by Ben Castro, Program Director, Boys to Men, The Launch Pad Teen Center
From an early age, many boys are given a false ideal of what masculinity is and what they should live up to.
Part of that ideal sells young men on the idea they should and ought to do everything on their own — “Real men don’t cry” is a common theme we are all too familiar with. The outcome of such an unhealthy narrative is a rise in violence, abuse, disconnection and loneliness in a man’s life.
Men and boys, just like all human beings, need touch, caring, warmth, acceptance, empathy and close relationships, and many have no idea how to ask for those things or how to acquire them.
Some men are so afraid of appearing weak they never even try or else they turn away the very second when approaching such unfamiliar territories. But healthy men need confidants. This means having male friends who we can actually be vulnerable with, to be 100% ourselves around.
For many men, this is not the situation so they spend wasted time posturing in isolation, without deeper friendships or any real sense of community. This loneliness can compound as men grow older.
Through nature and nurture, accident and circumstance, the individual man and the character of masculinity are forged in culture. As men, we have the power and responsibility to courageously create a new way of being for ourselves.
If we want justice, equality and peace, we must provide boys and men with better tools, mentors, models, rituals and most importantly, the supportive space to do the work and forging necessary for acquiring the condition of healthy manhood.
It’s messy, emotionally risky, yet critically important and all too often sidetracked and taken a backseat to other more “important” issues in a man’s life. However, every ounce of inner work that men partake in ripples outward and influences us and everyone else in a very powerful way.
Men can be loving, nurturing, gentle, as well as fierce, powerful and protective. So to all men, create a vision for yourself and for what you really want out of life and commit to that intention on a daily basis through wise action, creativity and healthy connection to the world around you.
This is the way forward for the new era of healthy masculinity and of being a solid man in the world.