May 19, 2008

Man-Making Questions for Men

My audiences, single moms, and most mentoring organizations are all asking the same question, Where are the men? Part of that answer is that so many men are lost . . . to this work, to our communities, and most tragically, to themselves.

I've often used the metaphor of a pressure cooker . . . solidly built, impenetrable, and with the contents inside under pressure. It's hard to get to know these men and harder for them to know themselves. And hard too for them to consider a connection with an adolescent male who is sure to stir the contents of that tightly sealed pot.

For so many men, that time spent between boyhood and manhood, on their journey to manhood, was filled with feelings of embarrassment, fear, isolation, confusion, pain, and for some flat out shame. . . just for starters. To be sure, most men have plenty of upside memories of cars, girls, a tribe of young males, sports, trips, sexual experimentation, hobbies, crazy risk-taking, and all the fun that was had. But it's the painful memories lurking and locked in beneath the surface that can create a powerful force for resistance to a man's involvement with boys.

One strategy for calling the men to this work, IF you can gather a group them in one place, is to get them talking about the old days and the carrying on they did as adolescents. Get them remembering and telling stories about the fun times, and then ask them questions about what else happened that was difficult. If the gathering is a safe container, and the men feel a comfortable with each other, rich, common, and often emotion laden stories will be unfolded. A common male history will be shared that can emotionally unpack men, allow them drop some of their defensive armor, and re-connect with all those complicated feelings that filled their young hearts. In the process of remembering and releasing, men often become less fearful and more open to the gifts waiting through involvement with young males.

To help with the process of opening men's hearts and calling men to this work, I'm offering a list of Man-Making discussion questions. These are the same questions I asked of the men who contributed their personal stories to the creation of the Man-Making book. You can read all the responses to these questions in the What Men Say section of the Man-Making website.

If you have a chance to pose these questions to a group of men, please do share with me how it went. I'll publish your response here as a lesson for all of us.

Another option, if you're feeling courageous, is to take yourself to the What Men Say section of the Man-Making website. Read one of the questions that speaks to you and explore the contributed responses. Better yet, answer the question yourself and send me your response. I'll be happy to publish it here and add it to those on the website.

I'm almost certain that this action on your part, like just about any involvement with adolescent males and man-making work, will most likely melt and reform your masculine heart in at least some small way.

(Here is the direct link to the PDF document titled Questions for Men about Man-Making)

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