Men Leading Men

An old friend and I were sharing with each other some of what we are grateful for. It’s a wonderful practice I’ve been sharing with anyone who will participate with me.

He said: “I’m grateful that in my 15 years of teaching I did nothing I have to worry about when it comes to women in the classroom.” He laughed. I laughed. He said, “I’m serious.” I said, “I know. So am I.”  (Why do I feel relieved and lucky, rather than proud and judgmental of others?)

Before our catch-up call, my friend and I had been secretly doing what they call in the Catholic tradition an “examination of conscience.”  We had been asking ourselves, “Do these allegations of #MeToo apply to me, too?”  He said, “I can’t imagine how many guys are worried right now.”

And how many decades is this overdue?  How many millions of times have women and girls and boys, too, wondered, “Did do something wrong? Did I invite his disgusting  behavior?”  How wrong that they should have to ask, sometimes for years and years. It is right that we men are asking, as potential perpetrators, did I do something wrong? When it comes to these abusive males, is it Me Too? Whom have I cornered, ogled, minimized, objectified, even if God forbid, I didn’t fondle, assault or rape? Or how many times have I laughed when one of my “brothers” did or said something that made a woman – or a roomful of women – experience #MeToo? Or how many times I have I stood in silence, offended but afraid to stand up?  If these questions apply to you, as they do to me, consider these five actions steps:

  1. Examine my conscience specifically.  Even if it was 10 or 20 years ago. Own up to individual people. Ask if you’re not sure. Apologize.
  2. Recognize the perils of belonging to the male tribe. We don’t talk about it (see #5) but we all know it. Don’t kid ourselves.
  3. Say out loud: This is a new age. I will fully resolve to treat women as whole and full people. I will decidedly look beyond looks, for they are an illusion when it comes to things essential, to spirit and truth.
  4. See this as a men’s issue.  This cannot be a women’s issue.  We made it a women’s issue (much like white racism is continually made an issue that Blacks have to deal with).  But it belongs to us.  It’s our issue.  We instigate the violence.  Women have to deal with it. They shouldn’t have to figure out how to get us to deal with it. That’s our work.
  5. We need to talk to each other about how we get better.  This means talking about discipline as the conservative traditions teach us. And it also means honesty, vulnerability and self-compassion as the liberal traditions teach us.  Women have been asking each other for decades (if not eons), “how do you deal with guys who do . . . to you?”  We need to talk to each other about “how do you deal with your libido…with porn…with your midlife yearnings…with your fantasies…with the locker room talk…with your shame…with your anger…with your loneliness.”

There are GREAT things about being acculturated as a man.  One is not being afraid of hard work. Another is standing on principle.  A third is protecting children and those for whom we are responsible (e.g., as managers).  We should seize on these noble traits to become better men for ourselves as well as those we have or could hurt, as we strive to

Lead with our best selves.

  • Dan,
    Thank you for your article. The idea of men leading men is so critical in this day and age. We have so many men who have not been led by their fathers, or by their community fathers. Or they have been led by men, who have led them astray. Your idea of self examination is so important, and it can’t just be about the past. It needs to be about the day to day. We do face a great deal of challenges to the minds that we have. I just got off the phone with a young man I am mentoring. He is contemplating leaving the world of physical training and coaching because of the way the women dress. It is a trigger for his sexual struggles. This young man is in a group I am currently leading that is helping men face and deal with sexual addictions, such as pornography, obsessive masturbation and potentially other sexual addictions.

    What we are learning is how our brains are re-wired by the multiple sexual contacts, the use of porn and the fantasy and masturbation cycle. It is amazing to see the brain scans of sexually addicted individuals next to the brain scans of heroin addicted individuals – they look the same!

    The hope in all of this is that brain research is demonstrating that our brains can be retrained, but it takes a great deal of effort and time. So we are in a long haul process of working with these young men, in hopes of healing them from this struggle. Romans 12:1-2 gives us hope by telling us that our brains can be renewed. We are hopeful of seeing long-term change in these men and healing of marital relationships.

    So thanks for the reminder that we men, need to lead each other.


  • Dan:

    I enjoyed reading your article. Your words about the male tribe took me back 30 years to when I was hired as a university benefits manager in the department of Employee Relations. Until I walked through the door, the department was 12 women and no men. Two women were my superiors, 3 were colleagues, and seven were subordinates. It was an experience both unique and terrifying. I remember feeling like an invasive species — examined and found unwanted. When I entered a room (conference, lunch, etc.), conversations stopped and everyone watched me until the meeting began or I left. Rude jokes were overheard. No one leaned on my doorjamb to say hello. No one dropped by to “just visit.” No one shared. It seemed, no one cared.

    It didn’t take long for me to figure out that ER was an anomaly in a “good ol’ boys” system, where upper management were nearly all male. To many in ER, I was the enemy, come to establish a beachhead. My boss, a very tall woman, kept a thin board on the floor by her desk, called the “short jock board,” for angry men to use — to feel taller. It was a joke, but not really… She was a genuinely fair manager and we worked well together. When she left, her assistant took over and within six months I was transferred to another department and replaced by a woman.

    I like to think that I gained some understanding about being alone and powerless against fear and resentment. It was never about sexual tension or unwanted attention. I am still amazed at the depth of anger, fear, and resentment I felt while there — both from deep inside myself and from those around me. One lesson I learned is that it’s not always about sex, but it seems almost always to be about power. This fundamental disconnect might help explain why men and women perceive these assaults so differently.


  • I read RFL earlier this week and it was still jostling around in my head when I read this piece below. I thought it really spoke to the oppressive system that is patriarchy and how far-reaching and coercive it is in its interest to keep power in (or return power to) men’s court. It makes me think about the black lives matter movement and wonder how long it will be before people (read: oppressors) can pretend “#metoo” didn’t happen or fool themselves into believing it has been resolved because a handful of people were fired. Or, scarier still, and as is shown in this article, manipulatively recenter men in an attempt to prioritize the abuser over the abused.

    All that to say, yes these conversations need to happen between men, but also, is that enough?? I have no idea.

    “Due Process Is Needed For Sexual Harassment Accusations — But For Whom?” @IjeomaOluo

    • Connor,
      To answer your question, conversations among men are surely “not enough.” Incentives – no, Matt Lauer you don’t get the $30 million left in your contract, yes Matt Lauer, you too are now in the — bright lights of transparency, these will change behaviors.
      AND as you have taught me: people really change when they are safe, when they are self aware, when they own their own issues. I’m trying to help men like me to generate this safety, awareness and self-accountability.
      Thanks for weighing in!

  • Dan,
    Thank you and well said. Thoughtful, insightful but most importantly full of values and honesty. I always appreciate you.

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