Mentored Into Manhood
Contributor

What do I know of manhood mentoring? I am an outsider in the world of men and watched mentoring from afar. I’ve watched as my father slammed wrenches on the hood of his Volkswagen Beetle when it wouldn’t comply with his attempts to fix it. I’ve watched as my brothers loaded up their trucks with fishing poles, rifles, and their own sons to engage in a day of activities typically thought to have masculinity written all over it. I have watched as other men talk about their sons accomplishments. Being female precludes my participation in many of these things. Perhaps I should say too, I would much rather be having lunch with the girls than getting my hands all slimy from fish guts anyhow. I’ve often wondered in the mysterious world of men, how it is that a man feels qualified for manhood. Is it that he can fix nearly anything with a hammer? Is it that he can drive any machine over its intended maximum speed? Is it that he reaches a certain age and society calls him an adult? Just what makes a man qualified to be a man? Growing up, I may have told you the previous was a good estimation of manhood. Anything that involves speed, dirt, or nature means you are a man. Perhaps this was because, apart from my mother, I grew up in a house full of men that believed wholeheartedly in the ideology that a woman did woman things and a man did man things. Then I would have said, men are rugged souls that do not share feelings. In other words, being tough and not running to your mother for understanding makes you a man. I’ve since refined my definition. I think true manhood lies in wisdom; wisdom to know that true manhood can be defined as the ability to love and be loved completely. That true manhood will allow you to peel away the layers that keep you from sharing your authentic self with others. True manhood allows for differences; not all men will look, sound, or act the same. This makes them no less manly. True manhood allows for others to be true to themselves and nurtures those around him. I’ve seen true to life examples of manhood in rather unexpected places. I’ve known a man, a teacher, for many years. I met him when he was in his forties. He taught high school Spanish. He and my husband often embark on home-improvement projects together and during many of those projects, I’ve watched as he quietly and patiently mentored young men around him. Now knowing this man, you wouldn’t realize he has every right to be full of himself. He has accomplished more in his life than most. He has the qualifications and the obvious ability to be a professor, but he consciously choose high school for the kids. He has every right to be content in that contribution, instead he has always held a second position as a missionary to orphanages. I only wish I was as financially savvy as this man who has taken his income and doubled it to more than enough to share with many over the years and yet the man is so unassuming. He walks onto the worksite in his jeans and plaid shirt. He seems more like a teenager than a full-grown man with his tall lanky build and carefree manner. He jokes and teases like all the other boys, but then, like the sudden pounding of a hammer, he drops a nugget of wisdom to a young man working alongside. I know this, because one of those young men was my own son. He explained that people with low self-esteem don’t often accomplish the great things they are capable of. Now I’ve said this many ways and at least a hundred times, but somehow as the two stood with shovels in their hands, covered in dirt and sweat, it just resonated with my son. My son finally understood that he is capable of greatness and I am convinced that he could have only believed this coming from a man he respects and trusts. I’ve seen men who have not arrived in their journey to manhood. One of those men was my own father. He was broken as a child and remained in his brokenness throughout his life. He parented out of this brokenness and the flawed ideology that men were only men if they were harsh, refused to show emotion, and were of a certain age. I watched his philosophy and his mindset break what could have been great men, into cowering boys desperately in need of the gentle love and nurturing that can only come from a father. It took me many years to understand that my dad was never mentored into manhood, but that it was thrust upon him as a broken boy. His intent was not to break others, but break them he did. It has been wondrous to be an outsider watching from the shoreline as the men in my life navigate the waves of maturity. Somehow I can’t help but think Shrek is blessed with an incredible revelation. After all, wasn’t it Shrek who realized and told donkey that he was like an onion? I’m not saying women don’t have layers, we too are complex creatures. I’m just saying, the men in my life seem to take longer to peel back the layers. I know there are at least a few women reading this and nodding their heads right now.

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