SOS – Part One

The Mask You Live In - SOS - Part One by Clayton Lessor

Last week I was honored to be asked by Raintree School to be a panelist after the screening of The Mask You Live In.

If you haven’t heard of or seen the documentary it’s worth watching.  It is based on Boys Are in Trouble. Nothing new right, you’ve been hearing me and everyone else say that same thing, and now there is a new documentary on the issue.

What I Know About Troubled Boys

I believe the documentary is flawed for the following three reasons.

1)  A statement is made in the film that athletic ability has nothing to do with being a man.  This is false.  That statement shames a lot of boys who put a lot of stock in their physical ability.  Athletic ability is a physical developmental gift which, in some males, are more pronounced, and they either accept or reject as their gift.

I teach young men to embrace their gift as a source of mission and purpose.  This can lead to inclusion in the definition of man – as defined by other men.  For example, “As a man among men, I am athletically inclined or gifted.”

A man or women alone cannot define a man.  A circle of healthy men can! It is important to have healthy men define what a healthy boy is. A word of caution here:  Black-and-white statements are dangerous.  Judgment calls of absolutism can lead to “don’t be” messages. These lead to self-doubt and potential depression. We live our lives in that area between black and white, in what is essentially a grey area.  The statement in the film about athletic ability is a destructive path.  It is tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

2)  One of the experts says “if you go to the playground and boys are playing you can start a fight by asking which boy here is a sissy.” Clearly, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum and should never happen.  I say that because there should be a healthy male father figure there to ensure the boys are safe and keep “sh.. disturbers” from doing that. Boys on the playground under the age of 13 should not be unsupervised……for just this reason.

No doubt there are bad elements in the world and teachable moments.  If this would happen, a healthy male father would protect these boys and explain it in an appropriate context and language.

3)  Boys need a mother and a father.  Here is the real issue and I will do my best to explain why this is so.

The attachment theory developed by Dr. Bowlby states that mothers are more important than fathers in a boy’s development “up to puberty.” This is not only what, but why the divorce courts use this in custody cases.  Many dads struggle with this, but research supports the theory. 

Now, this all changes with boys reaching 11+ years of age and the statistics spell this out. 

Erikson’s Psychosocial theory takes over, boys at this age start to look towards dad more intensely and at the man he(dad) is if present. The theory, stage five of development, states that this is the time of Identity vs Confusion.  If not negotiated and resolved it is considered a crisis.  And if left unresolved remains a crisis until healed.

This can be a lifetime for many boys and young men. Now take all the data and stats on the fatherless and absent fathers in the life of men and we see a real crisis and why boys are in trouble.

I’m going to continue this next week with “SOS – Part 2.”  I’m just getting started! 

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