During this current crisis, many men are confused about their identity and purpose due to a massive change in our roles, goals, and career paths. I believe that this crisis is an opportunity for us to grow into a new era of our manhood.
The mixed messages of hypermasculinity and pseudo manhood have created a distorted view of manhood. Many men have suffered from the lack of an emotionally present father or spiritually powerful mentor, but I believe that our families, teams, and organizations need us to develop a deeper vision for manhood. I call it Total Manhood; it is a state of manhood that is found in Psalms 128. This Psalm was written by David, who was a poet, a murderer, a shepherd, an adulterer, and a king. Yet he was always a man pursuing God throughout the good, bad, and the ugly of his life.
I relate to David in many ways because I am very passionate beneath my politeness and bowtie. I have made deep mistakes and committed even deeper sins, yet God’s truth, love, and forgiveness cause me to passionately pursue His vision for my life. It is a higher vision of manhood than the false images of manhood based on power, money, and sex that calls us downward instead of upward to nobility, authenticity, and service.
For me, the vision is rooted in Psalms 128 and the presence of rugged gentlemen in my life. When I was a young boy growing up in Key West, I thought that my Grandpa Si was a king and that made me a prince. Discovering my identity happened in the warm, rough, and strong presence of my Grandfather. He was rough around the edges, he would cuss sometimes and drink other times, but love so much of the time. He taught me how to drive, fish, swim, open doors for ladies, and always speak to janitors and truck drivers. He left Christmas gifts for the mailman and the garbage men. I saw him cry when his good friend, Captain Mike, drowned when his shrimp boat sank. He treated me like a king-in-training and like Key West was my kingdom. Not a kingdom to rule but a kingdom to explore, serve, and make better.
When we went to the grocery store, he spoke to everyone and smiled at everyone. He taught me to speak to people with honor and treat others with dignity. When we went to shrimp docks, the dockworkers and the lobstermen all treated him with respect, calling, “Mi Hermano Silas!” or “Senor Silas!”. The respect of these men calling him “Brother Silas” or “Mr. Silas” reminded me of what Thomas Carlyle said, “Show me the man that you honor and I will know what kind of man you are.”
He was not a millionaire or the founder of a powerful organization. He was the man that took me to baseball practice and to my afterschool job. In my world, he was a king. As a boy, I loved adventure books by Alexander Dumas, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, and Mark Twain. I used to spend most Saturday mornings in Valladares and Sons bookstore or the Key West Public Library with my Dad. At Glynn Archer elementary school, my librarian Mrs. Diaz was like a smart and beautiful aunt. She always told me about the best books. She was the first person to tell me that Alexander Dumas had an African and French heritage which caused me to appreciate his work even more. She was like a tour guide to adventure.
Alexander Dumas wrote a book called “The Man in the Iron Mask”. It is a great story involving twin brothers and the Musketeers: one brother is the king and the other brother is a prisoner in the Bastille. The current king is cruel and unjust while the twin brother within the Bastille is compassionate and strong.
High school was a paradoxical season for me. I had good friends, but I missed the previous state of my family so much with my Mom, my Dad, my brother, my sister, our boat, our go-carts, and our neighborhood. I loved being editor of the high school newspaper and I loved working at Eckerd Drugs, but there was a deep ache in my heart to just see my Dad. I felt like “The Man in the Iron Mask”, people saw me but they did not see me.
During my last year in middle school and my first year in High School is where the concept of the Musketeers first became clear for me. My family’s challenges made the front page of our hometown newspaper as well as the pages of The Miami Herald. I lost my sense of identity; I did not feel like a prince anymore. During high school, My father was no longer in my life daily and my Mom worked 3 jobs while attending nursing school. My grandfather, my uncles, my teachers, and my managers at Eckerd reminded me that manhood was my responsibility.
Yet it was my boys…my brothers…my musketeers that helped free me from my iron mask. They helped me to believe that I could be on the throne one day. The challenges faded away briefly as I was transported to France or the Yukon by Dumas or London. Their words inspired me to dream big. My brother Jonathan and our friends were like my musketeers. Their brotherhood and friendship freed me from the mask of politeness and performance with my musketeers, I could dream big. My friends made me think that I could be a professional baseball player, owner of the Miami Herald and Key West Citizen newspapers, an astronaut, and President all in one lifetime.
As boys, our lives are filled with adventure. I played baseball in elementary school and those guys were like brothers. I started working full-time in high school and began an adventure that continues today. I have worked with friends, and my coworkers have always become friends. Yet the more that I studied and worked the more I lost my sense of adventure and brotherhood.
Then, at the age of 20, I met the ultimate adventurer, friend, and brother. His name is Jesus Christ. He challenged my definition of manhood. His words spoke of kingdoms and compassion, truth and love not just power, money, and sex. I felt like a vagabond when I first met Him, deeply aware of my own inadequacy but then He told me about our Father’s love. His words told me that if I believed in Him and His plan and followed it then I would be a son of God and His brother, a prince and eventually a king to serve in His Kingdom. It is an amazing truth that still guides me daily. My brothers, my men, and my friends remind me that my identity does not come from what I do, it comes from who loves me and who I love. They remind me that even in the middle of this current crisis that we are still called to live, love, and lead like Jesus at home and in the marketplace.
Right now, in the COVID-19 crisis, I am committing to coaching men and boys to discover purpose, develop a deeper passion as husbands, fathers, brothers, and friends, and dedicate themselves to priorities of service. I am learning to imperfectly utilize new tools to communicate about Total Manhood and maximize connection with a new generation of men.
Below are a few questions to get you started on the New Adventure!
- Identity comes from Purpose
My Purpose is __________________________________________________________
- Involvement comes from Priorities
Besides My Faith, My Family, My Work, and My Friends, My TOP 3 Priorities are
- Influence comes from People Development
What men develop me? ___________________________
What men do I develop? _______________________________
- Innovation comes from Passion for Excellence
What does God want me to become the best at?
See you in the next chapter of this New Adventure!