I’m going to go on a limb, here. I’m going to do something that is scary to me. I’m going to risk offending a certain demographic that I greatly respect because I need to say something that I feel is being missed by that same demographic. Some of my best friends are in it, and the thought of alienating them is almost unbearable.
But I feel this needs to be said.
The demographic is single mothers of teenaged sons. And what I’d like to point out is a trend I am seeing that is creating the very thing that has so damaged, even destroyed, our culture. That “thing” is men who are weak pertaining to their character.
So, if you’ll permit an imperfect mirror here, my dear and respected mothers, please read on.
What I’m beginning to experience as I dive deeper into The Owls: A Warrior Society involvement is something that is 100% understandable, yet close to 100% unhelpful. Simply put, it’s the existence of certain standards that are too low for a young man to grow into a truly good man.
I’m not a psychologist, or a counselor. That may be very apparent as I express these thoughts. But I am an observer of humanity – particularly men. And among men, the healthy development of young men is my passion. I’ve worked with them in one capacity or another for decades, literally. All shapes, all sizes, all kinds of personalities. The common denominator among generally healthy young men is that, about the age of 11-13, they begin to need conflict in general.
That conflict can take many forms.
It can be a need to fight, literally. To brawl. That’s less common these days, since the “Hands Are Not for Hurting” campaign in the 90’s. I have some old-school thoughts on this, but I’ll withhold them here. The bottom line is, if it’s not fighting, it’s finding other ways to test boundaries.
It can be extreme sports, which is one of the potentially healthier outlets that fulfill the need to test themselves. It can be rebellion against authority, including parents and any system that seems distasteful to them in any given moment; even those he once appreciated. It often takes the tragic form of drug use, including alcohol, or the “conquest” of women. It can lead to legal issues, and addiction to porn with all its skewed messages about human sexuality. It can lead to unwanted pregnancies, sexually-transmitted disease and, maybe as bad as any of them, a lot of broken hearts and the confidence of the young women with whom they associate.
None of this is new.
At the risk of overgeneralization, most of the single mothers I know and love are stretched to the breaking point. They face incredible demands on their time and attention, let alone their own substantial disappointment in men. The last thing they need is another source of conflict in the home, right? Certainly not from another male. Refereeing a bunch of unnecessary drama from their 15-year-old boy is not helpful to her life. She’s had enough drama. Why can’t he just be more helpful?
• Well, because he’s a 15-year-old boy who needs to test his world.
• The issue I’m seeing can be encapsulated in these kinds of attitudes:
• Well, he hasn’t gotten anyone pregnant…
• He isn’t in trouble with the law…
• He gets good grades…
• He can be so sweet to his sisters…
• He’s such a good boy…
“So, if he doesn’t want to push himself, that’s ok.”
These become the standards he has to hit in order to please women. You can tell they’re not very high.
“Hit one or two,” this attitude says to them, “and you’re good to do whatever else. And, if you mess up, you can just do some extra stuff (bring her flowers?), and it’ll blow over.”
In other words, what I’m hearing from single moms, including those that asked me personally for help with their young men, is that “he doesn’t want to. So, I’m not going to push him.”
I understand the sentiment for all the reasons I listed above. I get it. But this… this is not helpful.
More specifically, one reason I’ve heard is that, “he’s not comfortable around men.”
OK, and if that continues this creates either a 20-year old looking for an older woman to have a relationship with (rampant these days). Or, he becomes a 40-year old that’s looking for woman his age to be his mommy (even more rampant). Ironically, these are exactly the kinds of things that mom could take no more of in her primary relationship with his father.
Moreover, he’s going to be around men for the rest of his life. If he doesn’t learn to not only be comfortable around those he perceives as more powerful or otherwise “scary,” how is he going to handle confronting a boss that has overstepped his bounds? What kind of leader will he be? One who seeks to lead without offense.
Which is, by definition, a weak leader.
Another reason I’ve heard is even simpler: “He doesn’t want to, now.” Meaning, he doesn’t want to even entertain the idea of a young men’s group, when he once proclaimed that he did.
Mom doesn’t want to fight with her “good” young man, so she gives in. If they push him, he pushes back or threatens to, and mom backs off. So, what does this teach?
This teaches him that women can be forced and manipulated. Even women in authority. It might teach him that women are generally weak, with tragic consequences to be unraveled if he’s lucky enough to find a partner that will stand her ground where his mother was unable to.
(In the first 15 minutes of the movie, “Vice,” you see the effect that a strong young wife had on an underperforming Dick Cheney, who became a powerful if controversial Vice President. But this is the exception rather than the rule. After all, modern young women have their own challenges.)
If left unchecked, you have a young man reaching adulthood with the idea that he can do whatever he wants, refuse any direction with no consequences that he can’t also reject as unreasonable, not his fault, or excessive. It can lead to a lack of personal power because he doesn’t have to overcome this substantial and often understandable fear. All this can lead to narcissistic or even sociopathic attitudes. Which is, like the “mommy’s boy,” exactly what has been plaguing women for centuries, now: sociopathic, narcissistic, money-addicted men who rape the planet and humanity to preserve their jobs or their egos. Who will pursue women for their own advantage, and who will manipulate at any cost as long as it benefits them in some way.
The bottom line is this, and it’s also likely to be controversial: mothers are not meant to push their young men to be great men.
Now, it happens. I know some great men who were raised by single mothers. Ray Lewis comes to mind as one of my favorites, when it comes to celebrities. But I only know him through his motivational talks and his Hall-of-Fame professional football career. (I can’t speak to who he was, only to who he appears to be, now.)
My son is another. His mother and I split when he was merely 15 – about the worst time this could have happened for him. She was traumatized by our separation, and had to deal with her own pain. But my brothers, a damned good crew of men, stepped in where I was unable to due to our religious situation which I won’t get into here.
My son loves and honors his tough-as-nails mom, as he well should. But if you ask him how he turned out as he did – an amazing father, husband and provider – he’s also going to reference the men who stepped in for him as a critical component of his upbringing.
Yes, a critical component.
This is not meant to be an advertisement for The Owls. It doesn’t necessarily take our organization to make a good man out of a young man being raised by his mom. There are many options out there, and probably some that are better than ours. Besides, each young man is different. And to be sure, any mother knows her own son better than I.
But, where I once trusted these excuses for not engaging implicitly, because of what I’m observing I now question if any of these sentiments are really good excuses for young men to avoid The Owls, or similar teachers.
Is that 15-year-old in your home really already “good enough?”
Simply put no, he’s not. Not if we want to raise the consciousness of men. He’s not that sweet little 7-year-old boy any more. Now, he’s a powder keg. It’s very tempting to avoid seeing that in order to preserve the peace. To live in the past in the hope that his beautiful core will remain beautiful.
Sometimes it does. But in a world of weed, porn, and non-existent codes of behavior, beautiful is less and less how we would describe men both young and old. The slopes are steep, and slippery.
What we offer at The Owls, and what any good teacher of young men will offer, is the ability to compassionately but firmly push young men to reach higher, just as they are doing (or had better be. Hypocrites can’t be worthy teachers.). Those of us worth our salt tell them that now is the time to set higher standards than those of their fathers. Who will teach them that impulse and emotion are not the end-all, be all when it comes to choosing a conscious course of action. Rather, those things are to be observed and acknowledged independently by his deeper Self, in part by what arises in his own body once he learns how to stop ignoring it; something that has also plagued men for far too long. Once seen and felt, a course of action can be chosen that aligns with evolved standards – regardless of the consequences.
This is a good man. And this is a warrior.
Single mothers, we see you. We see the pain you suffer and what you’re going through. It breaks my heart that I broke the heart of my children and their mother when I chose to follow my spiritual path at any cost. The cost was, and remains, incredibly high. Many men feel this way.
But the only way to make a better breed of man is to grow them that way – and the earlier the better. The way to grow them is for men who have learned how to move in a generally consciously way, or who are committed to the process of learning how to do so, to teach young men to do the same.
It is up to men to teach the younger generation of men. It’s how the warrior societies have always operated. And if you don’t think we’re in a war right now, you’re wrong. We absolutely are.
It’s a war for freedom from addiction of all kinds, and it’s a war for unity. It’s a war with those parts of ourselves that scream to be satisfied, but whose satisfaction leads to selfishness. It’s a war to make men into men of principle and moral courage, again. To resurrect the idea of the Masculine. We were once there, I believe. But we’ve fallen. What we’ve lost, we must rebuild.
Importantly, we need single mothers to allow worthy teachers of conscious Masculinity to influence their young men.
Are you with us, Mom?