Ben Palmer shares how the practice of mentoring is an act of love. To selflessly devote yourself to the investment and support of another human is love.
Before you begin reading this article, please open a new tab in your web browser and Google Images the word, “love.” What you will find is a collection of pictures that are a comparison to images you would see if you were to walk into a Hallmark store in early February. This is the mental image most men “see” when they think of love. This is what our society has accepted. This is a problem.
Nothing about heart-shaped clouds, frilly roses, snuggling swans, or cartoon bunnies evokes emotions of power, strength, and brawn. I do not suggest actually doing so because some of the pictures that appear are inappropriate, but if you were to go back to Google Images and type, “man stuff” you would find the exact opposite of the search results you discovered earlier. I’ll give you a brief rundown on the first few rows: naked women, a woman clinging to and dragging from a man’s leg as he walks away from her, weapons, men boxing, superheroes, etc. While all of these things are great (minus dragging crying women), they are the antithesis of our “love” image results. An obvious conclusion could be made that most boys or young men growing up in our culture can assume that love is weak because, apparently, dragging a woman is machismo, cartoon bunnies are not. This is why I mentor.
As a high school football/track coach and teacher, I am blessed with an incredible opportunity to mentor young men (and women) that aren’t my children on a daily basis. I have worked in both public and private schools with diverse sets of children from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. I’ve taken student-athletes home to their 1-room apartment that they share with another family and buy them food on the way, which was probably their only meal of the day. I’ve also walked to my car after practice and watched students slide into their brand new Mercedes Benz that cost more than my house. In the Marine Corps, I served alongside men from all over the country & a wide range of backgrounds. Through these experiences I have come to a viable thesis. It is my belief that the misconstrued meaning of love is our culture’s biggest plague on the positive development of young men into future leaders. This misconception is not exclusive to any specific socioeconomic class or group of people with similar skin pigmentation; it extends across them all.
The dictionary tells us this about machismo: a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity. Please allow me to prove to you that the same definition fits perfectly with love. For those of you that are like me and are followers of Jesus Christ, let’s use the following simple equation:
God (A) = love (B) (1 John 4:8)
God (A) = power (C) (Ephesians 6:10)
If we know that A=B and also A=C, then what does B equal? Yep! B=C. Or, Love = Power. Ok, that may not convince some of you or maybe you don’t believe in the Bible. Allow me to introduce exhibit B:
Regardless of what words are written on this photo, there is not a single argument to be made about the strength and courage of those two men. Really examine it for a moment. At the top we find a Marine running into enemy fire in an attempt to rescue his buddy. Unfortunately, he too becomes a casualty of war. I guarantee you that the Marine loved his teammate. Read about 22 year old Medal of Honor recipient Jason Dunham who jumped on an enemy grenade in the Iraq War and covered it with his body to save the lives of his buddies around him. Tell me he did not love them. Try and tell me these guys are weak. These selfless acts were done out of love and they are the standard of strength and courage. If machismo is strength, courage, and masculinity then obviously so is love.
This is where the significance of mentoring comes in. The practice of mentoring in and of itself is an act of love. To selflessly devote yourself to the investment and support of another human is love. A mentor is also a leader, and leaders must set the example. Love your mentees by teaching them what love really is. Too many men grow up thinking it is a sign of weakness. Too many men grow up never hearing it said to them or actively displayed towards them by older men in their lives. The detrimental cycle continues as they grow into adults and have families of their own, or families they leave behind. This tragic lie is possibly to blame for the disturbing failure rate of too many fathers and husbands in our country. Books upon books have been written about the negative developmental consequences on young men growing up without a father in the home. Since so many do not, that is where mentors are most needed. There is not a more rewarding calling on Earth than to see the investments you place in a young man reap rewards in his own life. When considering the majority of problems in our society, it is easy to see that love plays an integral role in each of them. If more men truly love and reject the notion that to be loving is to be weak, there would be a significant drop in rates of violence, bullying, divorce, neglected children, you name it.
It is time to step up. Someone out there needs you. Show a young man that love is not weak. His future spouse needs it. His future kids need it. Our society needs it. Go love, teach love, and be powerful!
Top photo: US Army Africa/Flickr
Middle photo: Sgt. Joel A. Chaverri/Wikipedia Commons