Earl Hipp reflects on the tragic lack of male involvement with boys because of “What people will say.”
Why aren’t good men showing up to support boys? As I researched my book, Man-Making, one of the many reasons men offered as a barrier to involvement with young males was, “people will talk.” There was a deep and, in today’s world, common fear that if they showed any interest in young guys, they would instantly be labeled a predator. I can’t imagine a more tragic situation where there are literally millions of boys who benefit by being part of a male tribe and being connected to good men, and yet those very men are staying away because of, “What people will say.”
In the January 13th, 2011 Wall Street Journal, Lenore Skenazy wrote an article titled, Eek! A Male!. The article describes how deep the fear of men goes regarding their presence around children. The author says, “. . . these days, almost any man who has anything to do with a child can find himself suspected of being a creep. I call it “Worst-First” thinking: Gripped by pedophile panic, we jump to the very worst, even least likely, conclusion first. Then we congratulate ourselves for being so vigilant.”
I spend my winters in Tucson, AZ. As everyone knows, the Tucson community experienced a horrific tragedy perpetrated by yet another very lost and disoriented young male shooter. It was horribly irrational, raw, and in so many ways, unforgivable. I think of it as another “World Trade Center” kind of wake up call that shattered more of our innocence and left us, as a country, feeling wounded and vulnerable. While it turned out this young male was profoundly disturbed, from where I sit I can’t help but wonder what his life and world view might have been like if a good man had taken him under a protective and caring wing. What if good and caring men had stepped up when this shooter was giving off the early signals of being lost and alone? It’s too late now for this young man, but you can be sure there will be more.
If you’re a man reading this, I invite you to consider the degree to which you carry negative judgments about men being involved with boys. Look in to your heart to see if the fear of being judged negatively by others is alive in you . . . and keeping you from making a difference in a young man’s life. Maybe THE difference. Maybe a life-saving, life-giving difference. If you have been touched by what happened in Tucson, or the countless other young male-gone-wrong stories we hear about every week, perhaps can stepping up for a boy in your community can be a part of your/our healing process?
For a more detailed exploration of “Why Men Don’t” show up for young males, download this free article from Earl’s Man-Making website.