Category: Character

Honesty and Hope

Perhaps you’ve seen the recent Gillette commercial about men being the best they can be. The phrase “the best a man can get” took me back to hazy “wonder years” when I wondered when I might need to shave anything at all.

As I watched the clip, it evoked similar beneath-the-surface feelings: recognition, conviction, inspiration and commitment. So I was surprised to hear and read that not everyone had the same positive impression of the clip as I did. In fact, I saw through one source that reactions against the commercial were 4:1 versus those that saw it as positive.

Honesty and Hope
On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice

The daily drama related to the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court appointment process is thankfully over. But anger on both political sides lingers. Some are furious at his appointment; others at his interview ordeal.

I confess I share my thoughts here as if I’m standing on some very thin ice…but I’m skating ahead. Whichever side we took, or switched to, throughout the process, I wonder if we can agree on these observations:

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”

Those were my words when the first accusations against Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek, came out in the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today last spring. My words were in response to a group of men who asked how it felt for me, knowing I had served on staff at the church for four years in the 1990’s.

Those words still hold true for me today; they are just stronger. As weeks have gone by more women have courageously stepped forward to reveal shocking stories of harassment, intimidation and inappropriate behavior they say they experienced from Hybels. He still denies the accusations and the elders are now re-investigating the claims, after months of their own denials and unkind characterizations against the women.

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”
Your Gift to Your (Grand)Father

Your Gift to Your (Grand)Father

I was moved by the photography and message of this clip. It’s less than 3 minutes and definitely worth a look.

With Father’s Day right around the corner you may already be thinking of what you might want to say to your dad or grandfather. There’s a good chance your thoughts are also mixed with memories of regret or disappointment. I know how that feels.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II

In my previous post, Random Male Violence, Part I I began to unravel the mystery of why the random violence we regularly encounter happens in the U.S. on a level unlike any other country. Our soul searching requires that we recognize that we are developing wounded males. But all countries have wounded males.

There’s another inescapable reason random mass slaughter happens within American borders so much more than anywhere else— the ease with which anyone, regardless of capabilities, mental health or training can get their hands on assault rifles—weapons of mass destruction. The solution to this issue has proven exceptionally difficult to find, but I don’t think there is any question that this is a central part of the problem.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II
American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again?

We’re familiar with the spectrum of suggested causes as well as solutions—it’s a mental health issue, it’s a gun access issue, it’s a cultural issue. It’s all of those to some degree, but in my option it’s a horrific case of American Exceptionalism.

I love my country, but I really dislike the way that term is typically used. It implies that American culture is first and best, as if we’re all in a global competition for a mythical cultural gold medal. Having traveled to more than 60 countries over the years I’ve experienced qualities in every one of them that are admirable as well as unfortunate. Mine included.

Brilliant Jerks

American culture does a good job of creating, idolizing, and then rewarding, young men who are convinced of the following life principles:

  1. Life is a party. Rock on.
  2. You’re the master of your domain. You get to decide how life goes. Others are at your service.
  3. You’re special. The rules that govern others don’t apply to you. You get a pass.
  4. You’re invincible. You’re forever young. You’ll avoid the natural consequences of injury, illness and aging.
  5. It’s all about you. You’re the center of the universe. Grab it.
Brilliant Jerks
Which Will It Be…Rights Or Rites?

Which Will It Be…Rights Or Rites?

Rite of Passage. Western culture largely views these as age-based rights young adults automatically deserve once they hit a certain date. Depending on local laws 18 or 21-year olds are allowed to consume tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and pornography; they can now purchase weapons and ammunition. In most cases, this “right” is granted regardless of whether youths have benefited from any guidance in the inherent dangers of these practices nor any training in discernment in their use.

High school sports team and college fraternity hazing rituals involving sexual abuse, or deadly alcohol over-consumption, as we saw this week at Penn State and in 2013 at my own alma mater, Northern Illinois University, confirm the consequences of the absence of effective guidance in rites of passage.

Today’s News Confirms: Men Matter, They Just Don’t Think So

In one breakfast of scanning the newspaper this week I came across these stories:

1. The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker wrote a moving editorial regarding Charleston church murderer Dylann Roof. He’s the self-professed white supremacist who slaughtered 9 African Americans while attending a Bible study at their church. (Just typing those words makes me both sick and angry.)

Roof may want the public to believe his insistence that he wanted to start a race war, or that he has justified grievances against blacks he supposes are the cause of his life of misery and social rejection.

Parker eloquently lifts the veil to the real truth of what drove him to this awful act:

Today’s News Confirms: Men Matter, They Just Don’t Think So