and Masculine Gravity

Note: What follows is a slightly re-purposed post from the Man Making Blog's history. One of my goals for this blog is helping men believe who they are right now, in their glorious imperfection, is just the kind of man young men are looking for as man-makers. I'm hoping the idea of a continuum of involvement, fueled by masculine gravity, might show you how to step forward!



As you know, I'm all about getting good men to show up in support of young males. I didn't have much of that support from men growing up, and the huge number of boys across the planet without any significant or positive male influence is a frightening notion for me. I call it an epidemic of lost and under-male-nourished boys. This epidemic begs for an army of men to help deal with the crisis, but sadly, the men aren't showing up.


At the same time, most men I talk to about man-making feel some sort of despair at the plight of so many of our lost boys. Yet these same good men are held back from involvement because of a variety of compelling fears which, taken together, create barriers to entry for them. Families, schools, and communities have so many lost boys, some dying or being imprisoned for lack of adult male attention, and yet so many men stay on the sidelines.

In future posts, we'll explore why men don't show up for boys, but in this post I'd like to offer what may be a partial solution to this tragic dilemma. It's a very short course on how men (you) might be encouraged to move into action in service to our young males. Let me introduce the Continuum of Involvement.


The basic idea is to think about a continuum of options by which a man can gradually approach involvement with young men. This is a pathway of sorts, which they can gradually traverse, learning a few important lessons along the way. The first lesson is recognizing the man they are, right now, is perfectly suited for man-making. The second lesson is that both men and boys will get a lot out of a man stepping forward. I have laid out a continuum of action options, starting with those that present low personal risk and little time required. The continuum then moves toward those actions requiring more time commitment and more personal involvement with young males. It actually all starts with men not doing anything!

Just Be You: As you'll see on the chart above, the least challenging form of man-making is not doing anything at all! For boys, men are the book about what it means to be a man. For that reason, they spend a lot of time watching what men do. Right at this moment, as a man just living your life, boys and young men are watching you. That means, without making any commitment to action or conscious effort on your part, you are already having an impact on boys around you. The truth is, whether you realize it or not, or even like it or not, you are already a mentor and in the man-making game.

Seeing and Acknowledging: Sadly, there just aren't many places young guys can hang out in their community without attracting negative attention. It's like they've been relegated to background action in community life. Can you think of a place? I believe invisibility is a horrible punishment just for being a young male. That's why when a man like you simply acknowledges young guys, it can be a day brightener. Just like the rest of us, all boys want and need to be seen in a positive light. So the next time you get a chance, make it a point to notice young guys. Look at them, smile and give a nod. If you want to stretch a little, maybe tack on a simple acknowledgement. This could be as simple as "hey guys, what up?" If you do, there's a good chance you'll make a positive and memorable dent in a young man's day.

". . . there is something a little spiritual about
clearly noticing and then telling someone
how unique and amazing they are."

Blessing: The next step up on the continuum requires you to go just a little beyond acknowledgement. I believe there is something a little spiritual about clearly noticing and then telling someone how unique and amazing they are. I call this a blessing. This happens when an adult male catches a boy doing something especially well or identifies one of his positive attributes, skills, or tendencies . . . and tells him. Men are often cast in the role of the disciplinarian, so it may take a little effort on your part to shift your perspective to be able to see all the things that are right about a kid or pack of boys. Try giving a brief and positive statement that celebrates him in some way. "Nice move on that board!" "Awesome sneakers, dude!" Try blessing boys in this way, and then delight in the response you get. If you know a young man and your blessing comes out of your personal truth about him, it will be an incredibly powerful moment for both of you.

Natural Mentors: Take a moment to remember some of the men who knew you as a kid and who took a special interest in you. Maybe it was a relative, the guy next door, a teacher, someone from your spiritual community, or a coach. Whoever it was, you probably liked or respected each other, and there were gifts for both of you in your connection. Natural mentoring relationships are unstructured, organically occurring, affinity connections between a boy and a man. They mostly just happen, and can be as brief as a 10 minute conversation or last a lifetime. As your young male comfort and literacy increases, you'll realize opportunities for these kinds of relationships are always nearby, and even looking for you! As you get more comfortable around young males, they will get that about you and, at some point, you'll notice a young man hanging out around you more often. When you realize a young guy is circling you, take a risk, honor his attention, and engage him. What happens after that may just change both of your lives.

One-to-Many: Guys really are pack animals by nature. So doing things in a group is pretty comfortable. If you want to take the next step up into more involvement, try being part of a group of men and boys. Even if it's for a short outing or event, this is a good way to test the man-making waters. Go on a Guy's Hike, or volunteer to coach a team. You and a few other men could take some young men camping, to a sports event, or help with a Habitat for Humanity home build. It could also be as simple as you and a man friend teaching some of the neighborhood kids how to fish or change a bike tire. One man, or a few men, and a bunch of young guys doing some activity takes a little time, but it's usually a short term commitment, good for the young dudes, and almost always a lot of fun for everyone.

One-on-One: This form of connection is the one we all think of as mentoring. This typically involves a long term commitment and a more personal connection between one man and one boy. These matches are most often supported by a group or organization. For a man willing to take on this level of commitment, he'll find training from the sponsoring organization, peer mentors for support, and one very grateful young male. There is plenty of evidence to indicate a one-on-one mentoring relationship is a powerful force for positively shaping a young male's life. It also happens to be very good for the older male too! If you're ready for one-on-one mentoring, you won't have any trouble finding an organization that will be glad to meet you.

Events: Under this banner I include involvement in organized activities for men and boys, or, as in my case, belonging to groups that are organized for the purpose of helping boys (and men) on their journey to manhood. You can find these groups in your community, checking with the YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs, scouting, being part of school-base group mentoring, and many others. I've written about a number of these possibilities in this blog and will continue to list them. This degree of involvement may sound unlikely for you at this point, but let me warn you, there is an invisible force working to pull you in this direction.

"MASCULINE GRAVITY!"

Masculine Gravity is my name for the force that works on men who step onto this continuum of involvement at whatever place they are comfortable. As men gradually learn that most of their fears of being around and connecting with young guys are unfounded, they begin to be more comfortable, relaxed and take enjoyment from the experience. They start having fun, enjoy being connected to the quirky young male energy, and they really like the fact that they are having impact in boys' lives. This collection of feelings is what makes them willing to risk just a little more involvement. In a few years time, I have seen many men move from cautious and tentative outsider, to short-term involvements, and then on to becoming a full-tilt advocate for men and boys. In fact, Masculine Gravity is the same force that has kept you reading this far in the article! Something gets kindled in a man and he begins to hunger for his natural place in this very masculine work.

So that's the VERY short course on how to move from being currently interested (because your reading this) but not yet involved, to taking some small steps toward becoming a man-maker at some level. In future blog posts, we'll explore the barriers that keep men from making a positive difference in boys' lives and the very long list of the gifts waiting for men who step on to the man-making continuum.

Thanks for being you and caring enough to have read this whole story. You are the man and you can trust the young guys are waiting for you.



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

FACEBOOK 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 subscription posts delivered by email.)


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

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

© Copyright 2005-2017 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
Sharing with attribution allowed. All other use require permission.

March 3, 2017

Taking A Stand In A Changing World

I haven't been posting for a long while and you deserve to know why there has been so much blank space and quiet on the Man-Making Blog.

My truth is that as a result of the election outcome in the US and what's happened since, I've had my world view pretty severely shaken up. It appears that much of the world I inhabit is more angry, fearful, and willing to be more selfish and mean-spirited than I used to believe.

I personally know about the danger of being sucked into a vortex of negative thinking. In an New York Times article titled, "The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking," psychologist Rick Hanson reminds us that “We were built to over learn from negative experiences, but under learn from positive ones.” Part of my personal life's work, as the article describes, has been to, ". . . learn to disrupt and tame negative cycles."

I think the dissonance stirring in me
is what growth feels like.

So very simply stated, it's taken me a while to understand and accept the magnitude of what, for me, is a new reality. Yes, I do know there are plenty of loving, tolerant, generous, accepting, and courageous people around. Yet it's still taken some time for me to find some solid ground to stand on and to begin to figure out what I might want to do differently in the storms of confusing messages. I think the dissonance stirring in me is what growth feels like.

What is already very clear to me is my new world, more than ever, needs good and solid men and women of conviction and character. It needs people who are willing and able to stand strong for themselves, their beliefs, and everyone's rights. Our country and the world need people willing to step forward into visible, vocal, and action-oriented positions in support of what they believe in and value. For me, continuing to publish this blog, encouraging men to be man-makers, and working in communities to support young men as I'm able, are all ways I can do my part to help create a better world.

. . . to ensure fewer boys (and men) are
lost in the never-never land
between boyhood and manhood.

For the last thirteen years, in various forms and across the country, I have been working with brothers in mission in the man-making business. I have been dedicated to doing what I can to ensure fewer boys (and men) are ". . . lost in the never-never land between boyhood and manhood." As a result, I have seen boys and men find the voice of their deep truths, embrace values of self-respect and respect for others, and witnessed them as they developed the courage to stand up for what for them is right and true. I have seen thousands of good men get over their fears and courageously show up for young guys who are desperate for their influence. I know this is good and necessary work and I feel some urgency that it continues.

As I write this, I'm not sure exactly what I can add to what I've been publishing on these pages to communicate to you the urgency and concern I feel for the consequences of having too many lost young men in our communities. Maybe an increase in focus on what men like you can actually do. Maybe stories about how one gloriously imperfect and unsure man changed the world around him by risking some small action in support of some young men. Possibly some interviews from young guys talking about the difference a man like you or group of men made in their lives. Or maybe hearing from one of the many lost young men I encounter telling you about what it feels like to be without a good man around who cares about him.

You tell me!

You tell me! What would you need to hear or see on these pages to inspire you to action? What would it take to get you to step into the arena? How can I help you hear the call to man-making? If you can name it and it's in my power to create it, I'll make it happen. In the meanwhile, I too will be curious to see what shows up here!



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

FACEBOOK 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 subscription posts delivered by email.)



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

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

© Copyright 2005-2017 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
Sharing with attribution allowed. All other use require permission.




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.



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 subscription posts delivered by email.)


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!

© Copyright 2005-2016 Earl Hipp. All Rights Reserved.
Sharing with attribution allowed. All other use require permission.

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.



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 subscription posts delivered by email.)


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!