As a man committed to supporting men living the most satisfying and empowered lives possible, these principles have become a center of gravity in the Men’s Work I am involved in.
The questions every man who does men’s work with me needs to answer every time we meet are these: What is the state of your Integrity? What are you Committed to? How are you Accountable?
These Masculine principles are foundational to healthy relationships and a safe community. A great deal of the suffering we are seeing in the world has to do with powerful men who lack integrity and are not being accountable for their actions.
When I started up this path I thought that Integrity meant perfection. I thought that if all of my actions were not in alignment with my commitments to live out the fantasy of who I was “supposed” to be, that I was failing. What this resulted in for me, the perfectionist, was desperately hiding my faults and failures as best I could. To myself. I relegated my mistakes to the shadows and overemphasized my success.
Since then my perspective has been tempered. Since then I have sat with hundreds of men in circles where integrity and commitment really matter, where we are all aware of our tendencies to bend the rules for ourselves, to make ourselves the exception, to cut corners and get away with whatever we can.
The key to living with integrity is being accountable when I fall short of my commitments. “Sorry” is just not enough. It has to be matched by, “How can I clean this up?” The key to integrity is not “always doing it right,” but rather revealing myself to people I trust and submitting myself to the vulnerability of accountability.
This, in the circles of men I participate in, often means “consequences.” We give and receive consequences for falling short of commitments. 50 push-ups for being late to the meeting or forgetting something promised. 2 minute cold shower for not communicating critical information. Etc.
When I started this work I was like, “What the fuck is this bullshit?” Now I have come to a radically different understanding of consequences than what I was raised with. Consequences used to be synonymous with punishment.
What I have come to see is that there are ALWAYS consequences to my actions and decisions. The question is, “For who?” When I say I am going to do something and I don’t do it, that has an impact on others.
Growing up, I became adept at “outsourcing” consequences. Often they were deferred to my parents, or to my teachers. Many were deferred to my future self. And every time I succeeded in projecting my consequences onto someone else, the behavior was reinforced. I gamed life pretty hard for so long that I really had no idea what integrity was.
Now I sit regularly in circles with men where we speak our commitments to one another, we check in about those commitments, and we hold one another accountable to our word. We celebrate wins and submit when it is time to clean up mistakes and shortcomings.
When I have to put time and energy into cleaning up a breach, energy that I presumably “saved” in cutting that corner, I come closer to realizing that there really are NO short cuts. I remember that fact when I feel the impulse to act out an old pattern.
The more honestly and frequently I do this, the more trustworthy a man I become.
This Trustworthiness is so fundamental to the relationship between the masculine and feminine. For years I utterly failed to grasp that Trust is built on so much more than just not outright lying.
The confidence the feminine has that the masculine will do what he says, and be accountable for his mistakes, is essential to her sense of safety and her capacity to open. When there is a safe, stable place for her to dance, her gifts come spiraling out of her depths in ways they simply cannot when she is questioning the container.
This is NOT just about fidelity. This is about being on time. This is about taking care of the things you say you will when you say you will. This is about the thousand opportunities we get weekly to either demonstrate impeccability or make excuses. Even if she is not consciously tracking all the disappointments, making lists, or openly criticizing, she is on some level feeling the soft fabric of her precious trust erode.
And again, we are not playing the perfection game here! We are talking about Integrity.
This is about the masculine not making excuses when the thing happens, and instead being the one to
(1) raise the issue,
(2) take responsibility for the choices he has made,
(3) listen deeply to the impact of his actions, and, if possible,
(4) make it better by taking some action.
One of the greatest traps is for the masculine to “match” his impeccability to his feminine counterpart or expect her to be the same. This is intrinsically dangerous because the feminine operates on fundamentally different principles. This Integrity is for the masculine to hold. The pitfall of lowering standards to match another’s is always present, but seldom more destructive than in intimate relationship.
Another is to misunderstand her attempts to repair the fabric of her trust with him as “criticism.” If you are in integrity, then “criticism” will easily be handled as misunderstanding or a need to more fully communicate. If you are out of integrity, “criticism” is her gift to you. Her best attempt at holding you accountable to impeccability and restoring the safe ground she longs to dance on.
When the masculine is taking 100% responsibility for his integrity and not waiting for anyone else to lead him or meet him there, when he is consistently seeking the fellowship of others to hold him accountable in ways he cannot always hold himself, he becomes a safe place for the feminine. And our relationships, our communities, and our world become safer spaces for Life.
So, my friend, I must ask you:
What is the state of your Integrity? What are you Committed to? How are you Accountable?