Sunday, April 25, 2010

Emotional Risk-Taking, Emotional Intelligence and Social Integrity

My son, Alex, participates in a wonderful community called Boys to Men. The community consists of adult men who recognize the value and even essential contribution of mentoring teenage boys as they transition from boyhood to young adulthood. A key part of the mentoring work includes developing a connection to their sense of integrity, courage, respect, compassion and leadership.

What is very sad is that many adult men have never had the opportunity to spend time with or relate to, in either a short-term or on-going way, with men who can model these very qualities. As a result, they never have the chance to fully develop into integrated men, who have the emotional space to pass the torch on to the next generation of men.

Jeff Kidman, the MA leader of the Boys to Men program made the comment that boys needs to engage in "emotional risk-taking," not just physical risk-taking. Every time a man takes an emotional risk, he grows spiritually and emotionally. And he also models and helps create a climate of emotional safety that empowers boys to take emotional risks as well.

Creating a climate that is safe for emotional risk-taking, that includes emotional support, and accountability for one's commitments, behavior and actions, not only helps individuals develop emotional intelligence, but also helps a group of boys and men develop a sense of social integrity.

Today's society fosters so much isolation and disconnection, we struggle to develop and maintain our personal integrity, never mind create and sustain a sense of social integrity. If we can build emotionally safe spaces that empower boys and men to be real, vulnerable, accountable, responsible and community-minded, we can transform the fabric of society, and remove the space that allows and perpetuates a bullying culture.

Jeff pointed out that kids need something to push against so that they can get internally stronger in their sense of self. Just like going to the gym, where we exercise muscles by lifting weights or running on a treadmill, which help us build fitness and strength, having relationships and social spaces that offer healthy limits, consequences and accountability build emotional fitness and social strength.

Although I am a mom, and the wrong gender to be directly involved in the weekend programs for boys and men or the monthly journeymen group, I can surely offer my behind the scenes support for such a powerful, impactful, valuable and needed program! And I can also offer my appreciation for people like Jeff and his comrades, who are growing this work here in Massachusetts, and elsewhere in the world!

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