Unbreakable, Untarnishable, and Whole
I was almost 30 years old when Luke, an old high school friend of mine, reached out and invited me to a men’s group that was starting the next night. For the next 9 years, I participated in this group with anywhere from 7 to 12 members twice monthly. The group itself is still going.
Perhaps the biggest lesson that I learned about myself during those 9 years is that my challenges and problems are shared by almost every other man. Issues of fears, insecurities, anxieties, emotions, self-expression, love, and friendship. Early on in the group, I had a guy call me to the mat for yelling at my kids, and a couple years later I called him to the mat for the same thing. We both became better fathers for it.
The men in the group hold each other to account for being the men we knew each other to really be, and we do it with love, compassion, generosity, and some fear and nervousness too. In that community, we all grew to be more closely the men we truly are. And we did it by speaking to each others’ true nature.
From The Methodist Quarterly Review, 1858:
"It is the sculptor’s power, so often alluded to, of finding the perfect form and features of a goddess, in the shapeless block of marble; and his ability to chip off all extraneous matter, and let the divine excellence stand forth for itself."
A student once shared with me some personal challenges she’s dealing with. Issues of health and well-being, body image, self-deprecating thinking, and sadness. She shared that a number of her friends were in therapy too, dealing with similar struggles. When we talked, she was animated and engaged, and I could only imagine this clear, affable, and beautiful person in front of me struggling as she had been.
By the end of our conversation, we were both present to this strange aspect of our experience: we so easily confuse who we are with who we think we are. It’s so clear to me that the broken, false, wrong person that she sometimes thinks she is is in fact not her at all - it is only her thinking about who she is. And the inadequate, insufficient person that I sometimes think that I am is not who I really am either.
In men’s group, the community called us forth from the morass of our thinking (memories, judgments, fears, and desires), and we stepped into being in the present moment. Full of life and authentic connection to others and ourselves, we can step newly into an experience not constrained by our own thinking.
Like the sculptors in the quote above, the teacher’s power is in listening to the divine inner nature of our students.
Unbreakable, untarnishable, and whole: listening to who our students really are, we “let the divine excellence stand forth for itself,” shining more fully and lifting the obscuring fog of students’ own self-limiting thinking about themselves, each other, and the universe.
Thanks so much for reading ♥️.
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