Part 4 of 5….The men who step up to support teenage boys within a group mentoring circle create a supportive space where the boys can express feelings safely and freely. We share our journeys together and connect across the generations. As the men, we are not free to use the space to explore our own challenges, but to simply be authentically willing to share our stories as much as listen to theirs. Maybe a boy says he is having trouble with his mum. A mentor will likely ask if anyone else is having trouble with their mum. Most boys and men put up a hand. The boy sees he is not alone, and might say – ‘but you’re really old, how can you be having trouble with your mum’. We all laugh, and reinforce that we will all always have issues, and you are going to be okay – you can get through this just as we all continue to get through no matter how old we are.
It is in these circles where the men get to find value and worth, and see value and worth in the teenagers. It is a great antidote to becoming what Nick Clements calls an old git. It helps us stay connected to the young vibrant part of ourselves, and not take ourselves too seriously. In Nick’s book The New Ages of Men, he describes the major transitions (initiations) we go through from birth to death.
By consciously modelling our journey and sharing this with the teenagers they soak up a culture of mature, connected men in a lifelong process. We say to the men who staff the rites of passage and mentor the boys, ‘You need to be getting more out of this than you are putting in’. It’s about creating communities where the men feel a sense of belonging, where they can build long term trust in other men, where they can develop new skills that can serve them in their personal lives. We also ask ‘Who are we to initiate boys anyway?’ In truth, they initiate themselves; we are there to provide the safe, loving conditions where that may happen. In fact, who are we not to show up for the boys and provide the conditions where they can initiate themselves? Who are we not to stand by the next generation as they navigate towards adulthood?
In the mentoring circles we aspire to refrain from FRAPPing – Fixing, Rescuing, Advising, Projecting and Processing. We aspire to LAAMBing – Listening, Admiring, Accepting, Modelling and Blessing. Each circle may be attended by between 4 and 8 men and up to 12 boys.
During a session, the majority of time will be spent discussing areas such as relationships or peer pressure. Practical activities and games also feature, and we meet around a fire, every two weeks, out in nature. At present we are actively working with boys in Stroud, with emergent groups in Bristol and Totnes.
We follow a year long program, created by Boys to Men, that incorporates the annual rites of passage experience. This is a powerful weekend event that grounds the separation from childhood, and marks the boy’s onward journey from adolescence towards manhood. We also run more informal camps.
Meanwhile, we the men involved will be travelling our journey towards maturity and elder-hood. Supporting the next generation is probably one of the best ways to achieve that because of the trials and rewards this gives us.
‘Many traditional cultures believe that the true elders stay young at heart because they remain close to the dreams they had when they were young. In modern culture people try to change their outer appearance to look younger, but the role of the elder is to go deep inside, to stay in touch with the eternal as well as the sage in one’s heart. Aging is a biological process that happens to everyone. Everybody gets older, but not everybody gets to be an elder. Becoming an elder involves a lifelong awakening to and reflection upon the story embedded in one’s soul.’
To read part five of this article see: How can we make this work ‘normal’?
Journeyman UK is a mentoring charity, dedicated to supporting boys aged 13 to 17 to discover their unique potential and apply their gifts in service to themselves, each other and their community at large.