If you have a father, had a father, are a father, or know a father, this story will touch you.

It’s the first chapter of my latest book, Mindful Masculinity, A Book For Men and the Women Who Love Them, which, by the way, makes a great Father’s Day Present.

Enjoy and share!

  1. Like Father, Like Son?

My father was my first and most important role model for masculinity. He taught me how to hit a baseball, get good at tennis, and fall in love with fishing. 

We were both crazy about saltwater fishing. We spent hours on the ocean side by side, silently enjoying our bond.

He was a doctor and had hopes of me following in his footsteps. As adolescence approached, however, it became abundantly clear my feet were hellbent on following a different path–any path but his.

My dad had no idea how to deal with my rebellion. He grew silent and distant, and pretended he didn’t care about me. I hated him for that. I expressed my hurt and anger just as covertly by acting like I didn’t want anything to do with him either. We resided under the same roof, while living a thousand miles away from each other.

For much of my 20s and 30s, I went about my life without much of a relationship with my father. We had stopped trying to change each other, but the walls remained thick and cold between us. We had both written off the relationship as having flatlined, incapable of resuscitation.

I had collected plenty of evidence for my father’s guilt, having witnessed him verbally and physically abuse his children, me included, and my mother, whom I instinctively longed to protect. But I could not do that. I could not even protect myself.

He would sometimes fly into a rage when he drank alcohol. His behavior colored my world. I began to see men like my father everywhere I looked, men who sometimes used their masculine strength to harm others. 

I related more to my mother and sisters, agreeing with their motto: “Men suck.” I became a young man with an abundance of sensitivity, but fearful and ashamed of my masculinity. A “soft male,” you might say. Gentleness abounded, but without a backbone. Women appreciated me, but the ones I was attracted to usually viewed me as a friend. I lived to please them, to get their approval. I was more of a boy than a man.

That changed for me dramatically in 1996. That was the year a friend of mine suggested I take part in a men’s initiation experience called The New Warrior Training Adventure, taught through a movement called The ManKind Project, which still thrives worldwide in every major city.

The training is produced by a team of as many as 75 experienced on-site volunteers, who are responsible for initiating up to 40 men at a time. The leaders don’t get paid. It’s a labor of love. Tough love. Honesty to the max, like nothing I had experienced before. It was also safe love, non-shaming, a fertile container for self-awareness and self-honesty. 

Because I had never dared to be that mindful, my experience was confronting and terrifying. I remember bringing a notebook, thinking I might jot down some valuable ideas. Ha! The weekend was not at all about ideas.

There were times when I was tempted to leave, and a few men did. But because my intuition kept telling me everything and everyone was there to support me, I stuck with it. I came out not only unscathed, but transformed.

Like most men, I had built a self-image that survived by sweeping pain and insecurity under the rug, and now the rug had been pulled out from under me.

Before my initiation, I thought my manhood was synonymous with my penis size, my status in the eyes of others, and, like catching a trophy fish, if I could land a gorgeous woman. 

Regarding my penis, I was close, but I needed to search just a little lower. That weekend I found where my manhood had been hiding–my balls. However, I prefer the word courage, because courage is French for “of the heart.”

After I went through the weekend, I took advantage of the free men’s support groups offered in every major city by the Mankind Project. Graduates could attend these weekly gatherings for the rest of their life. I got close to men for the first time in my life. I leaned on them. I learned to trust them emotionally. This was a refreshing change from my past when I was only intimate with women.

I accessed the energy needed to face my fears and take active steps toward my goals and dreams. I also started to say “no” to my bullshit; the various ways I was being slippery and manipulative with others, and with myself. 

The newfound fire in my belly led me to create numerous CDs of my music and write three (now four) books. I traveled throughout the United States, Europe, and Africa, giving my gifts and making a difference in the world. 

As for my father, after the New Warrior Training I reached out to him by writing him a letter taking responsibility for my part in the distance between us. A few weeks later, I got a letter in the mail back. It started with, “Scott, your letter touched me deeper than I can say. I cried like a baby while reading it.”

I had never seen my father cry. More letters followed. Then came visits, California to NY. 

When my mother left him he sobbed in my arms.

He was cremated at 88, and I am so glad we had buried our hard feelings two decades earlier. For my father and I, both expertly trained to use anger and apathy to cover up our hurt, it felt like some kind of miracle. 

For men in this culture to become more interested in being close than in being right–now that is indeed a miracle! 

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