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.



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