I began writing this after watching “Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution“, a documentary about the hookup culture of young adults on Spring Break, examining its origins and effects. I felt drawn to convey to our young men who, for the most part, make choices based on what will have them be accepted by their peers, that there is another way; a way in which they get to exercise their wholeness and experience themselves as the powerful agents this world desperately needs, while providing something of real value for their communities and the world. Then, another mass shooting occurred, this one at the Garlic Festival. Just four days later, another massacre at the El Paso Walmart, and then, in less than 24 hours, a third in Dayton, Ohio. All carried out by white men in their early twenties.
While we can easily point to patriarchy and toxic masculinity as contributors to rape culture and mass-shooters, the thing that I most would like our young men to know is that they have a choice and that they can “be better,” and that it is important that they learn this early. At 46 years old, I’ve been around enough to have learned lessons from life. Following is my guidance for young men.
To the Young Men of This World:
You are going to be faced with many situations in your lives where you will have to act. There will be scenarios when lives are at stake and your convictions will be tested—opportunities for you to decide what it means to be a man. In the moment, it may not seem as if you have a choice, and you may not want to choose, but in any given moment and with every situation, you get to decide who you are going to be.
I know this may not be easy because we, as men and as a society, have all been sold on an awful premise that has us trapped. Whether it be the media, porn, cultural expectations or peer pressure, we have been trapped into believing that our self-worth and worthiness of being called “men” has been tied to things like how early you lose your virginity, how many women you have sex with, how much money you make, and your ability to dominate (through sports, in business, with women, etc.). Those who dominate often do so to the detriment of others. In each of these areas of life, you will have to decide if your desire for conditional acceptance by “the pack” is greater or less than your core beliefs of what is right and just.
It is obvious that our current culture is a violent one, and it is important that you know that it has not always been this way. Many of the previous cultures of this planet had a connection with each other, with the Earth and valued all members and genders, equally. The white, European colonizing culture that influences most of the world at this point, promotes ideas such as: “boys will be boys,” “you have to step over people to get what you want,” and “we need to be like this to protect ourselves.” These statements are not facts; they come from fear and they do not work for anyone who is interested in longevity and the well-being of the collective.
We have been gifted with the ability to think critically and to feel each other’s spirit (and our own). Mostly, we have been gifted with choice. It doesn’t matter how much testosterone, how much ambition, or how much energy you have, you can always make the choice of how and if to act. Am I saying not to take action and build and create? No. Am I saying not to defend yourself if the need arises? Absolutely not. I am saying you get to take whatever actions you desire and, at the same time, do it in a way that does not have to cause harm to others, or yourself.
You don’t have to “push through a woman’s ‘no’” in order to get laid. You don’t have to even look at it as “getting laid.” There is a much greater experience of love, connection, and empowerment that is available to you when you seek encounters that are mutually beneficial.
You don’t have to be a part of destroying other communities and countries to take possession of their resources. You can build within your space, and when you have reached your maximum capacity, you can assist others in doing the same.
You don’t have to go along with the crowd to be accepted. You can clearly see if a group, a clan or a fraternity is interested in outreach or domination.
You can also:
- Honor yourself and those around you;
- Learn to sit in your own silence so that you can connect with your personal truth;
- Choose to act from the place of serving the greater good;
- Choose to learn to express yourself so that you feel heard, loved and understood;
- Learn to listen to others in ways that have them feel heard, loved and understood;
- Accept yourself as a feeling and loving being;
- Allow yourself to discover and explore self-pleasure in a way that positively fills your body and spirit;
- Ask yourself, “What am I doing to make this world a better place for myself, for my family and for society?”
As men, we need to do these things. When we don’t, we live a life of constantly fighting against our own perceived inadequacy. It is that shame from feeling inadequate that has us justify and carry out the atrocities we hear about on a daily basis. It is that fear of feeling the shame that has us turn to “the group” for validation, often at the expense of others.
Our real power—your real power—comes from being trusted. I want to trust you. Women want to trust you. Other men want to trust you. You want to trust and be trusted as well. You can earn trust through doing the work to know yourself and by choosing to be a man who serves something larger than himself. As a result, you ultimately earn your freedom to feel and to express and authentically be in the world.
Where can you do this work? I wish I could tell you that just joining any men’s group would do the trick. Unfortunately, many of those groups and their leaders still find themselves trapped in a hierarchy, competition, and domination while calling themselves “conscious” or “spiritual.” The real place to start is within yourself: learn to meditate so that you can feel what is right for you. Practice martial arts so that you can experience yourself as powerful. Read books so that you can gather information and develop empathy. From there, seek teachers, groups, and organizations that feel aligned with the principals you have identified as important for yourself, to further your development.
You can do this. We need you to do this.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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