What does it mean to be a man?
What is a man?
Think about it for a bit. What’s your definition? When you think of a person who embodies a man to you, who is it? And why? What qualities do they have that make you think they are manly?
My thinking about this remains incomplete, but I will tell you that I’ve thought tons more about it in the last six months than I had in probably the previous 46 years. I think my idea of a man was both caricatured by what Hollywood told us, and self-denigrating. That definition, I believe, really left me out of the picture. And I wouldn’t have told anyone that, had it crossed my mind.
That definition involved bravery and courage, and it still does. But it also included unemotional. Stiff upper lip. Nothing bothers this so-called man. They take care of themselves, and they don’t struggle.
The thing they most aren’t, of course, is vulnerable.
How unlike me could this definition be? I’ve struggled lots in my life. I am extremely emotional. Things bug me all the time, self-care hasn’t always come easy, and yeah, I’m totally vulnerable. Being gay has only exacerbated for me a lot of these feelings.
Of course, that’s actually true for ALL men. All people, actually. As a character in my upcoming novel says, “If you’re acting like you’re not vulnerable, that’s all you’re doing. Acting.”
How Hollywood. We never got to see backstage with John Wayne, and I think that may be among the most damaging things about our current society. That we (some of us, anyway) still believe in John Wayne.
One of the things that has me thinking about what it means to be a man is The Mankind Project, a group I joined in May.
It has fundamentally changed me. I know when I say that people get uneasy, like I’ve joined a cult or something. Far from it. This group has no interest in controlling my mind, or telling me what to think. What The Mankind Project is helping me with is figuring out who I am, and what I think a man is, and how I fit that definition.
This is important stuff!
I went on what is called the New Warrior Weekend in May. It was a revelation to me. Scary and challenging and beautiful and fun. I laughed, I cried, I came to understand myself better. I have since continued in Mankind by attending what is known as an i-Group, which is a weekly group where men do work. That work is basically becoming awake about who we are, what’s going on with us, emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. No answers are foisted upon us. This is all about authenticity, and that’s individual work no one can do for us.
Now I’ve become the community coordinator for the Central Arizona area for this group. I am typically slow to take on roles like this, but the mission statement of this group matches my own:
“We are building and supporting the emotionally mature, accountable, and compassionate male role models that our communities so desperately need.”
That’s who I want to be. The kind of man. One who is in touch with what he’s feeling and doesn’t bluster through, blind to his own emotions. One who is accountable to his community and contributes to its growth. One who has compassion for all, and also compassion for himself.
If you want this in your life and you don’t have it, I can help you find it. There is another New Warrior Weekend coming up in Prescott, Arizona from October 6-8. I will be staffing the weekend. This isn’t for everyone, but it surely was for me a huge, life-altering shift. If you think it might be one for you, too, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll happily chat with you about my experience, answer your questions, and help get you signed up.