“The world needs a man’s heart.” – Joseph Jastrab
Last summer I participated in a week long men’s personal development wilderness retreat with the Hero’s Journey Foundation. It was a deeply moving experience filled with soulful adventures of healing and revelation. I learned a lot about myself that week, and in so doing I learned a lot about the human condition we all share.
The group of forty or so men attending the retreat split into smaller groups of ten for daily adventures. The men I journeyed with in my group shared difficult feelings of loneliness, abandonment, desperation, disappointment, and longing. We also shared positive feelings of triumph, strength, humor, and empowerment. We shared fully, and it was unique and refreshing. I did not know any of these men at the beginning of the week, and by the end of the week, I felt as close to them as almost anyone in my life. With deep honesty and exercises that tested our trust in ourselves and each other, we became brothers.
The leader of my group, Josef Beraha, skillfully guided us with a calm, wise, and accepting leadership style. To me he seemed to embody a different type of leader, one with compassion and warmth and also strength and fortitude. The other leaders of the Foundation seemed to also embody this type of leadership, a style that defied our societal notions of a man in touch with his emotions as being “wimpy.” They were simultaneously soft and strong.
At one point in the week, one of the other leaders of the retreat, Joseph Jastrab, said, “The world needs a man’s heart.” That statement struck a deep chord in me. It resounded over and over and stayed with me long past that week on the mountain. As I reach middle-ish age I think a lot about the type of father, husband, son, business leader, friend, and person I want to be. There aren’t a lot of examples in my life of men living and leading with heart. There are plenty of examples of men leading with physical brawn and mental aptitude but few with real heart. The societal pressure to be a “strong” man seems to leave little room for “heart.” But every time a man shows real heart, people are truly moved and inspired.
A great example of this occurred this fall at an anniversary party I attended. The brother of one of the spouses gave a toast to his sister. He spoke fondly of her in a deeply sharing way. Describing her character and recalling stories of her, he got quite choked up. He spoke sincerely and without reservation. He cried. And so did most of us watching and listening. It was a powerful example to me of the effect a man has when he shares his heart.
It seems to me that a man can lead most powerfully when he brings all of himself forward, both mind and heart. I do not believe that the showing of emotions is weak. When balanced with strength of thought and right action, heart completes the deal. I believe I am stronger as a whole, owning all of myself and leading with all of me, than denying parts of myself and leading only from disparate parts deemed more acceptable by society.
I’m sitting writing this on Christmas day, in my mother-in-law’s house surrounded by festive décor. I see a Santa figure standing by the entry. And I am reminded that Santa himself is a pretty good embodiment of the type of leader I am describing. He is certainly strong in physical stature, maneuvering his sleigh and reindeer around the world. He is strong in thought for he has fastidiously been tracking who has been “good and bad” all the while strategizing the best way to make it to all of the children’s homes in a short amount of time. And, last but not least, he is strong in heart, expressing his care for all, giving generously, and wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas!”
So, let’s be like Santa and lead with strength of mind and heart because it is true…the world needs a man’s heart.