As I’ve stated in previous blogs, I am part of a men’s group that meets regularly to support each other’s goals, address issues in our lives and give back to the community. These gatherings are confidential and are a place where men can display their vulnerability without judgment and be challenged by the other men when our actions do not match up to our values or standards. The men are invested in one another’s success because when one man succeeds the whole group succeeds.
As the men listen to each other's story we recognize our commonality as men to be able to deliver back from a place of understanding and heart. It’s an amazing experience to connect with another man’s pain and be able to provide him with the empathic guidance he needs. It is also incredible to be able to speak honestly with another man in order to get to the truth. Too often people don’t want to say anything that may hurt the other’s feelings. This is a space for honesty.
These types of groups are out there but are rare. Usually the groups that men form are around specific issues like substance abuse, sexual addictions or sports. Men often have difficulty connecting with other men, especially when it comes to their relationships with significant others, their family or with themselves. They feel the need to present themselves as tough or in full control. This difficulty may come from a lack of trust and men’s competitive nature. Most men find themselves alone, without support. There is no one to hold them to their own standards. These men who do it alone often fall into a doomed relationship with their partner, less productive at home and at work and sometimes get depressed and fall into an addiction.
I was recently listening to a television series by Joseph Campbell, who was an American professor of literature. He was interviewing an American poet and a leader of the men’s movement, Robert Bly. The segment was called “A Gathering of Men.” In the interview Bly speaks about how men drifted apart from one another throughout the last few centuries. Before the industrial revolution men were hunting or working side by side. Men would also bring their sons and taught them skills and other important lessons about life. In aboriginal societies boys were taken by the elders of the tribe and initiated into adulthood. There were clear definitions and roles and less confusion about who they were.
Bly goes on to point out that during the Industrial Revolution the men were taken out of the homes for long hours at a time and spent less time with the family and children. This continues to be the case today and as a result boys become lost and grow into men who isolate themselves and do not stick around.
The “me too” movement offers men an opportunity to define for ourselves what powerful masculinity is. By creating a men’s community, we honor our own masculinity and become better husbands, fathers and men.