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Transforming Conflict to Cooperation

3 Things Young Men Learn From Initiation Rituals

By Dr. Mark Schillinger, DC  February 26, 2015

Helping young men be at peace with themselves, overcome their fears, and make the world a better place

At the root of many of today’s social, political and economic challenges is a crisis in masculinity that begins when powerful men lack the skills and support to create a safe environment for cooperation, contribution and well-being. One powerful way to improve this condition is to create processes that help young men learn how to become self-respectful, self-confident and peaceful within themselves.

Fortunately, we have a model that’s proven to be successful…

Young Male Initiation

For thousands of years the time-honored activity of male youth initiation has taught young men that they are unique creatures with special talents. Modern initiations must continue the tradition of teaching young men their primary purpose: to honor themselves and others in equal high regard and to make the community safe and secure. We need to bring back the societal reverence of youth initiation, as it is a powerful source of identity, self-esteem and direction for young men.

The Purpose of Young Male Initiation

The purpose of a formal initiation is to provide young men with the opportunity to freely express their intuitions and experiences, and guide the young men to use that knowledge as a source of intelligence. At the same time, this rite of passage must continually showcase mentors who model to young men how successful men act.

One behavior that the adult men can demonstrate is that it is okay for males to ask for help from each other. Adolescent males need to learn how to calmly accept when they cannot figure things out on their own. When they cannot find the answers within, it’s OK for them to ask for help.

An effective initiation agenda must provide open discussions, physical challenges, lots of fun and engaging ceremonies (sweat lodge, vision quest, etc.) to help young men start their life journey with a practical Way or Path.

At the Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend, (YMUW) a non-religious rite of passage event I co-founded, young men can discover these three “truths” about themselves:

  1. What they believe to be true about the nature of reality (Source)
  2. Who they believe they authentically are – their core virtues and values, and
  3. How they need to behave in order to become self-actualized and prized as a contributing family and community member

Inner Peace = World Peace

The initiation must create a sincere reverence for oneself and all others. By providing the young man a secluded outdoor habitat for him to contemplate the Awe of a Creator and/or Creation, he will understand he is not the ultimate authority of his, or any other people’s existence. By interacting with other males – without digital devices – young men learn that all people are equal creatures of creation, arising from whatever Source they perceive.

Unless there is real physical or emotional harm occurring, they are taught how to develop the humility needed to accept all people “as they are”, without needing to control them.

I have seen first-hand at the YMUW, the moment when young men recognize they have no need to offend others or defend themselves. They celebrate a profound realization: they can channel their natural, healthy biological impulses without fear of being socially unacceptable.

I’m happy to report that modern young men have not changed from their youthful ancestors from thousands of years ago. They want to be your heroes and take good care of the world.

Originally posted on The Good Men Project:



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