Boys to Men Weekend

I think we could cut gender violence in half if our society did just one thing.

At the age of 13, create a male rite of passage and invite all boys to go through it. For thousands of years, men have taught boys how to become healthy men. We have lost these rites of passage and now we have generations of men who are still boys, stunted, shutdown and numbing out with porn, videogames, drugs and addictions of every sort.

I staffed a Boys to Men Weekend recently where we took 16 boys from the ages of 13 to 17 years old and lead

New Bromance ~ Derek Dujardin and Craig Gagliardi

them into the world of men. Not the world of men of who they have been role modeling for the first decade of their lives, but the world of healthy, strong, trustworthy men. The REAL world of men.

The biographies of the boys were heart-wrenching. Half of them lived in foster homes. The other half lived with mom and had no father figures in their life. When they weren’t absent, their real dads were alcoholic and abusive. A lot struggled with ADHD, and more than 1/3 said have tried to kill themselves and most had suicidal thoughts. A few were normal boys, with normal boys trouble. But only a few. Couple came with their fathers.

I was hard NOT to write them off the majority. And a few times I caught myself doing exactly that. These guys had really GOOD reasons to quit on their lives. And a few of us would have blame them if they did. They had the ultimate trump card and an excuse that could justify any actions and behaviors for the rest of their lives. They were victims. And now, they were each becoming perpetrators, some faster than others. In year or two, jail was were they were headed. They were all running out of second chances.

So, what did we do? I can’t tell you EXACTLY what we did that weekend because it’s secret, as rites of passage for men should be. But I can tell you about the Hero’s Journey. We took them through multiple processes that spoke about the healthy male energies and archetypes, including the Lover, Warrior, Magician and King. We told them about their shadows. The Lover’s shadow is the Addict. The Warrior’s shadow is the Bully, the Magicians shadow is the Trickster/Manipulator, and the King’s shadow is the Tyrant. We talked about the masks we all wear to hide the scarred little boy inside.

But most importantly, we dealt with what it means to be a man. Men keep their commitments, especially to themselves and their communities. Men don’t hurt themselves or others. Men speak their truth from their integrity. ¬†We modeled this for all the boys, to show them they can trust men. And trust themselves. Make good choices. For many, it was the first time in their lives they have met men like this. We cried in front of them and showed them there is no shame in our emotions. Open vulnerable and raw, we showed up.

The climax of the weekend is an ordeal. However, from this ordeal, each of the boys get to become a king, the Decider of their lives. We take them through their wounds and help them find the gift that is next to it. We help them to be empowered and change their interpretations of their victim story and confront the obstacles and beliefs that are holding them back from moving forward. In short, we showed them their gold, and showed them the the shadow that is covering it.

They got it. Every single one of these, rough, hurt, angry, medicated, abused, apathetic boys walked out of that weekend a new person. And we did in less than 48 hours. I have no idea how we did it. I think this is in our DNA. Men are born to do this. Boys are born to received it.

Will it stick? We have a group of eight boys who joined us, called Journey Men. The J-Men on our weekend had biographies that were just as horrific as these boys who walked in on Friday night. But, they showed up, as men. They showed up in ways that taught me that I still have work to do. These Boys, were also Those boys, only a few months earlier or a year before. These J-Men, all had Victim stories that would give them an excuse that to live in their Shadow selves. But they showed up as Warriors, Lovers, and Kings. So, yes, for some, it will stick.

I love the MENding. I love the work that I do, but this work, this Boys to Men’s work, would make a world of difference if our world were to embrace it.

Another man left that weekend equally transformed. I got a refresher course in my B.S. and my shadow parts and I, too, have made a commitment to be a better man, more passionate, more loving, more grateful.

I can’t wait to do this work again.

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3 Responses to “Boys to Men Weekend”

  1. Rev. Kate September 21, 2010 at 2:20 am #

    This is profoundly beautiful work you’re doing, Derek. I bow to your beautiful heart, and your willingness to open it and share it with young boys so they can know what that looks like. You are not only healing individuals; you are healing their families in the future. As they change, others will learn from them and change too. Thank you for this beautiful gift to all humanity. Love to you and your team! Kate

    • Derek Dujardin September 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

      Thank you. It’s great to be “called” into our healthy masculinity by the leaders of the program to do this work. There was one boy who’s father was in prison and the boy was carrying his father’s shame and was completely shutdown and acting out. It took me all weekend to get through his walls, gently tapping with love, humor and firmness and friendliness. Until he finally open up to me, willing to let go of this shame that was not his to carry. That was when I knew God was putting in the right place, at the right time.

  2. Sandra September 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    Oh my goodness Derek – how wonderful. I admire you even more. How can you drive this across our country? What a very special gift.

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