When I started a men's group decades ago, my intention was simple: I wanted to become a better man. I wanted authentic friendships with other men, to become a better partner, to control my anger and to generally feel better about myself. I discovered that strength of character is developed through facing adversity, not avoiding it. By midlife, most men have overcome adversity in many forms, and it's those victories that define us as warrior-heroes. The battles with personal demons is part of the right of passage for a man on this journey. Absent this passage, authentic manhood remains elusive. Young men in particular need and deserve support in this arena.
Much of what is thrust into men's lives reflects neither choice nor desire. But it's how we face and defeat our demons that define the quality of our manhood. There are many demons represented by troubling issues that, when overcome, create enduring character. Issues related to boyhood experiences, earning a living, supporting a family, maintaining friendships, living a healthy lifestyle, relationships, self-esteem, unemployment, divorce and a host of other issues represent our demons. Surrendering to any of them is unthinkable. The stronger the stand taken against these demons, the stronger the character built.
I take great joy from having slain many of my demons, and feel an inner strength that wasn't there when I was younger. Squaring off with my demons and defeating them has bolstered my self-esteem. I defeated my demons by waking up every morning and staring them in the eye. There was no compromise. They had limited my life, and I knew I had to defeat them, or they would continue to diminish the quality of my life, and that felt like a slow, painful, emotional death.
When I was struggling with overwhelming issues, it never occurred to me that they were part of the mythical passage into manhood known as the hero's journey. The inner strength I developed by standing my ground instilled in me the sense that nothing and no one had the power to limit my life. As an older guy, that's enormously reassuring, because I still face plenty of adversity. My goal, to get every man in America talking to each other in men's groups, might not become fully realized, but it's already a reality for lots of men, many of whom I put on the path.
Every man has an inner hero. He's the best version of himself a man can envision, and whether or not he's become fully actualized is unimportant. It's the journey to make our inner hero into our everyday manhood that's the goal. Eventually, the inner hero becomes one with who we are. Every man haas the power to become his best version of himself.
I'm still fine-tuning my inner hero. The journey from a dysfunctional man to a functional one has been arduous. It has meant giving up many flawed notions of manhood along the way. That I don't have to be in charge in my relationship has allowed me to relax and appreciate my partner's strengths. That I was my son's father, not his friend, when he was growing up, allowed us to become best friends later on. That I managed to leave a lifetime of anger behind, and not allow it to continue clouding my vision, helped me see my best manhood clearly.
Every man has his demons, and while many share the same demons, not all acknowledge that defeating them is critical. But absent waging that battle, carrying the burden of unresolved issues, remains a heavy load to lug around. There's no virtue in that suffering. If you're a young man, consider putting yourself on the path, and if you're older and still struggling, remember, there's no age limit in either direction.
No man can run fast enough to distance himself from his demons. My book, Act Like a Man, shares eight men's stories, told in their own words. I assure every man that the guys in the book share his demons. I promise every woman, that her husband, boyfriend and son are in this book. My website, www.kensolin.com has a section devoted to starting a men's group. There's a lot to gain, and nothing to lose.