By Thamar Jones
Another young man got shot last night and that got me thinking about my own brother, my baby brother.
My baby brother recently turned 18. He is now a “man”. If he commits a crime he will be charged as an adult. If he ends up in the nightly news Indira Craig will declare: “An 18-year-old man was charged today”… or “An 18 year old man was found in possession of…”
“The 18 year old man…” Yes. It’s hard to believe it but my baby brother is now a man.
When I was five years old, there was nothing I wanted more than a baby brother or sister. I knew that babies came from ladies’ tummies, so I began to petition my mother–that is until my aunties told me that if my mom had a baby sister, I would no longer be the princess of the family. So I decided that a baby brother would be best. I would crawl into my mother’s lap and plead, “Mommy would you… could you… please have a baby brother for me?”
The baby brother didn’t come until I was eight years old. But boy was I overjoyed. Thanks to this new brother of mine, I was officially a big sister. And I was determined to be the best big sister there ever was. I’d split my break money in half and bring him treats every day after school, I made up songs and stories that I sang and read to him at bed time, I taught him to ride a bike and tie his shoes and left from right and colors and letters and when he started school, I tutored him mercilessly.
Being eight years his senior, as I came into teenage, we drifted apart–a little at first and then a lot. I still got him treats but only once in a while when he showed me his test papers on which he scored a 90 percent or higher; we still played but only when I wasn’t studying or dealing with some teenage girl crises of my own.
His behavioral problems started when he was about 12 years old. Defiance, disinterest in school, experimenting with alcohol, and keeping company with unsavory characters… It seemed to me that the change from the sweet dimpled boy to the angry preteen happened over night and without warning.
I was especially sad because he no longer opened up to me or worshipped me like he used to when we were younger. Now we often fought and he would accuse my parents of picking favorites–we would sometimes not speak for days.
The problems got worse. He dropped out of high school and then trade school and then a second trade school… and now he is 18 years old–a man–without so much as a high school diploma. He is a man now legally responsible for himself and he is without means or skill to aptly take care of himself. What are the odds of him achieving a satisfactory, productive life?
My brother is not the only boy that I know who has lost his way. Boys it seem, are the more vulnerable sex in our society– being more likely to drink, do drugs, get expelled from school, commit crimes and end up in jail.
What are we going to do about it?
Much has been said and written in recent years about the challenges of men and boys. A common theme is that men and boys have become increasingly confused about their identity and role in society. Kay Hymowitz, author of Manning Up, put it this way:
“It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that whereas girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess, or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors of women and children; this was always their primary social role. Today, however, with women moving ahead in an advanced economy, provider husbands and fathers are now optional, and the character qualities men had needed to play their role–fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity?–are obsolete and even a little embarrassing.”
It is the norm in Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials to portray men as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed. This underlying message has subtly and increasingly influenced the collective unconscious with devastating repercussions.
If you are a young man and you’re struggling, you are not alone. This article is intended to challenge you to rethink your entire approach to life. If applied, these habits will radically set you apart from the decaying norm.
Take Responsibility for Your Life and Set Your Standards High
In his book, Boys Adrift, Dr. Leonard Sax explains that boys need?—?not want?—?to be responsible. If they are not needed, they don’t flourish. Men step down if they’re not needed. And because of society’s message that men are no longer needed, many are staying in their parents basements.
Although most men will not go out of their way to take on challenges and responsibility, this is the very thing they should do if they want to thrive. Indeed, it is becoming common knowledge that perception is followed by physical experience in the form of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe you will succeed, you often do.
If you set your sights high in life, you will achieve incredible things. In order to do this, you can no longer play the victim to circumstances. Blaming the world, your parents, school, or the challenges you’ve faced in life is not going to solve your problems. It’s going to keep you stuck and bitter.
Instead, take the time to imagine and mentally create your ideal life. Mental creation always precedes physical creation. You have the inner power to create whatever life you want to achieve. All you have to do is spend the time creating that world with intention. Write down exactly what you want in life. Set your standards ridiculously high. Don’t hold anything back.
Read, rewrite, and reread your ambitions often. These will soon consume your subconscious mind creating new patterns in your brain. Eventually, you’ll manifest the world you’ve been creating in your head.
Prayer, Meditation, and Journal Writing
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and every other religious and spiritual tradition strongly stress the significance of regular prayer. Although the form of practice may be different, the purpose is the same:
Gratitude, inspiration, self-actualization, deepened connection to God/existence, the improvement of humanity as a whole…
Prayer (and modifications such as meditation and gratitude journals) are regularly found to increase physical and mental well-being.
Combining prayer with journal writing as a form of meditation gives a sense of inspiration, direction, heightened perspective, and gratitude. Scientifically supported benefits of prayer include: Improves self-control, makes you nicer, more forgiving, increases your trust and offsets negative health effects of stress.
People are often turned-off by prayer, believing it is a strictly “religious” practice. Even if organized religion is not your thing, you can still have a positive and healthy relationship with prayer.
Earn Good Friends
You are who you surround yourself with. There’s no way around it. If you want to evolve past your current state, you need to remove yourself from the negative forces in your life. This will not be easy. Misery loves company. However, when you decide to remove yourself from negative people?—?and instead surround yourself with people who uplift and inspire you?—?your life will dramatically improve.
Take the leap. Invite your friends to come along with you. If they don’t understand your needed evolution, kindly bid them a loving farewell.
You can have whatever life you choose. Don’t be afraid to dream big for yourself. Have the courage to seize that life and truly live, rather than only imagining living.
The world needs you.
By Thamar Jones