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Living a Life That Matters: Reflections from Goshen College Men's Retreat

6/26/2024 By: Kevin Schultz

Living a Life That Matters: Reflections from Goshen College Men's Retreat


"In patriarchal culture males are not allowed simply to be who they are and to glory in their unique identity. Their value is always determined by what they do. In an anti patriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved."

-bell hooks
"The Will to Change: Men Masculinity and Love" 

How do we, as men, live a life that matters? More importantly, how do we set a good example for future generations on how to answer this question. A first step is to reflect on how a patriarchal society assigns value to us, and then taking it a step further to reflect on how it impacts the value we assign to ourselves. After 12 years and hundreds of hours of facilitating challenging conversations on this topic, I believe it is clear value is assigned based on what men can provide or produce. Which in and of itself is not wrong, just shortsighted. I would argue that the very patriarchal culture that overwhelmingly benefits men in our society, simultaneously uses the concept of the "man box" to prevent us from showing up for ourselves. Unpacking this "man box" has shown me a way to expand how men find their sense of value, and thus begin to really discover how they define what matters to them.

Doing this work with college men comes with a lot of barriers so I began reflecting on ways to overcome them. I realized that my male colleagues and I had not taken the opportunity to do this work together in order to better role model the lessons we were trying to get across. Thus I began looking for other resources to help us in doing that, and luckily I had become familiar with Menno Men a couple of years ago. I reached out and Steve Thomas was more than willing to develop a small retreat just for us.

Steve and I spent some time shaping an existing workshop to help us answer the question, "How does one live a life that matters?" We spent the Saturday morning unpacking our own man boxes and envisioning how our campus could better support our students in this regard. The conversation was both challenging and supportive. It is important to acknowledge that we did not walk away with "the" answer, as this work is never ending and always evolving.

We all recognized this was not the end of the conversation as there are countless intersectional facets of the "man box" to unpack, race being one. Jesse shared how that informed his decision to attend:

"During our discussion, I had some questions about how men, especially men of color, are impacted (or not) by this work. I usually find myself surrounded by white men, Mennonites, or Latino/Hispanic individuals, so I wanted to gain insight into their perspectives on our current world, as well as their struggles and triumphs men face."

This gathering took place on February 3rd, 2024 at the Pathways Retreat Center in Goshen, and we are looking forward to continuing them on a semi-regular basis. This work is hard, but the immeasurable support of Steve Thomas, Pathways Retreat, and Mennonite Men makes it so much easier.


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