Seeking Mature Masculinity
A one day workshop with Nick Clements
Saturday 10 November 2018
10am – 4.30pm
St Columba Church
Chantry Rd, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8DJ
How Do Boys Become Men? How Do Men Become Elders?
Over the past 30 years I have lived and worked with boys and men on almost all continents. Every culture, every tribe, has the same question when it comes to men. How do we help our boys become men?
The answer is to set up community-led rites of passage which honour the passing of the boys to manhood, fatherhood and so on. We have disconnected from this concept, and as a consequence many of our boys are lost, many have not passed through conscious rites of passage.
What are rites of passage?
* They can be a bridge from the negative to the positive.
* They are natural.
* When they do not occur something has gone wrong.
* They are everyone’s right.
* They are healing because they supply a lack.
* They are based in love.
Rites are both beginnings and endings, they alter the temporal order. They are always affirmations of rebirth, which seem to go backwards but really go forward. They undo the past in the present, and thus release the future. They are teaching devices for demonstrating it is inevitable to give when we receive. They occur throughout our lives.
In our life, we undergo at least eight rites
First footing – the change from babe in arms to independent walking child.
These represent a succession of gateways, some of which can be life threatening, others are more a celebration of the changes we inevitably experience. Each rite reflects a way of thinking, and in that sense, we can become a mother even though we haven’t given birth. We can act as a grandfather when very young.
Every rite can be broken down into 5 component parts.
1 The itch – things are not right, we don’t fit our skin
2 First gateway – we resolve to seek something new
3 Dismemberment – Break down of everything, we are fluid
4 Second gateway – we are changed, we are new
5 Recognition – we are seen as changed by ourself and other people
The shedding of the carapace
‘All humans are born as crabs, we grow hard protective shells which we carry through life. At a certain point our bodies grow too large for the shell, and we have to shed the carapace, otherwise it will disfigure or kill us. To split and loose our tough exterior makes us vulnerable, we try to do this under a rock, away from the light, in the darkness. When we lose our toughness we are revealed as we truly are, a soft and delicate creature. We lie low and slowly the new larger carapace takes shape. We repeat this process throughout our lives, many times. At any given moment in our lives we are in a state of change, in a rite of passage.’ – A story by Nick Clements 2018
When we all don’t do this work, our culture is stunted. We are collectively stuck in skins which are too tight and restrictive. As individuals and as a society we remain immature, behaving in ways we should have passed through. In terms of our boys and men such immaturity is expressed as ‘cowardly or immature masculinity’.
Their journey starts in the womb where they feel insecure not loved. This continues after birth and throughout life. They are without loving guidance and so they copy their families and peers into bullying, cruelty and egotistical behaviour. Puberty can then be full of confusion, fear and shame. Work can be a desperate and denigrating experience, always working for others and not the self. This leads to frustration and bitterness, self loathing for perceived failures- angry and resentful old men. This is the journey we are presently offering our young men, no wonder they are rejecting it as best they can. When confronted by this atypical journey it may seem impossible to do anything about it. But we must. We need to ask the question ‘What can do I about this?’ Firstly, we must have a goal.
What is mature masculinity?
A mature man starts by being safe, loved and welcomed as a foetus. He is then held at all times, until he is able to take his first steps towards independence. He is encouraged to explore his sexuality, he seeks love. In relationships he is able to listen and support as well as express his emotions fully. He finds his life’s vocation and follows his passion in work. He tries to know himself and to help others. He encourages those around him, he shares love and forgiveness. He accepts his fate, and is able to ask for help. He achieves all this by being optimistic and joyful.
We need to live our lives seeking such a journey for ourselves, for our family and friends. Immature masculinity can frequently leave us impotent, but it should also stir us to action.
Mature masculinity benefits both men and women.