I started a new online peer support group for men over the weekend. It is a free support group using Google+ communities, an extension of the men’s work that I do as a therapist at Rekindle International Marriage & Family Therapy Center (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). I hope for it to be a resource for men to find good support from other men, not just from me. And it is open for men to join via a recommendation by an existing member.
Below is the first weekly reflection I posted on the group. I am posting it here to share the heart of why I started this online community and to encourage other men interested to contact me if they would like to join.
The friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you. ~ Elbert Hubbard
I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Top of the week to you, gentlemen! Every Monday, I will endeavor to post up a reflection – something that has moved me, that is making a positive difference in my life.
Today, I am thinking of the men’s forum to which I belong. We started meeting in July 2012 and have been meeting weekly. Our format has morphed from casual restaurant dinners to tightly structured group meetings, to now less structured but deeper conversations. We are a group of 6 to 8 men who hold significant positions in our vocations and aspire to be good husbands and/or fathers at home.
My relationship with this group of men–not just with the individual members but the group as a whole–is probably the most life-giving relationship I have ever experienced. This group of men knows me through and through. They see me beyond the masks I put on to interact in the various spheres of my social life. They know me, and they still like me.
No, they know me, and they still love me, deeply.
As a marriage and family therapist, I am privy to very private conversations. Men break down in front of me and reveal to me their hurts and fears, like sobbing boys deeply in need of comfort. I am privileged to be able to carry and help a few of these men along in their lives. But each time I do, I am starkly aware that there are so many more hurting and isolated men out there: impenetrable armored knights on the outside; wounded and bleeding boys on the inside. I wish I could multiply myself a million times so that I can make a bigger difference to the many men in this world. But I can’t.
My men’s forum gives me a safe and confidential place to share my deepest self with a band of brothers equally vulnerable and equally strong to carry me. It is good for me, for the 6 to 8 of us who meet weekly. What about the rest of Kuala Lumpur? What about the rest of the world? Can an online peer support group achieve something similar?
I know that an online community such as Empowering Men will be a far cry from my men’s forum. You don’t all know each other, you can’t see each other, and you cannot be assured of confidentiality. I recognize the limitations. But I cannot help but want to start something. What I do and what I have is too good not to share. So I ask myself: What if I start something small, like a little spark of fire? And what if I continued to set off sparks of fire here and there? Will others begin to join me? Will they be moved to make even bigger sparks?
I see it again and again in my therapy room and I feel it weekly in my men’s forum: men become safe and strong when they have good support from one another. And safe and strong men can do an awful lot of powerful good in this world. Will you help me? Can we build this community–and more like it–for the good of ourselves, our families, and our world?
It begins like this: drop me a comment.
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