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A TIME OF ASHES

A friend, who has gone through a tough time sent me this post from Steve Biddulph. It gave him strength. "This post is for men, (and for women who love and want to understand them). It was prompted by hearing the biographer of Joe Biden, on ABC radio. He said that Biden had qualities of humility and modesty, which made those around him like him and able to work well with him. He attributed at least some of this to Biden having had terrible and crushing losses in his life - first his wife and small daughter in a car crash, and later his son dying from cancer. He had “come through the ashes”. I came across this idea first in the writings of Robert Bly. That for a real man to emerge from boyhood understandings and ways of seeing (which can persist lifelong otherwise) , there has to be a “time of ashes”. An experience of failure and loss, error or grief, huge enough to shatter your egotistical self importance. Only then can you become grown up. Its so different from how manhood has been portrayed to us. Men have these things happen - being the cause of an accident. Losing a job. Causing pain and suffering to your partner. Financial ruin, physical loss, failure of any kind. How interesting that this might be the thing that turns you into a whole human being, instead of the shallow individual you once were! In my book Manhood I gave this a whole chapter, here is a quote… "You do not have to experience total devastation in order to grow into a mature man, but it helps. To discover that you are not all-powerful and that your dreams may well not come true may be enough. Thus you make the journey down. (If you fail to learn the lesson the first time, then down you go again!). When you are young, you judge people for being weak, for failing, for being beyond their ability to cope. You think, ‘I would never let that happen to me’. You fail to realise that we all have limits, and we all are at times desperately in need of help. We are utterly dependent on each other. Once you have been there, you know that; you at last have empathy. Finally you get the message, and only then do you grow from a feckless boy into an open-hearted, compassionate man". Have you, or your partner, come through a time of ashes? Have you noticed that despite the terrible nature of the experience, something new was born in you? That has really been the making of you?"


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