In a time where our concepts of what it means to be a man can sometimes be mistaken for the illusion of unhealthy, hyper-masculinity, it's important that young people have positive male role models to demonstrate aspects of being a man that have largely been forgotten. Characteristics such as kindness, understanding, and patience have been swapped for aggression and violence.
With the overcrowding of prisons, and the dramatic increase in gang membership, now it is more important than ever for men to exemplify pro-social behavior. Here are just a few ways you, or someone you know, can effect change within their community:
Have A Personal Code Of Conduct
The most important change starts with the self. Before trying to be a role model to anyone else, we must develop a standard of behavior and conduct to which we, ourselves, adhere. While the specifics will vary from person to person, universal traits like responsibility, discipline, loyalty, and respect are recognized across generations, and cultures.
Giving Back Don't Cost A Thing
Volunteering your time to become a mentor is one of the greatest ways to be a positive male role model to the youth. There are countless mentoring programs with a variety of different missions, creeds, and demographic interests. Best of all, all it takes, at minimum, is a few hours of your time here and there (more once you begin to enjoy it). Besides, who doesn't want to give the advice they would've needed 15 years ago to someone who can use it now?
He Got Game
Coaching a sports team can make a major difference in the lives of your local youth. Famous athletes like Allen Iverson, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James used sports as an outlet to channel their focus into something positive, and keep them insulated from gang life. That's not to say that every young person you coach has to have dreams of getting into professional sports, but having a safe, structured environment in which to learn the principles of teamwork, and perseverance is worth more than you realize!
Let The Circle Be Unbroken
The notion of being silent and bottling up emotions is a common practice taught to young men. "Boys don't cry." "Stiff upper lip." "Man up." It's time we acknowledge the reality that we all have emotions, and it's more than just OK to talk about them, it's healthy. Be someone who creates a safe space for young people, especially young men, to share openly.
Stand Firmly On Your Principles
Your moral convictions should be firm and unwavering. It's important to keep your integrity about you. You never know who's watching!
If you observe toxic masculinity around you, don't keep quiet, call it out! Being silent is being complicit with the behavior, and we need to come to the defense of our brothers, sisters, and youth as required.
It's Never Too Late
Being a role model in someone's life doesn't have to start when they're very young! Mentorship can persist through the teenage years, and into adulthood. You can be a role model to someone younger than you, and inspiration to someone older than you, or be a point of reference for your peers.