December 16, 2015

Gifts for Men in Working with Boys


This is the time of year when the idea of gifts, in my opinion, gets overly commercialized and a little out of control. That said, there are lots of different kinds of gifts. I'm partial to the experiential gifts, the ones that engage you and maybe even change you in some way. Those are the kinds of gifts men get when they get connected to young guys.

The subtitle of my Man-Making book reads, "Men Helping Boys on Their Journey to Manhood." The initial, and obvious assumption, is always that it's men helping BOYS on their journey to manhood. That is true, and it's what the book is largely about. However, the subtitle could also read, "Men Helping Boys on THE MEN'S Journey to Manhood." The secret of the Man-Making book, and in man making work, is men who show up for young guys are always made much better men in the process. Now that's quite a gift.

. . . men who show up for young guys are always
made much better men in the process.


In the trainings we do to prepare men for working with young guys, one of many things we do is to create a safe place where they can go back into their history to remember some of the joys, confusion, and the pain of their adolescence. Some of what's shared is really fun. In addition, there are usually some difficult memories from that time in their lives. The gifts for men in this training are having the time, safety, support, and the intimacy with other men to talk about it all. Revisiting the old feelings, challenges, and the bruises one took as a teen is healing for the male soul. It's also the perfect preparation for sitting across a room or circle from a hurting young guy.

Then there's the reality of sitting in weekly groups with boys and young men. Once the young guys really trust you, the masks of teen male bravado slowly come off and real truth is spoken. Regularly witnessing young boy vulnerability, pain, courage, laughter, confusion, foolishness, naiveté, and raw truth, is a force that works on all the males in the circle. It bonds them together on the quest to be better than they were. This is true for all the males in the circle regardless of age. It's this water-on-stone, regular application of boy truth that softens a man's heart and give him the gifts of increased vulnerability, compassion, and caring.

It's this water-on-stone,
regular application of boy truth
that softens a man's heart. . .

In addition to all the gifts described above, in the Man-Making book there is a short list of other gifts for men in this work. They come in two varieties. First, there are the gifts of letting go of what's working against you being the best man you can be. Then there are all the gifts that naturally come from ongoing involvement with boys. Here is a short list of both:

The first set of gifts might be described as what men are relieved from experiencing. Men who work with young men typically feel less:
  • shame of ignored responsibility.
  • isolation across the generations.
  • confusion about the job description for being a "man."
  • detachment from the life of his community.
  • lost on his journey to manhood.
The second set of gifts is about what men get. Men get:
  • to see boys grow and become better young men.
  • reconnect with youthful (teen) energy and spirit.
  • to fill in some of their own boyhood “blanks” by supporting boys.
  • to develop an increased trust in “masculinity” and other men.
  • a connection to a positive male tribe.
  • the satisfactions of directly giving back to their community.

All these gifts are just the beginning, there's many more. Sadly, this is just a two-dimensional description of experiential gifts that are much bigger, deeper, and wonderful. There is just no substitute for the real thing.

My wish for you is that you come get the gifts in man-making that are waiting for you. If you're at all interested, send me a message and let's talk about what might be possible. I can promise you it won't be hard, you ARE the man for this work, and the young men are waiting for you to show up.

Also, I'm available to help bring man-making initiatives to your community or organization. If you'd like to start a Man-Making initiative, large or small, I'd be happy to help.



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