The Problem of Pain

Here’s the thing that sucks about pain: It’s inevitable.

I don’t mean in an academic sense, where philosophically we understand “bad things happen to good people” or that “it rains on the just and the unjust” or even the slightly less high brow “shit happens” sort of way. No, pain is inevitable in the sense that it is simply another feedback loop in life. It’s as involuntary as a foul odor or a loud sound or a hot and sunny day. 

Several years ago my family was gifted with a beautiful labradoodle named Amani. She was six years old and had been raised in a sort of idyllic life in the country where she was free to roam and play. The kids whose lives she had been a part of grew up. They left the house. And she needed a new home. We happened to know the owners and volunteered to become her forever family. It was love at first sight. My daughter slept with her, using her large golden body as a pillow. The boys tussled and rough housed with her. She went swimming with us--hell, she went EVERYWHERE with us. Those first six weeks we had Amani we were inseparable. Then it happened.  

We lived on a busy street in the downtown area. One of my kids was pushing at the door. Amani bolted out. She ran straight across the road--and that's when we heard it: WHUMP.  I looked out and saw her body stretched out in the middle of the pavement. Immediately I ran over to her as the car sped away in a hit-and-run. There was no breath. The life had been taken immediately, mercifully.

I carried this beautiful 80 pound dog in my arms back towards the house. My kids were watching in stunned horror and my wife was whisper/shouting "God no, God no..." Cradling her I knew it was over. One by one the family came out, sobbing, and began to pet our new and now past, friend. We must have kneeled there with her for over an hour as the warmth was sifted from her corpse. 

To this day my youngest son recalls that moment and says: "That was the most painful day of my life."

Of course it fucking was. We didn't choose that. We didn't plan that, cause that, orchestrate that, or prepare for it. It hit us. Hard. The inevitability of pain came down on us suddenly and without provocation. Like wandering into a room where the air is toxic and unbreathable suddenly and without cause, we had stumbled into that experience. Now some might say that there were causes--such as this was a country dog in the city--she didn't know what to look out for. Or, my son jostling the door open. Or the driver of the car going too fast, or texting on their phone. And actually--YES--those things are true. Whether they were preventable or not they form a net sum that amounted to Amani's death being unavoidable. 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PAIN AND SUFFERING 

Pain, when it occurs, is like that. It's an automatic response to a situation, often unpredictable. It's a tear in the fabric of our heart. Physiologically, it's the feeling of a sinking stomach, or the wave of dizziness that washes over you. We feel it as a sudden headache or a tension in our shoulders. Very quickly, within milliseconds, we connect that physical response to a thought and make an interpretation. In the case of Amani's death the "pain" was sadness. And that sadness was telling us something--its purpose in the great feedback loop was communicating that someone we valued was gone, suddenly. Not unlike the physical pain of placing your hand in a fire is telling you that cells are dying and that there is danger--so too emotional pain communicates a variety of realities. Pain simply IS. Nothing to be done about it, except to pay attention to it--because its saying something.

The problem of pain emerges with our responses--optional ones. 

Because there is a difference between pain and suffering. We often use the words interchangeably as a culture--but they have vast differences.  While pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Suffering is what often happens when we attempt to minimize, avoid, distract, subvert, or unskillfully respond to pain.

Imagine this--I stumble down the stairs late one night to grab a glass of water and stub my toe on an iron door stopper. It causes an immense amount of pain. I didn't deserve that pain. I didn't really cause it, or ask for it--I wouldn't have chosen it if I somehow could have. But here I am. Now what are my options? What are some natural reactions? I think most of us could relate to wanting to curse, to yell, or maybe even to hit the wall. Still further up the chain of responses, I could throw the damned door stop, or wake my kids up and demand to know who put the door stop there in the middle of the floor. I could rack my brain thinking of causes or reasons why. I could even blame myself--call myself an "idiot" or say "how could I have done something so stupid?"  Or I might choose to avoid the pain in my big toe, to neglect it, and not to notice the wound that I now have.  Each of those reactions has a direct effect though don't they?  They each ADD to the painful experience. They create SUFFERING, unnecessarily.

  ITS ALL ABOUT CHOICES

 While we don't choose pain, we often choose suffering--even if only unconsciously. We routinely create suffering when we attempt to unskillfully fix "the problem of pain."  I've been there. It's as though all we're thinking is: "I don't want to feel this! Get it way from me! Take it!!" We'll try anything to avoid that feeling.

But if pain is an inevitable experience of life, and if it  is actually an automatic feedback loop communicating something to us, then we'd better learn how to get used to it, to tolerate it. In fact, we should get used to noticing our pain, listening to it, and hearing what it's trying to say.

This doesn't mean we won't move into problem solving mode--we probably will. But instead of doing that mindlessly, we now bring a level of consciousness to it all. Imagine trying to "fix" the problem of sadness about our dog... Instead of sitting there and having a beautiful moment with my children celebrating the life and death of our friend I instantly ran out and purchased a new puppy. Or, if I was so concerned about their grief that I started telling jokes, or even yelled at them and told them to go inside and mind their own business! Can you imagine? Of course you can  because you’ve been there. We all have. And it creates unnessary suffering. 

One of the challenges of manhood is learning how to bear pain skillfully. We grow by learning how to tolerate the distress of an automatic response, a frustration, a grief, a sadness, fear or an embarrassment. We pay attention to what the sensation is on our body, and to where our thoughts go. We put our ear to the ground and observe the signal that the painful event or emotion is trying to tell us. We allow it to pass over us and through us and eventually to move past us. Rather than avoiding or suppressing emotions it becomes about experiencing them exquisitely and at the same time mastering them.  

The problem of pain is that while we didn’t create it or invite it—we in no way chose for those events or circumstances to occur—we are now the only ones who can use it and avoid suffering needlessly. Look, there are a ton of situations you can’t make better—but you can usually make them worse. Not listening to your pain will do just that. 

 

 

 

 

How to Not Shit Yourself

Most men I know are shitting themselves right now trying to avoid hurting people. They're "good men" and they don't want to be perceived as an asshole. They're terrified of the shame of being seen as anything other than a knight in shining armor.

And it's costing them not only meaningful relationship--its costing them their own sense of self. 

THE KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR

When I was five I watched as a neighbor began to beat the shit out of my cousin. They were both several years older and a few hands taller. That didn’t matter. I threw myself in. I attacked with everything I had. And guess what: that bigger kid took my arm and twisted it—and broke it. Yup. He actually snapped my arm with so much force that it dislocated in two places and sent a bone through my skin. Ouch. I still remember the actual pain of the ambulance ride and then resetting the bones into place. And I learned an important lesson. To stay the fuck out of fights that aren’t mine. “Nobody likes a hero. It hurts.”

Skip ahead a half dozen years. By that time I had grown into a substantial kiddo. My friend and I were swinging sticks around, pretending to be warriors and such. He was substantially smaller than me, as I recall. That’s when it happened. My stick collided with his head. Whap! I just remember the blood spurting from the gash at his hairline. I felt so guilty. So ashamed. I felt large and unwieldy. He ended up being a ok. A few stitches, nothing more. But that’s another lesson I learned. Don’t be unsafe. “You’ll hurt people. You’ll hurt yourself. You’ll get in trouble.” 

For the longest time I existed in the tension of those events and numerous others like them. The lessons globalized in such a way where I became terrified of any confrontation. Why? The stated reason in my mind was “because I don’t want to hurt the other guy.” Or “because I don’t want to get hurt.” In my head I became a lover of peace, and avoider of conflict. I attempted to pacify any situation, often through avoidance. This extended to romance, to friendships, to work relationships. Any place where conflict could possibly exist I minimized through a variety of strategies largely aimed at “protecting THEM.”  

Isnt that weird? In my mind I was a fucking super-hero.  I was saving the world from my (self identified) toxic aggression and rage. I became something I hated in those I had watched go before me: a diplomat. A politician. Never saying what it was I fully meant. Isolating and disappearing to avoid devastating the other person. 

I watch this happen with men a lot. Sure lots of people avoid conflict, but the reason here is unique  we are taught, through events and through culture, to protect the world from ourselves. We are the enemy. We are “demon males” and at even the smell of aggression in our self we have to back the fuck off. Because we could hurt somebody. And getting hurt is the worst thing possible

Hurting feelings. Hurting bodies. Hurting psyches. Triggering wounds. Triggering trauma. Triggering negative thoughts. Causing sadness. Causing damage. Causing harm. Avoid. Detach. Neglect. Hide. Obscure. Pacify. Protect.

*What if pain was inevitable?

*What if an unavoidable part of being alive is effecting others negatively, both physically and emotionally?

*What if human beings were not fragile--stronger than they are taught, resilient and capable, and need not be fragilized (handled with kid gloves)?

*What if suffering was less about the inevitable painful experiences of life, and more about how we respond to them and attempt to mediate them?

*What if ending unnecessary suffering didn't mean protecting others from our self, it means learning how to regulate the discomfort of having an effect on others?

*What if part of the vitality of manhood was learning how to take a position, make a decision, find a stance, and then bear the consequences of this?

I'm not talking about being or becoming the worlds biggest asshole. We have to learn to practice effectiveness in relationships. We don't always have to say our mind, or push our weight around. We shouldn't necessarily make it a practice of being a bull in a china-shop.  But maybe we should experience going where angels fear to tread more often--because we can handle the fall out of what happens when we do.

Hiding our authentic self, with all of its offenses, wounds, irritations, and frustrations--along with sadness and anxiety--creates an inpentrable barrier between us and others. 

GET AQUAINTED WITH SHAME

I was a part of group of men for a significant amount of time and we became extraordinarily close. Of course conflict developed. By  that point in time I had learned to push past my fears of standing up for my values, having a voice, and even raising my tone in anger when appropriate. But I remember one young guy who began to come to the group. You could tell, when tense conversations happened, he had opinions. He would sit and stew and froth and look all faklempt. Then one day, he stopped attending. He vanished. When I followed up with him, he said an interesting thing: "I didn't want to hurt anyone. I didn't want to lose my cool." 

Here's the point...this was an extension of my own "protect others" mentality. But even deeper it showed me that he was scared enough of the experience of SHAME, that he was willing to pre-emptively disconnect. See the real thing going on, in both him, and me, was not protecting others but fear of shame. 

Shame comes when we commit a breach in the shared values of a community or relationship. It serves as a mechanism to motivate us to change our behavior or to shift our perspective in order to come back into line.  It is also a powerfully intolerable emotion. And in todays Mono-Culture where relationships are disposable, businesses and organizations are somewhat ubiquitous, and people are abundant enough to each have an understudy waiting to take their place, we don't really feel a need to tolerate shame. It's easier to disconnect.This is one of the reasons why video games are so particularly addictive to the male psyche. When we lose, no one has to immediately watch us experience the shame of defeat. We can simply hang our head alone, and hide in our silence. Relationship-not-required. 

My son is in 5th grade. He's getting picked on. And the likelihood of a physical altercation is brewing. He confided in me that what he's most afraid of isn't getting hurt--its being embarrassed. That's it--right there!  And I totally get it. I'm with him. 

In the community of men that I'm forging today, and in the men I am connected to, I encourage tolerating the shame of not being the white knight. Risking hurt feelings in others, and shame in ourself. Say the thing you'd have gone home and stewed over. Unbottle the strong brew of your emotions you're imagining protecting others from. Yell. Growl. Wrestle. And get it out. Then let the chips fall where they may.  If you ever come to the events I host--such as The Fire--get acquainted with feeling fear, shame, aggression, and practicing allowing it to pass over you, through you, and being the one who remains in the end. Get ok with taking a hit, and giving one. Guess what--they're probably not going to wilt and die, and neither are you. In fact, it creates an elegant embrace of your own self, and enables you to strongly live with others.

I don't have this 100%. AT ALL. I'm still learning--most of all to take a stand, form a position, and be ok with looking like an idiot. It's about developing a solid sense of self. Who knew it'd take half of a life time to do so. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Books Every Man Should Read

There are a dirth of recommendations out there. I almost hesitate to add to the massive burden of words “necessary” for every man to feel happy, healthy, and alive. Here’s the truth: you DO NOT need them. You don’t. You can get through life, as a man, living fully and deeply, without reading a single blessed word. Really, I believe that. 

But, one of the ways we transmit our ways of being in this world is through culture, and for at least the last six thousand years, through written words. There is a value in being challenged by ideas and stories not our own, by concepts unfamiliar to us, and by experiences that push us to our limits. That’s what this list is all about.  

The truth is this list is hardly comprehensive. It’s not an exhaustive body. We may issue that at some point—but not now. This is just a primer. So, if you see them—buy them. Don’t check these out from the library—OWN THEM (Click on the picture of the book to head straight to AMAZON). You will want to digest them many many times. That is, if you’re serious about your growth. Without further ado, the 5 Books Every Man should read. 

 

1) Meditations by Marcus Aurelius  

It is difficult to oversell the importance of this book. Here’s the thing, it was written almost 1800 years ago, by a man who’s life is unimaginably different than most of ours—he was a Roman Emporer. He didn’t set out to write a book for beta-bros in the 20th century working on their alpha game. He wrote a motivational journal for himself. And it was so fucking amazing they kept it. The advice and kick-ass wisdom in this small little handbook for life will give you reason to wake up in the morning. I use it as a devotional and have for several years now. Learn from the best. Let this mans soul invade your own and make it real. (One word of caution: edition and translation matters—buy the one linked to here, with the Raven on its cover!) 

Along the same lines I would recommend: The Will to Power by Nietszche,  Letters on Life by Rilke, and A Failure of Nerve by Friedman

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

Look, there’s a lot that’s come out before and since this book. There’s a lot to critique about this book, and its author. But—its still the book I’ve handed out to more men than any other. It’s written directly to the reader, “Today, take one step to do what you were born to do...” it’s aggressive, it uses phrases that men don’t use publicly, “your woman” and it drops the F-bomb a lot. He covers the polarity between the Masculine and Feminine, how to fuck like you mean it, and how to live your best life now. If you want an ass kicking towards purpose, this is your ticket. Read it. 

Also check out: From Wild Man to Wise Man by Richard Rohr, King, Warrior, Magician Lover by Moore, How to Make Sh*t Happen by Sean Whalen, Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen and Iron John by Robert Bly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) The Way of Men  and Becoming Barbarian by Jack Donavan  

I know I’ll take flack for this. I’ll have friends who will say there are better written books by less controversial figures. I get it. I hear you. And, you’re wrong. These twin books (different books but so complimentary they should be read together or even put into one volume), are written in a bare knuckle, no holds bare style. They aggressively target not only what it means to be a man today, but also how to be in relationship with other men, and how to relate to the dominant mono culture (The Empire of Nothing as Donavan refers to it) around us. While not all ideas within it are worth wrangling over, at least one idea within these pages should take you by storm and motivate you towards a shift. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram  

I read this book on a four hour flight and found my world upside down as I disembarked. Truthfully this book holds the profound keys to connecting with self, spirit and the more than human world around you. It’s a challenging book linguistically. He’s writing as an academic. Some of the chapters I had to wrestle through. And it was worth it. He explores the nature of Nature, our obsession with words over presence, breath “magical,  and becoming animal. This is a book that profoundly prompts us to become more alive. 

If you like this kind of writing checking out Morris Berman's book Coming to Our Senses or the Reenchantment of the World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart compiled by Robert Bly and James Hillman

Poetry. For many men this is a dirty word. Fuck it. There are things we can see better out of the corner of our eye than head on. Poetry helps us do that. Get used to it brother. This book brings together many of the great poets (Neruda, Rilke, Oliver, Cummings) and puts them in relationship to the seasons of a mans life. It helps us see our place in this world. How many times in a dark hour did I pull this book out and laughed or wept accordingly? And honestly, the poem “Balls” is worth the price of the book. 

So many amazing OTHER poets to recommend--really anything by Pablo Neruda or Rainer Maria Rilke, but I might also throw in the poetry of Hafiz as translated by Daniel Ladensky. 

 

 

Alright man, get these. It’ll start you and companion you on the journey!

Gridlock

A lot of men feel stuck. It doesn't matter how or where--it could be in their marriage or romance, as fathers, their job and career, or maybe with their own sense of mission. 

I hear it all the time. 

It's incredibly unsettling, isn't it?  Up or down? This way or that way? Door one or door two? 

This happens, especially in times of decision making. Unless you're someone who has committed to never taking significant steps in your life, and limiting yourself to the mundane hell of playing it safe--you've been here. Gridlock.

If I were to diagnose Gridlock in a man's life I'd be looking for three characteristics.

One: The Myth of Trying Harder

In George Orwell's book "Animal Farm" the horse named Boxer was always saying, "I'll do better." or "I'll try harder." or "I can do more."  Guess what, his efforts didn't improve anything. In fact things continued to degenerate even though Boxer kept giving his all. 

If you've ever been in a crumby marriage or relationship you know exactly what I mean. You keep trying harder and harder to change your partner. Or adapt your behavior to theirs. Or do something to please them. Guess what? It's a tread mill, and you know it! 

This hamster wheel is really powered by an assumption about success. This point of view assumes that technique, and effort, are what win the day. It incorrectly believes that failure is the result of lack of hard work, and a lack of proper information or data.

Its easy to see that this is false. The Beatles were a force unlike any other in music, but there were scads of bands that had better technique and worked just as hard, if not harder. Where are those bands now? Literally, who knows?  Or, how many times have I heard spouses describe the demise of their marriage, concluding with "We did everything we could."?  The image that comes up for me here is of an eddy or a whirlpool in a river--lots of action, but not much real movement. 

Two: The Myth of Answers

I remember a moment in my life when a girl had broken my heart and I couldn't get over it. She had dumped me and I couldn't understand why. The break up had been brief, come in the form of a hasty note, and left me torn up. I just kept repeating: "I need closure--if I just know why, then I'll be able to move on!"  You know what my buddy said? He told me that I wouldn't move on. I would simply have more questions to feel upset about. Today, I can't agree with him more. Rather than try and work to understand what was going on for the ex-girlfriend I should have worked on, and focused on, my own development. 

Innovation happens when we shift the information that's really important. The answers that we needed so desperately become irrelevant. 

When we are concerned about finding the right answers we fail to realize that this is usually part of the obsessive problem in the first place. Because the problem isn't intellectual, its emotional. 

Often in my past work with chronically suicidal clients they would require massive amounts of data to prove, up front, that this treatment would work or was effective. At first I would play into that, placating it. I would give them stats, data, and loads of pamphlets. Eventually, I figured out that this was a trap. In the end I'd say, "Don't believe me. Just try. Then see." Their need answers for answers was a barrier to actually dealing with the situation at hand.

Three: The Myth of Either/Or Thinking

These days its everywhere: all or nothing thinking. Good/Bad, black/white, and all other forms of non-dialectic thought. Things that are simply differences of opinion get chalked up to character statements, intense-oppositional, commitments to labeling the other perspective. 

Whenever I hear someone launch into a diatribe about the evil-ness or good-ness of almost anything I silently assume an emotional process is at work. Whenever differences polarize us there is almost always a maladaptive loop that contributes to the failure to validate the other side of things. 

Recently a buddy of mine went to a well known couples seminar. He told me that rather than try and fix the problems or reduce the differences in each other,  the goal of the seminar was to help people become less reactive to those things. What do you mean not fix the problems?  What do you mean tolerate the difference rather than pummel the hell out of the "other"? 

Either/Or thinking is a kind of blindness, in which options rapidly disappear because we become locked into a self-confirming loop. From this position, even when approached with new data we begin to interpret it in ways that justify our pre-existing perspective. If a real challenge is brought, we tend to dismiss it instantly. 

Each of these myths contribute to the inability to imagine options. Trying harder with a fix-it mentality, relentlessly needing more information and answers, or dualistic thinking are three obvious factors that let us know when we're stuck in Gridlock. The great news is as we unwind each of these--even if we're only pretending or going through the motions--it allows for a new capacity of creativity. 

What do you think? Is that you?  Can you identify these elements in your life?

 

 

 

 

Risk

This morning I got up early--barely even light out. And I made a killing. I Day Traded the hell out of the markets on the east coast. I won't lie--I lost a little too, but I was a whirling dervish destroying the numbers. I was taking risks like nobodies business. Whereas some of my more conservative or cautious friends only bought in at a few shares--I pumped it to the maximum available. That's why I crushed today. 

Oh--and it was all on a simulator. The markets were real but my money wasn't. My risk was really bullshit.

Ouch. It even hurts saying it out loud. But here's the deal: I'm learning. I mean, I know ZERO about day trading, so this is all new. If I were to throw the family savings in now, I'd be a lunatic (which is already somewhat arguable). So, I playing with the tools of risk and risk management, the short and the long sell, while at the same time hedging my bets. Which makes sense. It works in this case. But honestly, that's where the analogy falls short.

In life we rarely can afford to hedge. When we do, whether in love or business or friendships, we usually come up on the wrong side of the line. I've done this so many times, especially in love. And it's gotten me in a hell of a lot of trouble. The deal is I hate being alone. And when I feel alone in a relationship I tend to soothe that discomfort by satiating myself. Historically this has come out as me starting a parallel relationship--I've cheated. 

Now here's what's funny about that admission--cheating is so risky. Breaking your agreements in unbelievably perilous. So much is at stake (especially as we get older). But it feels like safety. It feels like self-soothing. My brain had it all backwards. 

Over and over this plays out true. I hear it from friends who lament their physique but crave just a few more minutes under the covers, or folks who hate their jobs but stick with this one because they've had it for five years.  The thing that devalues their life, which ultimately risks their entire experience, SEEMS far safer. In reality its the opposite. The action that feels risky is actually the one that is far more profitable.

The Male in almost every species takes more risks. Its a biological reality. In this species its paid off. And lately it seems to be taking a toll. We're risking on the wrong things. We're betting on the wrong horse. Instead of putting our money on the places that seem to increase our comfort and make us feel better, we need to double down on our long term goals and highest values. In that department we need to be Monsters.

It's a risk to have an idea, take a step, and see it through. It's a risk to take a position on something, to be UN-dialectical, stake a claim, and take responsibility for that. It's a risk to make an agreement and hold to it. 

This is why Tribes are so powerful and so important. They help us Risk big, while holding us accountable to our highest intentions. 

It takes courage--it takes absolute commitment to tolerating the distress of looking like a failure, or even BEING a failure. But it pays off big.

Daring greatly on the things that actually matter to us, is like Day Trading with real money. It's scary, but it's also the only way you're going to make actual money. 

Authenticity

It's 6:55am on a Saturday morning. I walk into a bright yellow room with florescent lights blaring. There are a handful of chairs scattered around a sizable table. There isn't coffee. There aren't donuts. But there are men, filing in, like me, to this sacred and un-safe space--and they are here to do The Work. 

We are, most of us, self-declared "addicts," intimacy junkies, attachment adverse--broken when it comes to keeping agreements with others and ourselves. Serial dating, affairs, hook-ups, porn, sexting, parallel relationships--hell, a few second families. You name it. These guys have seen it all. The truth is I don't really care what they've done. Nobody is trying to win the prize for best "addict." Actually what I care about is that they're being honest. 

This is a group that values honesty over performance. Don't get me wrong--performance matters too. But for many of us we hid behind accomplishments, achievements, and pleasantries. I know I did. While I was out championing social justice, equity, and the kingdom of god, somehow I was able to break some of the most basic agreements to myself and to those I loved. How did that happen? One trainer from the seminal life transformation catalyst EST said it like this:

"It's quite simple. You break agreements because you live under the theory that you're special, a privileged character, and are thus free to cheat--on income taxes, stop signs, wives, husbands, expense accounts, and certainly on the little things..."

Now, that sort of sounds like performance language doesn't it? It is, sort of. But it's actually something far deeper--its about authenticity. When I'm living and speaking authentically my words match my actions. I stop being "an acrobat, to act like THIS and talk like THAT" (in the venerated words of BONO from U2). In the group of men I've been meeting with every Saturday morning I've learned to reflect my truth.  It's one of the first times in my life I've been able to do something like that. I'm hardly alone in that.

As men, culturally, we are told to be better, to change, and to improve. The stakes are high--our jobs, our relationships, our reputations. We know that something different is needed but there aren't structures that readily support that shift. The places we've carved out, as a society, for such honesty is usually associated with burnouts and dropouts--failures. Masking (lying) becomes one of the easiest ways to get to the place we feel others want us to be while maintaining an image of having it all together. As a client of mine said once after it was revealed they had been giving false reports in session, "I just thought everyone would be happier if they thought I was doing better." 

Not too long ago my son had a falling out with a friend in his Scout troop. When the meeting time came, he said he was too tired from the day, had studied too hard for the test tomorrow, and asked if he could not go to the Scout meeting. Because I didn't really have all the facts, I gave him a pass. Later he admitted that at least a large part of the reason he avoided the meeting was because of the relationship stuff. I was happy he ended up letting me know what happened, but sad that in the moment he chose to manipulate the facts to get an outcome he wanted. It was easy--just leave out some of the details. The tragedy was that we never got to explore those realities, deal with them, or even validate his own experience. He was left holding his turmoil alone. Suffering in silence. That isn't the way of Men. It's the way of boys. 

A real tribe of men practices ruthless authenticity. It means that if you feel like shit, you say it. It doesn't matter if you don't know why, or what the cause is. Nobody needs you to process that right here, right now. But you say it. It means if you are having a response to someone else, a challenge or a disagreement, you're willing to speak it--then and there. Yeah--you may look foolish. And your facts may come out looking like a battered piñata. That's OK. You said it. You were authentic. And you know what, if you don't feel like talking--then you get to fucking say that too. 

Authenticity allows others to see you and to interact with you. Authenticity provides the spring board for real relationship. Authenticity gives an opportunity to find meaningful connection and real solutions. And, authenticity often sucks. It really does. It doesn't feel safe. In fact--it's not. It's risky. It's easier to minimize, avoid, distance, lie, or cheat. Those things give  quick payoff. But--they really don't land a man where he wants to be--in a tribe of other men doing the Work.

7am comes early on Saturday. I drag my ass in, tired, and sometimes beat down from the week. But at least I'm seen. At least I'm choosing to be authentic. And in that moment--I get to invite others into my world and be apart of theirs.