Dear Amends Project,
Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in the Amends Project. Enclosed are a few more submissions for your perusal and use on the site. In your last letter, you stated, that I mentioned having some "masculinity issues" and what did I mean by that? Let me first say, that today I see my character defects back at the time I committed the crime in like 1995 as unhealthy habits that in effect were self sabotaging. At their root, they were an immature defense mechanism that held sway in my life, by default. Here’s something to explain what I was suffering from:
The term has often been explained away rather than squarely dealt with in our modern vernacular, with phrases like “Oh well! Boys will be boys, after all…“, or “it’s a guy thing…“ Whilst we men go on to hyper-sexualized women by treating them as sex objects or otherwise attempt to isolate, control, or otherwise attempt to discourage them from having their own identities. What some men acknowledge as their “man card“ needs examining. It’s what is often not talked about, and what we in fact excuse as a society, that was toxic in my childhood, and is present in the lives of a large percentage of men as well. Things we were taught like “boys don’t cry“, “violence is OK“, “don’t show emotion or you’ll look weak“, “who wears the pants in the family“, when combined with various forms of dysfunction in one’s family being modeled (e.g. domestic violence, infidelity, biases, and prejudice against others, etc.…), take away from the definition of what it truly means to be a good man, rather than adding to it. I’ve learned that it’s not only OK to hurt others violently in order to assert myself, but it was even rewarded for it, when I was just a boy. All that I have just mentioned is toxic.
I see the cumulative effect of it all through a different lens sadly, because of where I find myself today, and because it means something to me today to be part of the solution to such problems that our society. Most men who committed serious violent crimes in their youth were parked at the point of their own pain and childhood trauma, caught in a cycle of arrested development, if you will. I know I was, for decades into emerging childhood, such a man. I learned early on to live a fear-based life. It was on me to change that identity, and others like me also need some help in determining who it is that they truly want to be as a man, and some healthy examples. Being a man isn’t getting into your first fight, or winning at all cost, or racing against your buddies in junior high to see who can have sex with the first girl, and yet so many unexamined lives are colored by such hidden moments. Things like that aren’t badges of honor, they are pathways to dysfunction or worse yet, disgrace. If I was face-to-face with my younger self, I come alongside him intentionally, consistently modeling by example, what it is that I have gained, with love and purpose. Less of me and more of Jesus- I’d show him examples and explain to him how I turned my life over, turned it all around, healed me, through Christ. The tattoos, the scars, and the tales that could scare him straight aside, I speak of what he was about to throw away via his own extremely poor choices in violent actions. I’d show him the consequences and speak to him about the true impact of such behavior generationally, with its ripple effect. I'd show him how to gain control of his thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I’d use “honor language“. I wouldn’t leave anything to chance. I’d earn his respect. I would lovingly cultivate the relationship, as I talked with him about humility, selflessness, leadership, who he is in God's eyes, and what it truly means to be a good man, a loving husband, a faithful friend, an asset as an employee, and a charitable neighbor. It’s not a one-and-done thing.
There is no quick fix when it comes to a life change Dash it takes consistency, a world to see through, dogged determination out of love, and seeking specific answers to what traumas, strongholds, and self-destructive routes causes hold sway in that young person‘s life. What it takes to get a person to see his or her self retrospectively well at the same time getting them to examine their identity, and their values is the key. Building them up as you show them how to regain control and write their course, is equally important. How many families have parents who spend themselves at their 9 to 5 job, with little left in the tank, or worse yet come home to take out a “bad week“ on the same family? I’d advise parents to consider that, it’ll take more than that… punishment is far less an important ingredient, than correction. Personally, I marvel that we use positive reinforcement with our pets but it goes out the window when it comes to our children!?! In many ways parents have it backwards, often time. I’d start there. Pay some attention to the dynamic your party to, is my advice. Like the Bible states - “Love suffers long, and is kind“.