Joe Wills Therapy
What makes men lethal
Members of the younger generation aren’t getting the guidance they need
By Joe Wills
The nightmare of mass killings that our nation is enduring has many causes. Among them, I believe, is something I have observed working at universities and now as a marriage and family therapist, and it contributes to some men becoming lethal.
Young men in our culture crave a transition into manhood. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to do it, nor should they—that wisdom is held by men who have come before them. Binge drinking, hazing and sexual exploits are typical attempts at a rite of passage, and they are devised by the young men themselves without any guidance from older men.
In a college setting, most dorms are filled only with first-year students, and even fraternities are often bereft of upperclassmen, who have moved on to the task of graduating. This results in young men who don’t know when or if they have “passed the test” and joined the ranks of mature men, or worse, decide it is not important any longer and stay ensconced in a kind of perpetual adolescence.
The confusion, malaise, fear and/or anger young men feel can be reduced by what they know of the family and culture they come from. Sadly, many do not know or have forgotten the stories, customs and personages they spring from, and our society does not encourage knowing. The myth of the “self-made” man and the consumerism that exalts the new and disposable are just two factors that discourage appreciation of one’s roots.
Left to their own devices, young men can stop feeling a part of anything. And the world around them, weary of their struggles and the damage they cause, says “Man up!”—the right advice, which they don’t know how to follow. Many men lick their wounds and keep moving, but a few see no way forward—a disaster for them and us all.
“Lethal” stems from the Greek word for forgetfulness. Lethal men are oblivious to their true calling as men, and even the frustration that led them to feel rootless, rudderless and powerless. We have no sympathy for these monsters; and yet, somehow, we must.