Re-defining the traditional roles of men in our society has the power to change the world.
If you know a child in a single-parent home, most likely that child is being raised by a mom. According to the latest census figures from November of 2009, 84 percent of the custodial parents in the 13.7 million single-parent households in the U.S. are mothers. Only 16 percent of custodial parents are dads.
Many fathers blame the court system, which they believe favors the mothers, but I believe that men have more control over that paradigm than they think. But it’s an uphill battle. We live in a society that constantly bombards us with negative images of men. Just look at all the stories of infidelity, corporate corruption, child predators and senseless acts of violence perpetuated by men. It’s no wonder so many men are unhappy with their lives. From the media’s point of view, all men are selfish, sex-crazed money-hungry Neanderthals with no heart or compassion.
When it comes to deciding who gets the kids, it’s natural for judges to want to place them with the parent who is nurturing and sensitive. Let’s face it, in most cases, it’s difficult to cast most fathers — even the good ones — in that light. But it’s not out of reach for any man to discover his own nurturing sensitive side and to exude it in his daily life.
Many men are frustrated with their lives. They want to learn to be genuinely happy and free from old ideas about men being emotionally disconnected and materialistic. I believe that every man can learn to be a great boyfriend, husband, father and a trusted friend. But to get there, we need to break the bonds of a culture that has taught us the wrong things about what it means to be masculine, and embrace a new paradigm that empowers men to reach their full potential.
I say this from personal experience. Back in 1983, I was living the “American Dream” with the wife, the house, the 2.5 kids and the management position. On the outside, I looked like a big success but I was trapped on the corporate ladder playing my pre-determined societal role.
It looked as if I had it all together, but within my home and my heart, there was something terribly wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it. Then my entire world came crashing down. I went from having it all to having absolutely nothing as I experienced divorce, bankruptcy and foreclosure. I contemplated suicide, but deep down, knew I couldn’t take my own life. I knew I had to summon the courage to face my demons and put my life back together. I made the commitment to rebuild my life — I just didn’t know how.
The real turning point came one night during the darkest period of my life. As I was sitting in my bedroom, I noticed all of the books on my bookshelf were about making money. I realized I’d invested a lot of time, energy and effort into trying to amass wealth: get-rich-quick seminars, books and motivational tapes. As I sat there, I had an epiphany. It came to me in the form of a question that would change my life forever: “What if I took all of the time, energy and money I’d invested in trying to get rich, and invested it all in simply learning how to be content?”
As simplistic as it sounds, this question literally changed my life. As a result, I began a journey of personal transformation that took me to places I never imagined.
I decided I had to find the courage to see a therapist even though my male ego did everything in its power to stop me. I remember the internal conflict that sounded something like this: “I can’t go to a therapist because people will think I’m weak. What if my neighbors and co-workers find out? What if the therapist can’t fix me?”
Well, therapy opened up a whole, new world I didn’t even know existed, the world of feelings and emotions. I learned how I had suppressed my feelings — the source of my unhappiness. By relearning to “feel” my emotions, I came out of my depression. With time and commitment, I eventually healed my heart and reconnected with my authentic self. I kept my commitment to become happy. I also discovered some hidden talents along the way such as writing and public speaking, all achieved because I was willing to take this inner journey to discover myself.
To this day, I continue my journey of transformation and I’ve made it my life’s work to share the lessons I’ve learned with other men who are beginning their own journey. By embracing the five cornerstones of an authentic male, which are, love, compassion, understanding, acceptance and forgiveness, we lay the foundation for a transformed world.
It’s time for men to come together to support and empower each other to become better men. These qualities are not signs of weakness, they are actually signs of strength, and when men learn to accept them, I believe we will begin to see a dramatic reduction of issues like high divorce rates, high school dropouts, domestic abuse and high incarceration rates.
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