America Has Dismantled Our Freedom of Speech

By: Mark Johnson & Julian Adorney

This is the third blog post in our series on First World Problems: how the systematic tearing down of American institutions has created a generation of Americans who feel lonely, adrift, and without purpose.

In our last blog we looked at the tearing down of the American Civil Religion that used to bind us all together. Today we’ll go deeper into the slow-motion destruction of the absolute core tenant of that religion: freedom of speech.

The Dismantling of Free Speech

Free speech used to be held up as one of the core American institutions. It was enshrined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights for a reason: while other countries have also adopted free speech, it is a fundamentally American tradition.

More than that, free speech is essential on its own terms. It is the single best way for humans to make progress. None of us are perfect, and none of us know the full truth. Therefore we all need to engage in the marketplace of ideas in order to find the truth and develop the best path forward.

But free speech has been under attack for decades.

Herbert Marcuse

One of the earliest–and most influential–critics was Herbert Marcuse, a college professor and the father of the New Left. In an essay called Repressive Tolerance published in 1969, Marcuse recommended removing rights (including the right to free speech) from conservatives. Marcuse didn’t see the world in terms of human beings who all have equal worth; he saw the world in terms of power. Those with power should be forcibly silenced (at least, the ones he disagreed with) so that those at the bottom could more have more freedom. For Marcuse, if a majority is being repressed, what is needed is “repression and indoctrination” of the powerful so that the weak get the power they deserve.

In recent years, Marcuse-style attacks on free speech have filtered down from academic institutions into the mainstream.

Subjective Rules Focused On Impact (Real Or Claimed)

Ilya Shapiro, adjunct law professor at George Washington University and University of Mississippi, provides a case study on the new rules around who can speak and what they can say. Early in 2022 Georgetown Law School hired him to teach. When President Biden said that he would only nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court, Shapiro expressed dismay at this form of blatant affirmative action. At the voicing of this heterodox view, the sky fell down on him.

Georgetown swiftly placed Shapiro on administrative leave, where he languished for months without knowing whether or not he’d be fired. An administrative investigation into the offending Tweets lasted 122 days.

Georgetown finally reinstated Shapiro, but only on the technicality that he hadn’t officially started at Georgetown at the time he sent his tweets. The Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action (IDEAA) said that his comments were “objectively offensive” and that saying something similar in future may be enough to get him fired.

Even more disturbingly, the IDEAA adopted a blatantly subjective standard for deciding whether or not speech by faculty would be punishable.  “The University’s anti-harassment policy does not require that a respondent intend to denigrate,” according to the report. “Instead, the Policy requires consideration of the ‘purpose or effect’ of a respondent’s conduct.”

As Shapiro puts it: “That people were offended, or claim to have been, is enough for me to have broken the rules.”

This punishment of heterodox speech isn’t an isolated incident. A 2017 survey by the Cato Institute and YouGov found that over a third of Democratic responders said that a business executive should be fired if they, “believe psychological differences explain why there are more male engineers.” A substantial number of respondents thus advocated stripping someone of their job for the crime of saying what many psychologists know to be true.

Walking On Eggshells

The new cultural norms around free speech aren’t just a problem for right-wingers. In an in-depth explainer on cancel culture, Julian explains the scope of the problem:

Heterodox Academy surveyed 445 academics about the state of free inquiry on campus, asking them, “Imagine expressing your views about a controversial issue while at work, at a time when faculty, staff, and/or other colleagues were present. To what extent would you worry about the following consequences?”

One of the hypothetical consequences Heterodox Academy listed was, “my career would be hurt.” How many academics said they would be “very concerned” or “extremely concerned” about this consequence? 53.43%.

To put it another way: over half of academics on campus worried that expressing non-orthodox opinions on controversial topics could be dangerous to their careers.

We see the same self-censoring phenomenon among college students. In 2021, College Pulse surveyed 37,000 students at 159 colleges. They found that 80% of students self-censor to at least some degree. 48% of undergraduates reported feeling, “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” expressing their views on a controversial topic in the classroom.

In a panel on free speech and cancel culture, former ACLU president Nadine Strossen said, “I constantly encounter students who are so fearful of being subjected to the Twitter mob that they are engaging in self-censorship.”

It’s not just students and professors. In an article titled, “America Has A Free Speech Problem,” the New York Times editorial board noted that 55 percent of Americans have held their tongue in the past year because they were concerned about “retaliation or harsh criticism.” 

Extremists on both sides of the aisle increasingly wield their power to shame or shun Americans who speak their minds or have the temerity to voice their opinions in public. This problem is most prominent on social media, but is spilling into offline conversations as well. Citizens of a free country should not live in fear that a woke or far-right mob will come for them because they express an idea that isn’t sufficiently in vogue.

Pretending That Speech Is Violence

The very concept of free speech is increasingly associated with violence. When former vice president Mike Pence planned to speak at the University of Virginia, the student newspaper Cavalier Daily published a furious editorial saying that Pence shouldn’t be allowed to speak. Why not? “Speech that threatens the lives of those on Grounds is unjustifiable.” It takes a lot of mental contusions to conclude that letting Pence give his opinion could threaten anyone’s life.

It’s not just students. Psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett published an op-ed in the New York Times titled, “When is speech violence?

According to Barrett, “If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech—at least certain types of speech—can be a form of violence.”

She continued: “That’s why it’s reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at your school. He is part of something noxious, a campaign of abuse. There is nothing to be gained from debating him, for debate is not what he is offering.”

The fact that psychologists are lending the veneer of science to the idea that speech is violence should be deeply troubling to every American.

Why Is Free Speech Essential?

When we break down the core institution of free speech, we lose a lot of what made America so successful in the first place. Robust norms of free speech helped people build the emotional and mental resilience to cope with ideas they disagreed with. It helped us build bonds with people who believed different things, because we were able to listen to and understand their position.

Free speech also enabled multiple parties to argue from competing worldviews and find a solution that was better than what any party had formulated going into the discussion.

The silver lining is this: Americans increasingly recognize that free speech is a value whose preservation is essential. The New York Times editorial board notes that, “84 percent of adults said it is a, ‘very serious’ or ‘somewhat serious’ problem that some Americans do not speak freely in everyday situations because of fear of retaliation or harsh criticism.” 

What Can You Do?

As a strong and integrous man, what can you do to limit the impact of the degradation of free speech on your own life?

First, speak up about what you know to be true–even if no-one else is speaking up, even if there are risks to you. Develop the courage to call a spade a spade. If you see insanity–in your workplace, in politics, in your home–call it out openly and honestly. You’ll sleep better at night. You’ll also become stronger through the act of speaking out. Speaking takes courage, but it also creates courage. 

Second, seek out people who disagree with you. Listen to them. Go further; try to be persuaded by them. Skewer your sacred cows and let go of your ideology. Neither one is serving you.

Third, banish forever (if you haven’t yet) the infantile notion that words are violence. This notion is profoundly damaging, because it makes you weak. If mere disagreement can hurt you, after all, then so can everything else in life. So will everything else in your life. Instead, embrace the adage of the Stoics: other people are responsible for their actions, you are responsible for your response. Once you embrace the idea that mere words–whether vicious or merely heterodox–cannot hurt you, you are on the path to emotional strength and groundedness.

Fourth, don’t let yourself become a “tribe of one.” It’s easy, in this environment of chilled speech, to always feel scared to speak up. Find a tribe of men who encourage you to speak your truth, and who speak their truth in return to you. Find men who aren’t afraid to share heterodox ideas and to challenge your sacred cows, nor to have their own challenged in return.

Find a tribe of men you’d trust to have your back in a firefight, and who will love you and expect you to have theirs in turn.

TEM offers such a tribe. We offer one-on-one men’s coaching as well as men’s groups. If you would like to build a life of purpose and meaning, cultivate real and raw relationships in your life with authentic men, and develop your healthy grounded masculine energy, reach out today.

Tearing Down the American Civil Religion

By: Julian Adorney & Mark Johnson

This is the second blog post in our series on First World Problems: how the systematic tearing down of American institutions has created a generation of Americans who feel lonely, adrift, and without purpose.

In our last blog we looked at the overall phenomenon of First World Problems and the scope of the issue. Today we’re delving into the first institution that’s being defaced: the American Civil Religion.

The Importance of the American Civil Religion

60 years ago, we all had a strong sense in the United States that we were Americans first.

This didn’t mean that we didn’t criticize our government, or foreign or domestic policy; Americans have a rich history of both. We’ve always been a country that strived to do better and be better.

But that criticism didn’t mar our unity. We were united in a sense of patriotism and belonging. We all saluted the same flag and sang the same National Anthem. Republicans felt a sense of patriotism when they heard from or spoke to Democratic lawmakers, and vice versa.

That unity feels like a distant dream now. How did we come so far?

The trappings of the American Civil Religion were deeply valuable in holding our large and otherwise disparate country together. Like the trappings of organized religion–the cross and the sacrament of Christianity, for example–they united us together and gave us a shared connection to something deeper than ourselves. These trappings included things like the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, a feeling of patriotism, respect for the Founding Fathers, and a shared love for the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

They facilitated us tapping into the second half of what renowned sociologist Jonathan Haidt calls our Homo Duplex nature: not just our individualism, but an almost beehive-like sense of community and connection to a country full of people we had never met but still regarded as our brothers and sisters.

Those trappings are being torn down.

In some cases, this is literal. In cities across the US, people are tearing down statues of founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. The idea is that these men were white, wealthy, slave-owners; and their sins make them unworthy of respect. Instead of admiring the Founding Fathers who brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” Americans are pillorying them.

When Washington’s statue was toppled in Portland, Oregon, activists graffitied phrases like, “White fragility” and “Big floyd” on the statue. The picture is heartbreaking.

Source: George Washington statue toppled in Portland | kgw.com

It’s not just the Founding Fathers. The Constitution is in for ridicule as well. Author Lyz Lenz Tweeted, “has anyone considered that maybe the constitution is bad” (sic). The tweet has over 246,000 Likes.

When Justice Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe v Wade was leaked earlier this year, students at Yale Law School threw what can best be described as a temper tantrum.

“Neither the constitution nor the courts—nor the fucking illusion of ‘democracy’—are going to save us,” according to an Instagram post by first-year student Melisa Olgun. “How can we possibly expect a document, drafted by wealthy, white, landowning men, to protect those who face marginalization that is the direct result of the very actions of the founders?”

Another student posted that, “democratic institutions won’t save us.”

This is concerning because Yale Law School is one of the most influential incubators of future policymakers in the country. Since the nation’s founding, over 4 percent of all federal judges have come from Yale Law School. In the last decade, 17 percent of new law professors were Yale Law School graduates. Our nation’s most influential future legal minds are being told in school that the Constitution is a white supremacist document and that democratic institutions–the bedrock of the American Civil Religion–aren’t worthy of respect.

This same trend can be seen in the massively influential 1619 Project, which attempts to rewrite American history and frame the US as a fundamentally racist country. According to the Project, the American Revolution has its roots in white supremacy. The “real” origin of the US was not 1776 or 1789, but 1619–when the first slave ship came to the United States. Rather than a sin that the United States grappled with and eventually wiped away, the 1619 Project posits that slavery is fundamental to our American identity.

American holidays like Memorial Day are ignored or bastardized as just the “start of summer”, while the Fourth of July is under attack.

Patriotism itself is now commonly derided as, “White Supremacy”. A Washington Post headline reads, “To many Americans, being patriotic means being white“. A headline at WNYC Studios puts it more bluntly: “For Some, Patriotism Is Just a Symptom of White Privilege“. 

Why Is This Happening?

Why is a fringe of American culture so determined to tear these institutions down? There are three keys to answering this question.

1: It’s Not About Redemption

Activists pretend that they are simply trying to redeem America; lifting us out of the shadow of our slave-holding ancestors so that we can be a better nation in 2022.

This is nonsense.

First, the Founding Fathers were not the demons that the 1619 Project and other activists pretend. Most of them hated slavery. Many of the Constitution’s drafters and signers hoped that Article 1 Section 9 Clause 1 (“The Slave Trade Clause”) would put an end to slavery forever. The clause allowed the international slave trade for 20 years, as a compromise with southern states who otherwise never would have signed the document. The hope was that after 20 years, Congress would outlaw the international slave trade; and the domestic institution of slavery would dry up and rot away owing to a lack of fresh supply.

Thomas Jefferson was adamantly in favor of this. The Slave Trade Cause allowed Congress to ban the international slave trade on January 1, 1807. In December of 1806, President Jefferson exhorted them to do just that:

“I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of the period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have been so long continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation, and the best interests of our country have long been eager to proscribe.”

Second, if the point is to make the United States better, why go after the men and women who did the most to end the institution of slavery? Portland protestors tore down a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Cornell University removed a bust of Lincoln, as well as a copy of the Gettysburg Address, from the library following a complaint.

Lincoln was a complicated man, but few humans of any time period have done more to end the institution of slavery than our 16th president. If this whole movement is about signaling that we as a nation are opposed to racism, what’s the logic of going after such a man?

Free Black Thought, a compendium twitter account run by five prominent African-American intellectuals, puts it this way:

“Cornell removes Gettysburg Address, bust of Lincoln, after “a complaint.” How can a nation that has come to hate even the redemptive episodes in its history then expect to stir itself to redemptive action? What moral vision of our future does this serve?”

2: Look For Historical Clues

If you want to know why a movement is doing X now, take a look at movements that have done X in the past. The goals, and the impact, of historical movements can provide a roadmap to understand similar modern-day movements.

In 1966, Chairman Mao launched the Cultural Revolution in China. He exhorted students and far-left revolutionaries to violence and purges, creating chaos on a scale that’s hard to imagine.

One of Mao’s explicit targets was known as the “four olds”: “old ideas, culture, customs and habits.” Whipped into a frenzy by Mao, the young Red Guards looted, vandalized, and destroyed every example of these “olds” they could think of. In Mao’s Last Revolution, renowned historian Roderick MacFarquhar notes that students vandalized public spaces, condemned Confucius, and destroyed “6,618 registered cultural artifacts, including 929 paintings, more than 2,700 books, 1,000 stone steles, and 2,000 graves.”

The primary goal was nihilism. Mao wanted to destroy China’s existing cultural values so that he could usher in something new (and much worse). He told his wife that he wanted to create “great disorder under heaven”; only then could he create “great order under heaven.”

An editorial in Liberation Army Daily put it more bluntly: “a socialist cultural revolution demands that there be destruction as well as creativity. Without thorough destruction, there can be no real construction.”

A nation that is unmoored from its past and from its historic values is a nation that is ripe for nihilism. When you have nothing else to cling to, you’re much more open to the profoundly destructive message that life is meaningless and nothing matters.

3: International Psyops

This systematic destruction of the civil religion in America is not a homegrown affair. Yuri Bezmenov, a KGB defector in the 1980s, warned Americans that the then-USSR was engaging in a systematic campaign of “demoralization” of Americans. Bezmenov warned that this “ideological subversion” involved training a generation of Americans to see their country as fundamentally broken and wrong.

Here’s the plan the USSR had been carrying out for decades by the time Bezmenov described it in the 1980s:

“Educate 1 generation of students…exposed to the ideology of the enemy; in other words, Marxism-Leninism ideology is being punted into the soft heads of at least 3 generations of American students without being challenged or contrabalanced by the basic values of Americanism.”

This derision of symbols that have historically bound Americans together has real consequences. 

Societal Consequences: Political Divisiveness

Political analyst Bill Schneider,  professor of policy, government and international affairs at George Mason University puts it bluntly: “I’d say this is the most divided we’ve been since the Civil War.” “We are broken,” he says.

Pundits on all sides are openly discussing secession. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) asked on Twitter, “Should America have a national divorce?” Within a few days, more than 21,000 respondents weighed in, with 50.9 percent backing the idea. Across the aisle, leftist Jeff Taylor says, “I’ve wondered whether we’d all be better off in the long run it the United States were geographically divided in some reasonably equitable way that would allow the reality-based and social justice minded among us to be free of the extremist right wingers.”

According to a 2021 survey by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, “roughly 4 in 10 (41%) of Biden and half (52%) of Trump voters at least somewhat agree that it’s time to split the country, favoring blue/red states seceding from the union.” American society, and American politics, is breaking in half.

The far-left hates the center and the right, and the far-right hates the center and the left. Supreme Court justices are being doxxed and are the victims of assassination attempts. What was once one America is now deeply fragmented.

Individual Consequences: Loneliness & Unhappiness

This fragmentation is dangerous on a national level, and disastrous on an individual level.

As humans, we all need a connection to something bigger than ourselves. As Haidt notes, there are two parts of our brain; we are 90 percent individualistic chimp, and 10 percent hive-mind bee. To thrive on a personal level, we need to access both parts of our brain. Societies that jettison individualism to focus on the collective create misery and deprivation, which is why communism rarely works outside of small religious communes. Societies that jettison the hive-mind and pretend that the individual is all that matter are equally doomed to fail.

A poll from Gallup shows that Republicans consistently describe better mental health than Democrats. The differences aren’t small. 58 percent of Republicans rate their mental health as “excellent” compared to only 38 percent of Democrats.

A big reason for this discrepancy is that Republicans as a group are more in touch with their hive nature. They are more connected to supra-individual concepts like God and country, and often experience levels of patriotism that verge on religious devotion. By contrast, many on the left are pursuing a “tribe of one” mentality. This mentality says that everyone is special, unique, and absolutely different from everyone else. There is nothing higher than the individual, and no need to try to connect to something bigger than us. This way of being is psychologically unhelpful in the extreme.

What Can You Do?

As a strong and integrous man, what can you do to limit the impact of this destructive trend on your life?

First, develop a sense of patriotism. This doesn’t mean embracing any one political ideology. Libertarians, conservatives, progressives, and moderates can all experience patriotism. We can all look with awe at our great if imperfect nation, and feel a deep sense that we are a part of something greater than ourselves.

Read the writings of the Founding Fathers–especially their frequent condemnations of slavery. Read their histories and biographies. Visit the mass graves of the Civil War and the American Revolution and World Wars I and II. Cultivate a sense of the blood and sweat and tears that millions of men and women spilled to make this great nation possible, of the impossible risks that the Founding Fathers took in order to found, “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Develop gratitude for the people who came before you and poured their life into this country so that you could enjoy the privileges you enjoy today.

Second, don’t let yourself become a “tribe of one.” Find a tribe of like-minded men. Find a tribe of men who share your values, who quest for (and find) meaning in their lives, who embody healthy masculine energy and treat their partners (and themselves) with respect and love. Find a tribe of men you’d trust to have your back in a firefight, and who will love you and expect you to have theirs in turn.

TEM offers such a tribe. We offer one-on-one men’s coaching as well as men’s groups. If you would like to build a life of purpose and meaning, cultivate real and raw relationships in your life with authentic men, and develop your healthy grounded masculine energy, reach out today.

First World Problems: The Slow-Motion Sacking of the Modern Library of Alexandria

By: Julian Adorney & Mark Johnson

Picture of the ruined Library of Alexandria. The sacking of the library is a metaphor for the systematic destruction of American institutions that explains why we have first world problems.

What Are First World Problems?

First world problems are essentially problems that we deal with in the United States, in spite of–or, perhaps, because of–the jaw-dropping levels of privilege and wealth and safety that we live in. These problems include:

– A dearth of meaning in your life; you go to work and make good money, but you don’t know what it’s all for

– A lack of connection. Many men in the US are looking for a tribe. Lots of men don’t have close friends, and the facsimile of online interaction just leaves us craving more of the real thing.

– Out of control egoic fear. We don’t struggle with the kinds of life-threatening problems our ancestors did. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not dealing with genuine material danger or imminent starvation. But in spite of our material comforts, our egos still tell us there are threats all around. Immersed in the safest society the world has ever produced, lots of men still find themselves scared and anxious.

– An epidemic of mental illness among young people, especially anxiety and depression. The suicide rate for men age 15-24 has increased by 78 percent from 1990 to 2017.

If you’re suffering from first world problems, it’s not your fault. The milieu of the United States produces these problems, just like the milieu of a third-world country produces justified fears of starvation and danger.

You’re also not alone. Millions of men experience some or all of the above problems.

However, regardless of fault, it is your responsibility to fix these problems in your own life. And it is our responsibility as strong and integrous men to do what we can to help fix them on a societal level.

How Did We Get Here?

A depressed man, symptomatic of first world problems.

To see the root cause of these problems, we have to zoom out. These problems didn’t start 5 or 10 or 20 years ago.

Over the past 50 years, we have systematically torn down the institutions that made the United States the safest and most prosperous and most successful country the world had ever seen. These historic institutions weren’t perfect, but they taught us how to operate in society in productive ways. They taught us how to protect ourselves and our families, and how to connect to something bigger than just our egos.

They taught us how to have productive disagreements, how to find and pursue truth, how to hone and channel our masculinity, and how to love our partners in ways those partners wanted and needed.

Our culture now derides these institutions as “patriarchal” or “white supremacist.”

And to be clear, the 1950s weren’t great for everyone. These historic institutions needed improvement. But we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and we’re suffering the consequences on a society-wide level.

The Scope of the Problem

The scale of this problem is hard to overstate. It’s not a partisan problem; while many of the examples we’ll cite in this series mention the far left, the far right is equally culpable for tearing down American institutions (including the most recent Republican president attempting to stage a coup when he lost an election). Extremists on all sides are using the imperfections of our society as an excuse to tear the whole thing down.

What we’re seeing is a slow-motion version of the Library of Alexandria being sacked by barbarians. An immense treasure trove of knowledge is being destroyed out of ignorance. And just as the sacking of the Library of Alexandria set humanity back by millennia, so the sacking of America is setting the world–and hundreds of millions of Americans–back just as deeply.

If you’re wondering why so many men today feel depressed, anxious, lonely, and lack purpose; why so many struggle to find a partner or to have a good relationship; this is a huge piece of the puzzle. Social institutions aren’t just good at the societal level. They’re essential for individual health and wellbeing. When we tear down these institutions, we end up with a generation adrift.

What Can We Do?

To combat first world problems, one key step is to find a tribe.

In the coming blogs, we’ll evaluate 5 areas in which American institutions have been systematically torn down. These are:

– The American Civic Religion

Free Speech

– Objective Judgment of Healthy vs Unhealthy Lifestyles

– Masculinity

– Healthy Mores Around Love and Sex

Each of these problems affects all of us as men. The good news is that each of these issues can be addressed–and indeed has to be addressed–at the individual level. In each blog, we’ll walk you through how the relevant institution has been degraded, how that degradation hurts men, and what you can do as a healthy and integrous man to heal the damage in your own life.

The most important piece of advice, however, is this: find a tribe of like-minded men. Find a tribe of men who share your values, who quest for (and find) meaning in their lives, who embody healthy masculine energy and treat their partners (and themselves) with respect and love. Find a tribe of men you’d trust to have your back in a firefight, and who will love you and expect you to have theirs in turn.

TEM offers such a tribe. We offer one-on-one men’s coaching as well as men’s groups. If you would like to build a life of purpose and meaning, cultivate real and raw relationships in your life with authentic men, and develop your healthy grounded masculine energy, reach out today.

Why Is Courage Important?

A few months ago, I left the home I loved in Colorado and moved across country to be with my partner.

This was not an easy decision. We had spent years living in separate states because we both had our own work to do before we could be together, and we were both self-aware enough to know it. Moving across the country to live with her meant running headlong into a whole new edge. It meant I would be challenged in a way I never had been before.

And it meant leaving my comfortable Colorado life. It meant leaving the life of a quasi-bachelor who climbed 14ers every other weekend and went snowshoeing in the back woods, and stepping completely into my role as husband and step-father to my partner’s teenage children.

I liked my old life. More to the point, I was comfortable there. My ego liked Colorado because it offered enough surface-level challenges to make me look like a real man, while avoiding the kinds of soul-deep challenges that could shake me to my foundation.

So what did I do? I moved across the country.

And it was hard. It pushed me in new ways. It almost broke me.

And it was glorious. Being with my partner and kids full-time is a joy that eclipses anything I felt at the top of Mount Elbert.

That’s why courage is important. It takes guts to uproot your entire life and walk a path that you know will test you to your core. And it’s also the most rewarding thing you can do.

There are other reasons it’s so critical, as a man, to cultivate courage. In this blog, I’ll tackle a few of them. They are:

– It takes courage to fight against insanity

– it takes courage to live into your calling and take that crucial next step

– Your partner wants (even needs) you to be courageous

Let’s go more in-depth on each reason.

1) It Takes Courage to Fight Against Insanity

Societal Insanity

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, it is undeniable that there are strains of insanity running through today’s politics. The alt-right insists that non-white people are less human. The woke left, in a disturbing parallel, is starting to endorse racially segregated spaces in areas like education (Centennial Elementary, a public school in Denver, recently offered a, “Families of Color Playground Night”). Some libertarians insist that we should abolish all government, and Tucker Carlson’s Patriot Purge peddles conspiracy theories to one of the largest audiences in America.

And, of course, extremist groups like Antifa continue to claim that speech they dislike is violence, but actually attacking innocent people is justifiable.

It takes bravery to speak out against insane ideas, whatever their source. Part of this is a byproduct of the fact that we are social animals; writing in the Harvard Business Review, professor of leadership development Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries notes that being courageous is more difficult when your peer group disagrees with your position. “All too often,” he writes, “in these “difficult-to-produce-courage” situations, we succumb to fear, peer pressure, groupthink, or deference to authority figures.”

Today, to speak out is to put your neck on the chopping block for a social media mob that has embraced cancel culture, doxxing, and harassing people who disagree with it. Professors have been fired because they challenged the politics on campus. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff document in The Coddling Of the American Mind how campus mobs have stormed university buildings and held administrators hostage.

The rage of the online mob has even extended to minors. Nick Sandmann, a then-junior in high school whose age might have protected him in a more civilized time, became the subject of doxxing, online rage, and even death threats when he was accused of facing down an elderly Native American man.

It takes guts to speak up and risk the consequences. But it is incredibly important. Why? Because bravery can combat our societal impulse to conform.

Solomon Asch was a gifted psychologist who studied conformity in the 1950s. To test the subject’s willingness to conform without the subject knowing what was going on (which would bias their answers), Asch invited each subject to take a “vision test.” The vision test showed the subject a line segment, and then asked them which of 3 other line segments best matched up with the first line’s length.

Source

There were other people allegedly taking the vision test at the same time, and unbeknownst to the subject these men and women were in on the study. Their job was to give the wrong answer (ex. Saying that A was closest in length to the target line) to see how effectively group pressure and the desire to conform could manipulate the subject into giving the wrong answer.

Asch found that subjects conformed to the incorrect group answer about 33% of the time.

What does this mean for society? We are prone to espouse insane ideas (for example, doxxing high schoolers) even if we don’t believe they are right, just because we see our peers doing this. Social media mobs use harassment and canceling to promote conformity, which is even more dangerous because conformity spreads: if everyone you know says the same thing, you’re far more likely to parrot those views.

The solution is to have the guts to call out insanity when you see it. This can help your peers break out of their own insane loops. Asch found that when even one confederate in the study gave the correct answer, conformity lowered dramatically. Instead of agreeing with the group consensus 33% of the time, the subject only agreed 5-10% of the time.

Sometimes all it takes is one person with the courage to call out the self-evidently wrong. If you can do that, it can inspire other people to stand up and do the same.

Personal Insanity

Insanity doesn’t just infest the political landscape. It can show up in the workplace too. And if it starts to creep in to your workplace, having the courage to call it out can be essential to maintaining your passion and motivation at work.

Renowned psychologist and University of Toronto Professor of Psychology Jordan Peterson tells a story of one of his clients, who was being “driven mad” by the insanity at her workplace. As one example, workers exchanged 32 emails trying to come up with a different way to say, “flip charts,” because they thought the word “flip” might be objectionable to Filippinos. The fact that no-one had ever objected to the term, “flip charts” meant that the whole thing was an abject waste of time and energy.

Peterson points out three dangers of letting this kind of insanity affect your workplace:

1) It will warp you until you start to tell yourself you agree with it. This internal tension–between the innate human desire to conform, and what your spirit knows to be true–is bad for the soul.

2) It will demotivate you. It is hard to be excited about a job that prioritizes busywork and timewasting over actually doing things that matter. Or as Peterson puts it, “why should I be slaving away at this job when I’m being pecked to death by morons with stupid rules?”

3) It will make you resentful and irritated.

Spend too long in a bureaucracy that’s governed by insane rules (whether these are being pushed by woke bosses, or the kind of unnecessary and demoralizing policies big corporations are infamous for), and your spark will start to go out.

What’s the solution? Courage. As Peterson says, “you should object at the earliest possible point,” to asinine policies. If your objection is upheld, you’ve made your workplace better. If your objections are consistently not, then having the courage to find a new job can breathe new life into your career.

2) It Takes Courage to Live Into Your Calling

A Leap of Faith

There comes a time on our personal growth journey when we know what the next step is…and it’s off a cliff.

We’ve been walking along, following the path to personal development, and everything’s been going more or less smoothly. There have been a few bumps in the road but nothing we cannot handle.

And then we come to a place where taking one step forward means stepping into the unknown. We don’t know what’s below that cliff edge. All we know is that once we take that leap of faith, in 6 months we won’t even recognize the man we used to be.

This is terrifying for our egos. Our egos seek comfort and conformity, and fear the unknown. They fear transformation, even good transformation. Taking a leap of faith threatens death to our ego, and offers salvation to our spirit.

That’s what I did when I moved across the country to be with my partner and kids. I knew if I made the leap, my life would transform. I would have new challenges and new growth opportunities. I knew that both would hit my ego like a freight train.

Six months in and I wouldn’t even recognize the man I had been.

It takes courage to take the leap. Frankly, the bigger the opportunity on the other side, the more bravery it takes. Our egos can sense the potential for truly transformative change, and they run from it. It takes guts to master our ego and go forward anyway.

So many men reach the point where a leap of faith is what’s required, and they shirk it. They turn back. “Maybe next year,” they tell themselves; or, “I suppose I’m okay with where I am now.”

The leap of faith might be leaving your cushy but soul-numbing job to pursue your passion. Or cultivating a deep relationship with the woman you’re dating but have kept at arms’ length. Or manning up to help your teenage son or daughter through a tough phase of life.

If you take it, the leap will transform you. It will be a defining moment you look back on, a turning point that doubled the size of your life.

And if you don’t take it…you will diminish. Something in your spirit will cry out, even if the cry is muffled.

Taking the leap takes courage. And it is worth it, precisely in accordance to how much courage it takes.

Living Into Your Calling

In his New York Times bestseller Wild At Heart, therapist John Eldredge says that all men crave a battle to fight. We yearn to be tested to our core and to know that we have what it takes.

As men, we were not made for a safe life. For white picket fences and a career pushing paper, where the most adventure and meaning we’ll ever face is a trip to Home Depot to fix our air conditioner.

We were made for adventure. To fight on the front lines of a war between good and evil, and to give everything we have to make the world a better place.

It’s important to note that Eldredge isn’t advocating or criticizing any particular job. You can pursue your calling in an office or as a missionary, at a corporation or at a start-up. Instead Eldredge is criticizing the life of safety and risk-avoidance that so many men fall into because they’re scared to pursue what really matters to them.

Having counseled thousands of men, Eldredge concludes that pursuing your highest calling in life is not safe. It is not a guaranteed home run. It is full of uncertainty, risk, and even danger. It will test you.

And it will be worth it. A life of meaning can feed your soul and light you up in a way that pushing paper does not. A career living into your highest calling can make you excited to step into the office Monday morning.

If you want to be a leader, that too requires courageous action. Every great leader, hell every effective leader, has a bold heart.

In short: living into your highest purpose requires bravery. And it is worth it.

3) It Takes Courage to Be The Man Your Partner Dreams Of

I’ve counseled hundreds of married men over the past 20 years, and one thing I’ve seen over and over is this:

Your woman wants you to be courageous.

Our women want to know that they can trust us, that we will protect them if push comes to shove. That we have what it takes to stand up against threats and keep them safe.

Few strong women want a weak or a hesitant man. Few women want a man who will walk on eggshells around them, or who bends to adversity like a reed in the wind.

As one example, most women crave a man who can handle her emotions. If you duck and cover when she’s angry, she’ll start to wonder how you’ll react when actual danger or hardship threatens. By contrast, if you can handle her anger, she’ll often feel safer around you.

This doesn’t mean that you should ignore her feelings or start yelling at her. Nor does it mean that you should put up with a woman flaying the skin off of you when she’s mad. But handling her emotions with calm strength and groundedness is a hell of a lot better than cowering or getting angry.

In his book The Way of the Superior Man, internationally renowned spiritual teacher David Deida says of women that, “She wants the “Killer” in you.” Deida points out that if you’re asleep together and you hear a noise in the kitchen, your wife will not be impressed if you curl up in bed and ask her to deal with it. She wants you to have the courage to go investigate the sound and deal with whoever made it–be it a rat in the cupboards or a thief sneaking through the window.

Most women want to know their man has what it takes to protect them. That means they want a man with courage.

Building Courage In Your Own Life

At The Antifragile Man, we help men develop and hone their courage. Bravery is the antidote to a small life, and we’ve helped hundreds of men find the bravery to live into their purpose and be the man they aspire to be.

If you feel:

– Like a badass at work, but whipped at home

– Like you’re facing a situation that requires a leap of faith, and you’re scared to take it 

– Stifled by the insanity of your workplace, but not sure how to stand up to it and keep your job

– Drowning in all the words you’ve never said, the jumps you’ve never taken, the stands you’ve never held that your Spirit knew were right

We can help. We offer one-on-one men’s coaching to help you develop into the strong, grounded man you aspire to be. If that’s of interest to you, reach out today.

Why We Should Let Boys Be Boys (A Criticism of Cultural Transformation)

In Sweden, preschools are working aggressively to deconstruct traditional gendered norms. The Seafarer’s Preschool in Stockholm, Sweden, made waves for its avant-garde strategy of teaching girls to be more aggressive and boys to be more feminine. Teachers, “cleared the room of cars and dolls. They put the boys in charge of the play kitchen. They made the girls practice shouting ‘No!’” Other Swedish preschools have encouraged boys to massage each others’ feet, and little girls to open windows and scream out of them.

The New York Times reported, in a glowing story on Seafarer’s Preschool, that, “Science may still be divided over whether gender differences are rooted in biology or culture, but many of Sweden’s government-funded preschools are doing what they can to deconstruct them.”

How you feel about this probably depends on which of two camps you fall into regarding masculinity.

Camp 1: The Transformation Model

This model, common among the political Left in the West, sees traditional masculinity as a problem to be solved. And to be fair, men are both the perpetrators and the victims of many societal ills. In the United States, men commit 90-95% of sexual assaults. Men make up over 91% of inmates in jails and prisons. Regardless of the efficacy of their solutions, the well-meaning proponents of the transformation model have identified real and pressing issues.

Advocates of the transformation model also insist that gender is largely a cultural construct. Change the culture, and you can change how boys and girls express themselves. Change the culture enough, and you can make girls far less traditionally feminine and boys far less traditionally masculine. Hence, Swedish preschools. According to the New York Times article, “(Swedish) state curriculum urges teachers and principals to embrace their role as social engineers, requiring them to ‘counteract traditional gender roles and gender patterns.’”

The American Psychological Association recently threw its weight behind this model. In their, “APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Men and Boys,” the authors suggest that “traditional masculinity ideology…has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict,” as well as, “negatively influence mental health” and, “physical health.”

How does the APA define, “traditional masculinity ideology?” As a constellation of behaviors including, “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.”

In short, the APA argues that many of the traits that men and boys exhibit are bad. It’s not much of a leap from there to the Swedish preschool model that says these traits must be pruned away.

Camp 2: The Channeling Model

Contrast this with the channeling model, which says that while there are of course substantial differences among individuals, boys and men do tend to see the world differently than girls and women. We tend to have different innate drives and our brains work different ways. Rather than trying to fit each child into a mold, we should help children of all genders to grow up strong and healthy and in tune with what makes them tick. This includes the millions of boys who enjoy achievement, adventure, risk, etc.

The channeling method says that masculinity, like femininity, isn’t inherently good or bad; it just is. How we teach young boys to use it is what really matters.

As one example, you might think that violence is always bad. Until you’re walking with your girlfriend late at night and someone appears out of a dark alley and tries to rape her. Then defensive violence is essential.

The transformation model and the channeling model both sound good in theory. They’re both pushed by well-meaning people who want the best for boys and for girls.

The problem is that the transformation model doesn’t work. Let’s see how and why.

Problem #1 With the Transformation Model: It Tries to Prune Masculinity

For an example of what this looks like, look at schools in the United States. K-12 schools are increasingly adopting the, “drill and skill,” methodology, wherein students sit still and imbibe information from teachers or textbooks for 8 hours per day.

Disregarding whether or not, “drill and skill” is good methodology, there’s no denying that it’s easier with girls than boys. Boys are just more rambunctious. They have more trouble sitting still, are more likely to question authority (and are less polite about it), and want to be more physically active.

If you see boys’ rambunctiousness as a problem to be solved, then what do you do? Increasingly the United States is turning to medication. According to the CDC, boys are more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. A large enough dose of Ritalin will curb the rambunctiousness from boys and make them sit still.

This view takes masculinity in boys as inherently destructive, and tries to transform boys (including through medication) until they act more passive in the classroom.

Problem #2: the Transformation Model Tells Boys Not to Be Themselves

One essential thing the LGBTQ movement has taught us is the importance of letting young people (and adults, for that matter) be themselves. The horror stories of teens forced into, “pray away the gay,” camps showed us that it’s far healthier to let your gay son be attracted to boys, than to try to force him to date girls. The stories of LGBTQ men and women coming out of the closet showed us that people live far better lives when they’re free to live out their innate desires, compared to when they’re forced to hide those desires out of a need to fit in.

We should remember these same lessons with young boys. As mens’ therapist John Eldredge writes in his bestseller Wild At Heart, most boys crave a battle to fight. They want a beauty to rescue. Males yearn to be tested to their core and to know that they have what it takes. In short, we’re often drawn to, “adventure, risk, and violence.”

These desires help explain why so many more men than women sign up for the military; why men are far more likely to run into a burning building if a pretty girl is nearby (the damsel in distress); and why we do things like submerge ourselves in ice baths that gives many men a reputation for having more balls than brains (to be fair, the Wim Hof Method is amazing).

We should let boys know that these desires are natural and normal. It’s okay for them to want to play with toy battle-axes and cowboy guns even if their female friends don’t want to join in; just like it’s okay for them to not like tea parties as much as their sisters.

The Dearth Of Meaning

What happens when we tell boys that these deeply-held desires are abnormal and must be pruned? 

Two things. First, you end up with a lot of men whose lives feel empty of meaning. These men feel dissatisfied pushing paper, but they’ve been taught that the things that give them meaning are wrong and shouldn’t be pursued. Deep down, they know they want to be the knight in shining armor battling the dragon and rescuing the princess; but when society has told them that fighting dragons and rescuing beauties is bad, they don’t know what to do with themselves.

This is one reason for the high rates of suicide and depression that men experience in Western culture. When you struggle to find meaning in your life, and you’re out of touch with your inner compass, it can be easier to fall into psychological malaise or to see life as hardly worth living.

Related to this: most men have a natural desire to achieve, which is deeply tied to both their masculinity and to their sense of purpose. We want to be high achievers in whatever we pursue.

There’s nothing wrong with this, when channeled in a healthy way. When this drive isn’t channeled, but is instead cut off or buried, you end up with a culture of men who struggle to achieve. This shows up in a failure to succeed academically, among other things.

High school graduation rates for men have stagnated for the past 50 years, hovering at about 80 percent. By contrast female graduation rates rose to 88% in 2018, 6% higher than boys’. Boys are more likely to be expelled from K-12 school, and substantially less likely to attend university (By the end of the 2021 academic year, about 60 percent of all college students will be women).

There are many reasons that boys lag behind girls in education, but one big piece of the puzzle is this: if you tell boys that achievement is bad, they’re going to be less likely to achieve.

Unhealthy Masculinity

Second, you end up with a lot of men who only know how to tap into their masculinity in an unhealthy way. Because they didn’t have healthy men in their lives to help them channel their masculinity in a healthy way, they turned to unhealthy role models: gangs, social media, bullying, etc. 

They didn’t have anyone to help them channel their aggression in prosocial ways, so they found petty crime as an outlet. They didn’t have a man to show them how to build a career of adventure, so they stifled their need for adventure until it suddenly burst out of them at age 45 and they left their wife and kids to go have wild sex with their secretary.

Eldredge points out that for many men, cheating on their spouses is less about sexual desire and more out of a craving for adventure. If you live your whole life behind white picket fences and the grey walls of a cubicle, a forbidden affair starts to feel like the only way to inject some life into your days. 

Problem #3 With the Transformation Model: Healthy Masculinity Is Good

Here’s the truth: strong masculine energy is like strong feminine energy. It’s essential for healthy individuals, healthy relationships of all kinds, and a healthy society. In the same way that stamping out femininity would be a mistake, trying to use cultural engineering to stamp out traditional masculinity risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

How does healthy masculinity (which includes many of the traits the APA criticizes) help society?

1) Sheepdogs

Writing in On Combat, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman points out that humans fall into three categories: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.

“If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath–a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.”

The soldiers who liberated Auschwitz in World War II were sheepdogs. The men and women who fought off their terrorist hijackers on Flight 93 on Sept 11, 2001 were sheepdogs.

As long as there are wolves in society–that is, as long as humans are humans–we should pray we have sheepdogs too. And while sheepdogs can absolutely be female, they tend to be male. All the social engineering in the world isn’t going to make women want to sign up to be Marines in the same quantities as men. More to the point, sheepdogs of either gender tend to be motivated by a drive for adventure, for risk, and–yes–for violence.

2) Women Want Masculine Men

University of Toronto Professor of Psychology Jordan Peterson tells a story about two Google engineers who analyzed thousands of Harlequin romance novels in their book, “A Billion Wicked Thoughts.” These novels, which are generally written by women and largely read by women, represent a sort of distillation of what Western women crave when it comes to romance.

The engineers found that the heroes of these romance novels tend to fit into 1 of 5 archetypes:

– Vampire

– Werewolf

– Pirate

– Billionaire

– Surgeon

What do these 5 all have in common? First, as Peterson explains, they’re at the top of the dominance hierarchy. Contrary to what the APA says about a drive for achievement being bad, the heroes of womens’ fantasies tend to be high achievers.

Second, three of the five are incredibly dangerous. Very few women want a tame man. A man who has no capacity for violence holds little appeal. First, he’s boring. Second, he’s not safe. Most women want a man who can protect them when shit hits the fan. A man with no capacity for violence, tautologically, cannot do this.

3) Healthy Masculine Fathers Can Teach Their Sons Healthy Masculinity

In Wild At Heart, Eldredge argues that masculinity is bestowed by masculinity. It takes a father (or father figure) to help his son grow from a boy into a young man.

A society with lots of healthy masculine men can teach their sons what it is to be a man. They can teach them how to live a life of adventure without sacrificing their duty, how to treat a woman they love (including when and how to rescue her if she needs it), how to channel their innate aggression in prosocial ways rather than antisocial ways, and more.

If you remove the healthy masculine men from society, young boys will still find role models to help them understand their masculinity. The role models just won’t be helpful. That path leads to spiritually stifled, angry, restless men of the kind we’ve all become too familiar with.

Benefits of the Channeling Model

If the transformational model fails because it doesn’t let boys be boys or recognize the importance of masculine energy to a functioning society, the channeling model works because it does both.

Seeing masculinity as a force to be channeled, intrinsic to males (and some females) but neither good nor bad in its essence, helps us to see boys and girls as equally valuable…even when boys don’t behave exactly like girls.

This model also sees the profound good that healthy masculinity can do for society (just the way that healthy femininity can do profound good) and enables us to build a society that embraces both.

Finally, the channeling model helps us raise young boys who know and understand themselves, feel their own value, and have a sense of their God-given purpose. It helps us raise boys to embrace healthy masculinity rather than the malformed masculinity that’s more and more common in Western culture.

In this context, what does, “Boys will be boys” mean? It means that boys need to be boys. It doesn’t excuse sexual assault or aggressive violence. But it does mean that young men often differ from young women in terms of what they want and how they think. Rather than being seen as, “toxic masculinity,” these differences should be respected. 

Another way of putting this sentiment is, “girls will be girls:” girls should absolutely be allowed to join the military and fight on the front lines, but social engineering to try to force them into this way of life would be frowned upon. In the same way, boys should absolutely be allowed to throw their toy axes and violent video games in the trash and spend time playing dress-up if they want, but using social engineering to push them into this way of life is unhealthy.

Tapping Into Your Own Healthy Masculinity

If you want to cultivate your own healthy masculine energy, make peace with your shadow side, and feel more like a man than you ever have, my partner and I do offer 1-on-1 high performance coaching for men. If you’re interested, reach out today.

How Can You Help Your Boy Become A Man?

As a father, you want your son to grow up to be a healthy, masculine man. You want him to have a successful career and feel a sense of purpose when he goes into work every day. You want him to attract the love of a good partner, and to treat them right when he does. You want him to have strong, healthy friendships; to be tested deeply and rise to the challenges that life throws at all of us; and to live a life of purpose, integrity, and love.

You want him to be a man.

But how? How do you handle this fundamental duty you have as his father?

For the last 50 years, western society has torn down or destroyed most of the traditional institutions that initiated boys into manhood. In the United States, our culture now says the only thing required to become a man is to keep breathing until you turn 18.

In the absence of a clear rite of passage to become a man, many boys try to cobble something together by looking in all the wrong places. They turn to gangs, hoping that the (generally male) gang leaders will show them how to be a man. They turn to social media (God help them). They turn to peers who know little more than the boys they’re “teaching” how to be young men.

They turn to their fathers, but many fathers are absent or don’t have a healthy relationship with their sons.

Maybe that’s why the United States is so overrun with overgrown adolescents. Everywhere we look we see 30- or 40-year-old boys whose balls haven’t dropped yet. They’re doormats, Nice Guys and people-pleasers. Their masculinity has been stifled and now their wife, their kids, their boss walk all over them.

They look successful on the outside, but on the inside they feel dead. Aching for something they can’t even describe, for purpose and a challenge and a quest.

Or we see adult boys who have never learned to overcome their shadow side. They cheat on their wives and lie at work. They drink too much. They never learned to channel the aggression that lives inside every man in a prosocial way, so they dump it on everyone else. They never learned to control their emotions, so they rage at the world and lose their jobs and end up moving back into their parents’ basement and playing video games until 3am.

We can feel pity for the boys who never grew up, because it’s not necessarily their fault. We’re all a product of our culture, and United States culture (whatever its benefits) seems geared to produce perpetual adolescents.

Dr. Brad Blanton, renowned psychotherapist and author of the bestselling book Radical Honesty, puts it bluntly in his book: “In our culture, adolescence lasts from age 11 to about 30 or 35.” He estimates that about 75 percent of the “modern technological world” is still afflicted by the problem of adolescence.

The last thing you want is to raise an overgrown boy. But how can you help your son make the transition from boy to a healthy masculine man?

Step #1: Boys Need Healthy Role Models

As a father, you are your son’s number one role model. From the moment he was born, he began watching you, trying to figure out how he should behave in certain situations and what sort of person he should be. As Robert Fulghum (parent, minister, and author of the international bestseller All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten) says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Most of us grow up to be like our fathers in more ways than not. Many men report that they want to be, “just like dad.”

Your son sees how you treat your wifeand will treat women the same way.

He sees how you approach workand will approach it the same way.

He sees how you react to stressdo you handle it well, or do you turn to the bottle? Whichever way you choose, he’ll likely choose the same. There’s strong evidence that the children of alcoholic parents are more likely to develop problems with alcohol than the children of non-alcoholic parents.

What does this mean? It means that if you’re not the man you aspire to be, now’s the time to level up. If you have trouble with anger or women or being a Nice Guy, then you owe it to your son to fix those issues so that he can have the healthy, masculine role model father that he deserves.

If you do think you need to level up, our online men’s groups and 1-on-1 men’s coaching can help you be the man your son needs you to be.

But you’re not the only man in your son’s life, and every child needs other role models besides his father. No matter how healthy you are, you cannot be the sole man mentoring your son into manhood.

Where Can Your Son Find Other Role Models?

Sports leagues are a good place to start: coaches can be excellent role models. They can teach important lessons about hard work, playing to win while respecting the other team, and having honor on and off the field.

Your local church can also be good. Pastors, rabbis, and other spiritual teachers often have real wisdom to impart. More importantly, the good ones model humility, courage, and a genuine give-a-shit for their fellow man.

Martial arts dojos have a long history of teaching children valuable lessons. Senseis and senior students can model discipline (physical and mental) and can show your son how to channel his innate aggression in a prosocial way.

This last is of vital importance. One of the differences between boys and girls is that boys (even young boys) tend to love battle. We males are fascinated by fighting. As John Eldredge, counselor and author of the international bestseller Wild At Heart, says about boys and men: “Every boy knows he is made for battle, and he longs to be the mighty hero. Give him a cape, a sword, a light saber and he comes alive in a world of Jedi knights, superheroes, snowball fights, and “what can we blow up next?””

This fascination with battle can be channeled in prosocial or antisocial ways. Plenty of overgrown boys let their aggression lead them by the balls into fights at bars, assaulting women, and beating children. That’s antisocial as hell.

But not every battle is bad, and it’s your job to make sure your son channels his warrior energy in a healthy way. Defending the people around him from predators. Fighting for what’s right in the workplace. Doing battle against the evil in the world, and leaving the world a better place than he found it.

Healthy role models can show him how to do that.

Whoever you help your son find as role models—be they senseis, pastors, coaches, or other men you know—it’s important that these men embody healthy masculinity. Your son will watch what they do, just like he does with you. Make sure you help him find role models worth watching.

Step #2: Boys Need Mentorship From Good Men

It’s not enough for your son to have role models to look up to. These healthy masculine men (including you) should be actively mentoring him. He needs men who can talk to him about how to attract a good woman, and how to treat women so he can have a healthy relationship (both when dating, and when married). He needs men who can educate him about how to avoid becoming a Nice Guy, a doormat, or a people-pleaser; how to find his calling and live into it; and how to treat the people around him with honor and respect whether they’re a CEO or a waitress.

These men (again, including you) should also talk to him about what it means to be a man. He needs to understand why he thinks and feels the way he does, why he’s drawn to intense challenges, why he and his male friends punch each other to show affection when the girls he knows (generally) do not. He needs to understand how to handle his emotions, how to tackle the challenges of life and not be beaten by them, and how to keep a calm and steady hand on the rudder.

I’m not saying that all men are the sameclearly, we’re not. But generally speaking, most of us have a lot in common. It’s important for your son to have healthy men around to help educate him on those commonalities.

Female role models can teach your son a lot, and he should have strong and healthy women in his life who he looks up to and admires. But a society of all men would struggle to raise healthy daughters, because men aren’t great at teaching girls how to be women. Girls need healthy women to teach them about womanhood. In the same way, boys need healthy men to teach them about masculinity.

Step #3: Boys Need to Overcome Challenges

In their bestselling book The Coddling of the American Mind, social psychologist and New York University professor Jonathan Haidt and president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) Greg Lukianoff argue that children are antifragile.

What does it mean to be antifragile? It means that children thrive and grow stronger when they overcome challenges.

  • Fragile things break when you apply pressure to them (ex. A glass cup)
  • Resilient things survive when you apply pressure to them (ex. A plastic cup)
  • Antifragile things (including people) become stronger when you apply pressure to them.

Children respond to stress the same way that muscles or bones do. If you never lifted weights, your muscles would atrophy; they need the pressure to become stronger. But when you do lift weights, your muscles grow and you can turn into this guy.

When children never have the chance to overcome challenges, they atrophy. They become weak and prone to breaking down when faced with simple obstacles. This is heartbreaking to see, and Haidt and Lukianoff document many examples in their book.

But when children overcome challenges, they grow strong. That’s true of physical and emotional challenges both.

Both genders are equally antifragile, but there’s something inherent in boys that loves a challenge. As John Eldredge writes in Wild At Heart about men and boys, “Adventure requires something of us, puts us to the test. Though we may fear the test, at the same time we yearn to be tested, to discover that we have what it takes. That’s why we set off down the Snake River against all sound judgment, why a buddy and I pressed on through grizzly country to find good fishing, why I went off to Washington, D.C., as a young man to see if I could make it in those shark-infested waters.”

Your boy will probably naturally seek out challenges. Let him. Encourage him to. Whether he’s a young boy or a teenager, let him test himself against the world.

Let him date as a teenagerand get his heart broken.

Let him climb treesand fall out.

Let him pick up martial artsand go for his black belt.

Let him seek out and overcome challenges. With every challenge he overcomes (whether picking himself up after a broken heart, or pushing through white water rapids and coming out the other side) he’ll grow stronger. Physically and emotionally.

Why Overcoming Challenges Matters

Here’s the truth: the world will test your son. He will face hardship and difficulty as an adult. This is a universal fact of life.

One useful distinction between an overgrown adolescent and a man is this: the man guides his ship with a calm and steady hand through the shoals and storms of life. The adolescent runs around like everything is on fire, constantly jumping from reaction to reaction.

The adolescent’s way of life is good for no-one.

Your job is to help your son grow into a man who can guide his ship through storms with a calm, grounded strength. The best way to do that is to let him navigate some storms as a child.

Step #4: An Initiation Ceremony

Initiation ceremonies have been a powerful way to transform a boy into a man since time immemorial. Tribes across geography and across time have used these rites of passage to help boys grow into strong, healthy masculine men.

Unfortunately, in recent times these vital rituals have gone the way of the Model T.

However, there are still some organizations that offer powerful initiation ceremonies. Once your son is in high school, it is a good idea to give your son the gift of a ceremonial rite of passage.

Here’s what an initiation ceremony should include:

  • Healthy, evolving, and wise men (including you) actually put your son through a series of rituals that allow him to be tested.
  • These rituals will test his limits of self-perception and help him push past his comfort zone.
  • In these rituals, he will be guided and mentored by yourself and the other men.
  • As he passes through these rituals, he will be ceremonially blessed into the “Community of Men” by all the men initiating him.
  • He will be coached into how to integrate what he learns about himself by some or all of the men who initiate him.
  • You and his mother will also be coached in how to best support your son to deeply integrate what he learns in the ceremony.

At the Evolving Man, we offer initiation ceremonies to young men to help them grow into strong, integrous men. Here’s what one young man said about his recent initiation:

Conclusion: It Takes A Village

How do boys become men? It truly does take a village (or “tribe”) of men to facilitate that growth. It takes multiple strong role models and guidance from wise men to help a boy learn more of who he really is so that he moves into manhood with strength, resilience, and emotional intelligence.

At The Evolving Man, we are proud to be one resource that can serve parents and sons in offering avenues to manhood that are powerful and time-tested. If you would like to discuss an initiation ceremony or rite of passage for your teenage son, reach out today.

Why Is Wisdom Important?

What is wisdom?

It is essentially the ability to discern right action and take right action. When King Solomon, often considered the wisest man to ever live, prayed to God for wisdom, God told him he had asked for, “understanding to discern what is right.” (1 Kings 3:11). He gave Solomon the ability to “discern good from evil” (1 Kings 3:9) and take the best action to help not only himself, but also his people.

What Does Wisdom Require?

It is essential to see the person sitting across from us as having the same intrinsic worth as we ourselves.

Wisdom grows from experience. When you have an experience and you process and understand it, you gain wisdom from it.

As such, it requires a deep humility. You need an understanding that you don’t know everything, either about yourself or about life or about the people with whom you’re interacting. You need a learner’s mindset to get the most from the experiences of your life.

Even more than that, a wise person has a bone-deep understanding of the fact that you and everyone around you has the same immeasurable and intrinsic worth. You are worth the same as anyone else, not more and not less. When Solomon prayed to be wise, he couched his prayer in a deep desire to do right for his people. He did not consider himself better than them, even though he was their king. Rather, he considered them to have incalculable worth of their own.

So why does wisdom matter?

Wisdom Helps Us to Respond Rather Than React

The difference between responding and reacting is simple. When you respond, you’re taking what your spirit tells you is right action. When you react, you’re letting your ego run the show

Let’s say that your wife tells you that you spend too many hours at the office and she misses you. A reaction might be to lash out at her out of wounded pride. A response would be to listen to her and work to craft a solution that meets both of your needs.

When we react to a situation, we hurt ourselves and others. We lash out, burn bridges, and dump our emotional triggers on other people instead of handling them internally. Reacting to a situation makes our internal landscape worse, because it causes guilt and regret and anger and pain. Reacting also makes our external lives worse, by hurting our relationships with others. And finally, reacting has a high probability of hurting others.

Reacting essentially means: to take action without letting wisdom inform your action. He who lacks wisdom in a given moment is reactive in that moment.

A wise person has the strength and the courage to respond rather than to react. The (often painful) experiences that go into becoming wise grant us perspective. The ego thinks that every problem is like the bite of a great white shark: it requires instant, angry, defensive action to relieve the pain. But perspective shows us that most problems are small, and even the larger problems are generally not life-threatening.

This helps us to see most problems as more like the bite of a puppy; they may not be pleasant, but they’re not life-threatening and they don’t require an immediate defensive reaction. This sense of perspective that wisdom brings can help us take a step back and deal with problems constructively rather than reactively.

It is also important because it helps us discern the right action to take. If you’re fighting with your partner, then the right action can resolve the conflict in a way that makes both peoples’ lives better. The wrong action can sow discord and animosity. The same is true if you’re debating leaving your job, considering buying a house, or dealing with a child throwing a tantrum. The right action will help yourself and the people close to you, and the wrong action can hurt yourself and the people close to you.

By accumulating experiences and by actively processing those experiences, you can develop a deep well of wisdom that informs your life choices and helps you take the right action.

Wisdom Helps Us Use the Powerful Tools of the 21st Century Well

In an interview with Valuetainment, clinical psychologist and former Harvard professor Jordan Peterson talks about the tremendous power of social media to harm ourselves and others.

One study, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, looked at 143 students at the University of Pennsylvania to identify whether or not social media use was driving loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. The study put these students into two groups–one was told to keep using social media the same way they always had, and the second group reduced their social media time to 30 minutes per day. The second group saw substantial improvements in their mental health.

“What we found overall is that if you use less social media, you are actually less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased social media use is what causes that qualitative shift in your well-being,” said Jordyn Young, a co-author of the paper and a senior at the University of Pennsylvania.

Social media lets us hurt ourselves–often without knowing it consciously–by making us more depressed and lonely. It also gives us powerful weapons with which to hurt others.

In his bestselling book The Coddling of the American Mind, social psychologist and New York University professor Jonathan Haidt discusses how teenagers–especially teenage girls–can weaponize social media to hurt peers. Haidt argues that teenagers–especially girls–suffer from what he calls FOBLO, Fear of Being Left Out. Social media lets bullies prey on this fear, for instance by posting pictures of a party on Facebook that they know will be seen by the girls who are not invited. Haidt hypothesizes that this is one reason that depression and suicidal attempts by teenage girls have both skyrocketed in the years since social media became widespread.

However, social media can also be prosocial. Nonprofits use social media to attract donations and raise awareness of the good they do. Facebook groups around mental health (like Mental Health Awareness and Support, with 136,000 members) provide a venue for people who struggle with mental health issues to share advice and receive support.

What’s the difference between using social media to hurt ourselves and hurt others, vs using social media to help ourselves and make the world a better place? Wisdom is the principle difference. Being wise is important because it helps us discern the right action and use these incredibly powerful tools for good rather than in service of our egos.

Wisdom Helps Us Become Tribal Elders

As men, we naturally want to grow into tribal elders and pass on advice to younger men to help them live their best lives.

Sagacity is essential to being able to do this. We can’t just pass on knowledge to the next generation; while knowledge is important, knowledge divorced from experience (facts and statistics, for instance) does not constitute helpful life advice. And even the knowledge that could be helpful is already at young men’s fingertips due to Google.

Instead, wise people pass on what they’ve learned through their life experience. For instance, in his bestselling book Twelve Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson discusses a rule that he and his wife have. When they’re in the middle of a fight, they will go into separate rooms and each will identify every way–large or small–that they themselves contributed to the fight. Then they’ll share what they came up with with each other. This rule helps them preserve peace in their marriage.

This is wisdom learned through life experience, which Peterson is passing down to the next generation.

Wisdom is important because it is highly useful, and the learnings of wise people (tribal elders) is something that young men crave and need. However, it’s not easy to find–a simple Google search won’t do the trick. Cultivating wisdom gives us something meaningful to pass on to the next generation of men.

Cultivating Wisdom In Your Own Life

At The Evolving Man, we help men to cultivate wisdom. We build healthy, masculine men with a deep body of wisdom they can draw on whenever they need to.

Our online men’s groups put you in a group with other men who are working to build the best version of themselves. Our two leaders are tribal elders with twenty years of experience helping men live into their purpose.

If you’d like to join a men’s group and surround yourself with masculine men who understand the importance of growing in wisdom, reach out today.

How to Stop Fake News

Fake news has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. In 2019, the top 100 fake news stories on Facebook were viewed over 150 million times. Millions of Americans have been exposed to such stories as Pizzagate (the idea that the Clintons ran a secret pedophile sex ring), the myth that Donald Trump’s father was a KKK member, and the lie that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar held “Secret Fundraisers With Islamic Groups Tied to Terror.”

Fake news is designed to appeal to our psychology, and the authors hack our brains to make these stories go viral. How do you, as a strong and integrous man, avoid believing and sharing stories that turn out to be false information?

#1: Recognize That the World Is Complex

The complexity in even a single molecule should humble us.

The world is full of shades of grey, and is unutterably complex. The sheer complexity of a single tree (composed of billions of atoms) or a single human being (with millions of thoughts and memories) should be enough to humble us and beggar belief.

That same complexity holds when it comes to our society. Real news is rarely black and white. In the real world, mass shooters can be Bernie supporters (which doesn’t indict Bernie’s philosophy), race-baiting Donald Trump supported the First Step Act, and even the heroic Martin Luther King had affairs. Life is complex, and complex things are messy.

Fake news, on the other hand, is often tailor-made to look clean. Every detail points towards the same conclusion: that our team are the good guys, and the other team is the bad guys. Jussie Smollett’s faux hate crime is a good example. He alleged that two white men wearing MAGA hats accosted him, shouted racial and homophobic slurs (Smollet is black and gay), and tied a noose around his neck before leaving. Every detail fed neatly into the narrative that in “Trump’s America,” white Republicans would openly harass and assault minorities.

The problem with the story? Smollett made the entire thing up.

If you want to stop the spread of fake news, here’s a rule of thumb. If it sounds too good (i.e. too damning for your opponents) to be true, it probably is.

#2: See the Humanity In Your Political Opponents

Our political opponents love their children too.

Most humans beings aren’t evil or stupid. Most of our political opponents are good, smart people who happen to see the world differently from us.

Fake news, however, tends to paint our opponents in the absolute worst light. The lie that Bill and Hillary Clinton ran a secret pedophile sex ring is a good example of this. So is the widespread lie that Joe Biden referred to Trump supporters as “Dregs of society.”

When you see a news story, ask yourself, “How stupid or evil would my political opponents have to be for this story to be true?” If the answer is, “very”, then proceed with skepticism.

A caveat here: some political actors do perform evil actions. Donald Trump’s attempted coup on January 6, 2021 is a good example of this. Assuming good intentions in your political opponents is a good rule of thumb, but shouldn’t be taken as an absolute law.

#3: Be Complete In Yourself

Perhaps the best way to combat the spread of fake news is to be complete in yourself. Be strong, be grounded, and have a sense of identity that’s reliant on who you are, not who your political team is.

The moment we identify ourselves as members of a political team, our brains begin working overtime to “prove” that our team is good and the other team is bad. In his excellent book The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt uses the example of the elephant and the rider. The elephant (our intuitions and preferences) decides that X political team is good—it must be good, since we identify as part of it. The rider (our mind) is then tasked to seek out evidence that supports the elephant’s conclusions.

This can lead to extraordinary mental gymnastics, such as an inability to process information that would be harmful to your “team”. In a New York Times article titled, “The Real Story About Fake News is Partisanship,” Amanda Taub writes, “Americans’ deep bias against the political party they oppose is so strong that it acts as a kind of partisan prism for facts, refracting a different reality to Republicans than to Democrats.” 

Jennifer Jeret, a professor of political science at Stony Brook University, puts it even more bluntly: “You can have very high levels of news coverage of a particular fact or an event and you see little or no learning among people who are motivated to disagree with that piece of information.”

A study even found that partisans with strong math skills were good at solving a math problem only if the solution to the problem conformed to their political beliefs. Conservatives, for instance, struggled to solve a math problem where the conclusion was that gun control reduced crime (liberals similarly struggled when the conclusion was that gun control increased crime). 

How can we stop our brain from short-circuiting in this way? By developing a strong sense of identity that’s independent of our political team. That way, our elephant won’t automatically see the team as good, and our rider won’t jump through mental hoops to justify the team. 

Without an attachment to a political team, we can evaluate each news story on its own merits rather than whether or not it makes our side look good.

#4: Seek Joy From Spirit, Not the Adulation of the Crowds

Social media primes us to crave this. We should resist.

The biggest problem with fake news is how shareable it is. When we share a story that makes the other side look bad, we’re rewarded with lots of Likes and Shares and Retweets on social media.

It’s important to realize that social media platforms were designed this way. Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook, says, “Whenever someone likes or comments on a post or photograph, we give you a little dopamine hit.” Dopamine is associated with feelings of euphoria, and the dopamine-inducing design of Facebook is one reason that social media addiction is on the rise. The documentary The Social Network describes how social media companies monetize misinformation and disinformation by promoting content on their News Feeds that makes people more angry (which includes a lot of questionably true content).

How can we fight back? We can recognize that the adulation of the social media crowd, and the associated dopamine hits, are hollow. It’s euphoria, but of a very fragile kind. It is not true joy, any more than the temporary satisfaction of an alcoholic doing a shot is true joy.

True joy comes from following Spirit and your highest self. That will almost always involve a search for truth, since truth makes the world better. It rarely involves a clamor for external validation.

If you want to stop the spreading of misinformation, learn to differentiate the true joy of following Spirit from the false joy of external validation. Avoid seeking out the latter, online or offline.

Conclusion: A Deeper Cut

Lots of smart people write articles with tips for how to combat the spread of fake news. They talk about the importance of fact checking (ex. with Snopes), of reading articles before you share them (Twitter actually rolled out a feature recently to discourage people from sharing articles they haven’t read), and of checking reliable or nonpartisan news sources like the Pew Research Center.

There’s nothing wrong with these tips, but we wanted to take a deeper cut.

Fake news is hardwired to appeal to the ego. It targets our “us vs them” mentality, our ego’s desire for external validation, and our ego’s wish to see the world as a simple place of black and white. 

The integrous and grounded man has his ego under control. For the healthy masculine man, the ego is a servant, not the master. When you are grounded, you feel no desire to believe or share fake news, because its siren song holds no appeal for you.

We specialize in helping men develop strength, integrity, and groundedness. To that end, we offer online men’s groups and 1-on-1 life coaching for men. If you would like to build more strength and inner resilience, and master your ego, reach out today.

Why Is Knowledge Important?

The world is overrun with fake news. We have partisan extremists on every side, from Antifa to the alt-right. We have cable news and endless op-eds telling us that every issue is black and white, and “those people over there” who don’t see things the way we do are responsible for all of the problems our country and our world face.

These are the turbulent currents of our time. Building a firm foundation of knowledge can help you be a rock for yourself and your family so you don’t get swept away. If you want to develop as a strong, integrous man, then scholarship is essential.

What do we mean by scholarship, or knowledge more broadly? Do we just mean more partisan facts (Obamacare increased the cost of insurance by XYZ%, the Trump tax cuts created $ABC in national debt)? No. True knowledge is deeper, and involves learning enough about the world to buffer you against extremism.

It doesn’t matter what your political ideology is. It doesn’t matter if you’re Woke or a Trump supporter, a Christian or an atheist. Acquiring an understanding of the world is ideology-independent; it’s not about helping you win battles for your side, it’s about helping you live your best life.

Two Essential Types of Knowledge

In his landmark book A Celebration of Discipline, pastor and scholar Richard Foster lays out two important types of knowledge:

– books (to which we can add, any long-form high-information media such as documentaries)

– The world itself (that which we observe by living)

Both types are important. Books and other long-form media can help you understand historical trends, which inform where we are today and where we as a country (and as a world) are going. Observing the world itself—everything from the ladybug on your windowsill to how your neighbor who’s a different race talks about his children—can help you develop empathy and humility and a bone-deep understanding that, one way or another, we’re all in this together.

Benefit #1: With Knowledge, You Can Avoid Getting Caught Up In Extremism

There is no shortage of extremist causes looking for new recruits. Postmodernists insist that there are no objectively valid facts; everything is subjective. The alt-right insists that people who don’t look like them are somehow lesser. Anarchists insist that we should destroy the government by sometimes violent means, and Antifa shouts that words are violence and that ideas they dislike must be met with fists.

Each of these strains of extremism posits a narrow and selective view of the world. They look at a world that is dizzyingly complex and full of shades of gray, and they tell us that it’s all black or all white.

A firm foundation of knowledge is important because it can help buttress you against the siren song of these groups. An understanding of history shows us that there are, in fact, objectively valid facts. In the 1940s, 1.1 million people died in Auschwitz. That is both objectively true and objectively evil. 

An understanding of how human societies have historically behaved in the absence of government (Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature provides a solid overview) shows us that, while governments can grow too big and too powerful, their total absence is generally a bad thing.

And history is replete with the dangers of curtailing free speech as Antifa desires.

The scholastically well-rounded man sees the world in shades of gray, and understands the danger of black and white thinking. That buffers you against the demands of extremists. This is essential for your own life. Extremists tend to be deeply unhappy, and to inflict their misery on others. Both social justice warrior extremists and alt-righters live in levels of mental Hell that most of us find difficult to imagine.

For the same reason, not giving into extremism is good for your family. When you pursue your best life instead of living in service to a partisan agenda, your woman and children benefit.

It is also essential if you want to improve the world, because there are many paths to being a better citizen but none of them go through extremist causes.

Benefit #2: Applying Knowledge to Integrous Action

Action without understanding is like a ruined car: it’s unlikely to get you where you want to go.

If you understand history and human nature, then you can better understand where we are as a country and see the directions (both good and bad) in which we are heading. This can help you to take integrous action as a citizen to set the nation on a better trajectory.

Imagine that you’re a US citizen in 1942, and there are rumblings about locking up Japanese-Americans to prevent them from aiding the enemy. A thorough grounding of history would show you examples of other civilizations who have let war inflame their passions against the out-crowd. You would understand why civilizations in war are prone to this, why it’s happening now, and what might be the consequences if the nation followed through on this urge.

From there, you could stand up against the prevailing tides and warn people. You would know where the road the US was considering walking would end, and could encourage the nation to walk a different path.

What applies to the nation applies to the state and the smaller community. If you see your community going down a path that history suggests will end poorly, then you can more effectively speak up.

Benefit #3: Knowledge Is an Antidote to Prejudice

There are any number of groups in the US and the world that encourage us to see one group of humans as better than another group. White supremacists cry that only white people are fully human. Social justice extremists believe that it is a sin to be white. Alt-righters despise women, and Sarah Jeong (former New York Times editorial board member) tweeted “Oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.”

Each of these beliefs relies on prejudice and an ignorance of the “other”. But when you deeply study the world—not just books, but your fellow man—you come to realize that there is no “other”. When you observe how your neighbor of a different race loves his children, you see that skin color is only skin-deep. When you have close relationships with both men and women, you understand that neither gender is superior to the other.

When you live deeply in the world, and observe the poor and the wealthy, the white and the black, the immigrant and the native, you come to realize how phenomenally similar we all are. Underneath our superficial differences, you see that we are all human.

Gaining knowledge is a powerful antidote to racism, sexism, and every other sort of prejudice.

The idea that understanding people different from us can counteract prejudice isn’t just nice-sounding theory—it actually works. Darryl Owens is a black man who has spent 30 years befriending members of the KKK in order to convince them to give up their robes. As NPR reports, “He (Davis) says once the friendship blossoms, the Klansmen realize that their hate may be misguided. Since Davis started talking with these members, he says 200 Klansmen have given up their robes.”

By observing other people, and developing a deep understanding of them, we can protect ourselves and our families from being swept away by the treacherous currents of fashionable prejudice. 

Knowledge Is Important, But Not Sufficient

If you want to be a solid, integrous man, then knowledge matters. But it is not enough on its own. The world is full of highly-educated partisans who sell or buy into extremism to the detriment of themselves and their families.

What else is required? The integrous man needs wisdom and discernment. You don’t just need knowledge, you need to know how to use it.

You also need a solid sense of identity. In order to protect yourself and your family from getting caught up in fashionable extremism, you need to be fully grounded in yourself. Extremists prey on people who have a weak sense of identity. This has always been true; many of Mussolini’s Black Shirts were young men who felt dissociated from their culture and looked for a sense of belonging.

If you already have a sense of belonging in your own skin, and if you already feel complete in yourself, then extremism can’t get a handle in you. If your identity comes from who you are and not your political tribe or what you believe, then you’re less likely to throw your life away in service to an extremist cause.

That’s what separates the grounded, strong man from the partisan hack. Both have plenty of knowledge. But the former uses it in service of his own best life and the good of his family, community, and country. The latter just uses their knowledge to push an agenda.

If you would like to go deeper in cultivating strength and groundedness, The Evolving Man can help. We use men’s groups and 1-on-1 men’s coaching to build healthy, powerful men. If you’d like to take the next step on your path, reach out to us today.