August 13, 2010

What Men Get

Do you know there are personal costs for men who choose NOT to become makers of men for young guys? Through my research, interactions with men at conferences, and on rite of passage weekends, I've learned men who don’t answer the call to serve adolescent males, whether they realize it or not, accrue what I might term a shadow over their sense of masculinity.

Try some of these on to see if they are a fit for you:
  • The subtle sense of shame that comes from ignoring the responsibility to helping emerging males. Having to live with the vague notion and quiet voice saying “maybe I could have done something,” when they learn about lost, violent, or imprisoned boys.
  • The sense of isolation that comes with being disconnected across the generations. The feeling of being lost without male mentors, elders, connections to young males, or intimate connections to other men. As a result, men expressed problems with finding their right place in the male order of things.
  • Confusion about your “job description” as an adult male in boys’ lives, and your community.
  • Being out of touch with young male energy, angst, confusion, playfulness, sexual development, physicality, technology, curiosity, music, fashion… and opportunity to revisit those parts of your incomplete journey to manhood.
  • The feelings of detachment from life in your extended family, neighborhood, and community.
  • Being unsure or feeling incomplete as a man. Many men stated they never experienced a clear and undeniable arrival into manhood that allowed a proud confidence in their masculinity.
  • Feeling stuck and alone on your journey to manhood.

These are just a few examples of the costs that mount up when men don’t honor the man-making call from deep in their genes. This is the price men pay for not discovering and implementing their instinctual, man-making talents. MOST IMPORTANTLY, this is also a description of the weight that is lifted when men step forward, in some large or small way, in service to boys.

In addition to being relieved of the costs of inaction, men engaged in man-making begin to immediately experience a number of positive returns. In my article What Men Get, I describe both the costs of inaction, and ten "gifts of involvement" that always change men's lives for the better. Click here to read that article.

 You make me want to be a better man!
(10 points if you can name the actor and movie)

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  1. Anonymous11:50 PM

    While lambasting me with all the fire and brimstone, remember it is "your dominating culture" that said I had to alienate myself from mentoring, teaching, coaching, comforting, or healing boys because I am not heterosexual. So take your shame and cost calculations and shove it all where it came from. Thanks and good luck.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I have a gay nephew and many gay men friends. I do understand the ugly, bigoted unfairness with which GLBT people are treated.

    With that said, I offer you the following: There are GLBT kids that could use your support and would most likely welcome it. I also know of mentoring organizations who accept men as mentors regardless of their sexual orientation.

    Finally, a sad truth is that in this world of pedophile priests and a few other sick men, ALL men who show interest in mentoring boys are vulnerable to being labeled as dangerous. It was one of the major barriers mentioned in my research. It's a tragic situation to have hundreds of thousands of lost and imprisoned young males, and when a man steps up to help his motivations are questioned.

    That's why good men need to show up as best they can. In my book I talk about lots of large and small ways men can do something in support of young males. I hope you can find a way to support the young people in your family, the children of your GLBT or other friends, or find a way to a mentoring organization that is open to GLBT mentors.

  3. Dan Sheehan5:02 PM

    Dear Anonymous,

    I am a fellow gay guy. I had fears of becoming a mentor to boys because of the negative messaging we get from the community at large. I get your apprehension.

    That said, I chose to break through the fear and do it anyways. I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Minneapolis. It was an experience that made my life better. More importantly, it made the life of my Little Brother better. Though the match only lasted a year, I helped a shy Mexican boy grow to be more outgoing. He became so by simply having a friendship with me, an adult. He loved to fish. So we joined other BBBS matches for fishing outings and also used Minneapolis Park Programs for the same. By the end of that summer, a timid 7 year old became an 8 year old who was helping the other kids with their worms, untangling lines, and taking fish of the hooks. In such a short time, he grew and it made a difference for a lifetime. He was not gay, nor did his parents care that I was. It is the friendship that ultimately matters to all of us.

    My experience with BBBS was good; and I would encourage you to try them. They interview kids and parents and ask them if they either prefer to have or not to have (or don't care) a Big that is gay. They then ask the Big if they either prefer to have or not to have (or don't care) a Little that is gay. Then they make a match.

    I reinforced this conversation with the parents via the social worker - because I REQUIRED that they know that I am gay. This is perhaps an extra step we have to take, but so what.

    I can say with certitude to anyone who might read this - the sexual orientation of the mentor does not matter.

    Get out there and prove 'em wrong buddy, it's worth it. Make a difference.


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