From Compass Point,
I am convinced that the greatest, most effective way we help other people is through mentoring. Being mentored by positive role models is also the best way that people, especially boys, learn. Males are extremely visual and so the need to actually see an example is imperative in their learning and development process.
All males need older males to guide them through life. It is the natural order of things. Young boys look up to middle school boys for guidance on how to act. Middle school aged boys look up to high school age boys, high school boys to college age young men, and college aged young men look to their slightly older counterparts.
In fact at all stages of life we need mentors. Young fathers need older, experienced fathers to help with questions and problems. What did you do when your kids did this? How do I handle all the pressures and responsibilities of leading a family? Did you ever go through these challenges with your marriage? Even older males whose children are grown and gone look up to others. I need a retired man to tell me and show me how to approach the next stage of my life now that my kids are gone. What will life look like? What kind of challenges will my marriage have now? What can I expect from my body and what health issues will I face?
Oftentimes we don’t even realize we are looking for guidance from an older male. This is the natural order of things. If we have good role models to follow then we naturally tend to make good decisions and choices in life. With poor role models however, we tend to make unhealthy or even destructive choices. The advice we get and examples set for us are those we tend to emulate.
My brother-in-law Scott is one of the most successful voice actors in Hollywood—probably at the top of his field. I noticed that Scott had grown up with several other men that he was still good friends with today. Of interest to me is that each of these men are very successful in their fields of endeavor. For instance one man is part owner of a rapidly growing national trucking company and another is a successful movie producer. In addition they all are good men with healthy, happy marriages and families.
I asked Scott one day why he thought that all of the men in the specific group of friends he had grown up with were so successful today. It seems fairly rare that one boy out of a group of friends attains that kind of success in life they had much less all of them. Scott said something I found to be very interesting. He said that one reason was that they had all chosen careers that did not limit their income potential. But he said the biggest reason was that they were all raised by a group of good, involved fathers and other male mentors within the church they attended. They were all taught, encouraged, and held accountable by a group of men. Bingo! It’s that simple.
Boys and young men also need to be tested as part of the maturation process. Young men who never test themselves against life, never find out what they are made of. They never become confident and secure in their manhood. Trials mature a man in ways that books or lectures never can. If boys are rescued (typically by female mentors) too often growing up they never learn self-reliance and the skills to succeed in life. They learn to rely on females to take care of them. Most often a boy needs a man to help teach him to navigate his way through the brambles and thorn bushes of manhood. Without that too many young boys and men grow up angry, frustrated, anxious, and scared. The truth is if we continue to produce greater and greater numbers of angry young men we will eventually experience an apocalyptic meltdown within our culture.
What happens to boys and their masculinity without proper training? How and why do certain “generational cycles” get passed from one generation to the next? Children are often “pre-programmed” to exhibit certain tendencies or make specific choices in life merely by what was modeled for them when they were growing up. Traumatic events during childhood are especially engrained in a child’s psyche. Old programming, just like old habits, dies hard.
I know men who are in prison, men who are alcoholics, sex addicts, or abusive in their actions that swore they would never make the same choices that their fathers made, and yet they are almost powerless to keep from following in the generational sins laid out before their footsteps. It is because those behaviors programmed into our subconscious come out when we least expect them to. Generally despite our best intentions, our children mimic the worst of the characteristics we model for them instead of our best.
When fathers abuse or abandon sons, their sons repeat those same behaviors onto others. Even though they desperately might not want to they almost cannot help imitating what was modeled for them.
But direct intervention in their lives by positive male role models can make a difference. Fathers are the best but nearly any man will do in a pinch. Do you know that as men we can heal wounded boys just by spending time with them, by caring about them, by investing ourselves in them, by sharing our masculine essence with them? It’s one of the powers that God gave to men—we can fix broken boys just by spending time with them. And usually we don’t even have to do anything special. Often times it is just letting a boy stand next to us and watch what we do and how we do it that lifts him up during the transition from boy to man.
Watch for the second half of this article in next month’s newsletter. This article is excerpted from a book on authentic masculinity Rick is currently working on tentatively titled, “A Stand Up Guy.”
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