During the past two generations, and perhaps further back than that, a growing number of adolescent males have not benefitted from the mentoring they needed by way of their father guides. This trend is continuing today and, as a result, many of our sons are demonstrating more apathy toward life itself, disrespect for themselves and others, substance abuse problems and poor decision-making. Consequently, the path from childhood to manhood is either becoming or is blurred at best.
Men are very confused and disillusioned about the role(s) they play in today’s world. Examples of these natural roles are those of the protector, provider, hunter and the warrior. Men just know that part of their responsibility is to “take the bullet” for the family. Yet these roles and their importance to men as a natural aspect of who they are are changing more rapidly than at any other time. As a consequence, men are left with unanswered questions about their importance and value in their homes and communities. Where do they fit in now? They are expected to be warriors in the workplace and to work to better the standards for themselves and their families and yet be care givers and nurturers in the family home. All this new reality is separated by a two-inch door at the front of their homes.
To be clear, there is no blame attached to this point of view. This is not about “us and them” or who is at fault because they, as men, are confused about their roles in their society. There is no right or wrong nor good or bad to be determined. This is simply a statement expressing concern about what is happening currently because it is not good for any of us.
A significant number of men, many of whom are fathers, are responding to these changes in one of three ways:
1. They are opting out of the natural roles that they believe is their responsibility to demonstrate. They are not involved with family and often just walk away because of the inner turmoil and frustration and disappointment of not fulfilling their male destinies.
2. Some men have just given up trying to cope with this new set of circumstances. They give in to get along and, in doing so. don’t experience a sense of value and connectedness and leadership in their families that is vital to the male ego (likely one of the three most fragile things in the world today).
3. Other men have decided to stay and ‘fight’ the ever-changing expectations. They become polarized and aggressive, and some become violent in their opposition to change. Some, in the extreme, become misogynistic.
Change is inevitable. It is the only constant I can think of. As men in the world they have tried a variety of ways to get by. In truth, the only way for them to get by is to stop trying to change the new rules. That change isn’t going to happen. Things will continue to change. Count on it. They can, however, change themselves. They can change how they see the world they live in and how they live in the world they see. They can learn how to manage themselves so that they can live their lives with the same focus on their natural roles and do it with dignity, passion, compassion and self-respect. They no longer have to choose between allowing their natural gifts to be eroded and getting along. Happiness is a way of being and not a way of living.
I have determined and outlined four areas of our lives that we can all focus on to help us move toward a time of happiness and peace. If it is good for men, it will be good for those around us, and most important, our sons
All the best, Jim
James Cloughley is now retired after 20+ years as an addiction counselor for a Niagara area rehabilitation center. He is a graduate of the Social Service Worker program at Niagara College and continued his studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He is a member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. www.lifechoice.ca