May 7, 2013

Posted by in Living By A Code | 2 Comments

14th Tenet of the Code – Embrace All Men

14th Tenet of the Code – Embrace All Men

The MDI Code of Honor was created by the men of what was then known as the Sterling Men’s Divisions.  It was intended to reflect some very basic core values that all men could rally behind and support.

Back in the late 1990s the men of the Western Region created an ark which contained 15 different pieces of word. Each stick was made of a specific type of wood and bore a specific design that reflected the way in which the men of the Western Region related to the tenets of the Code of Honor. The ark has made its way throughout North America and men throughout MDI have had the opportunity to connect with it.  I had the honor serving as the caretaker for the ark and was moved to write a bit on how I related to the Code.

Embrace All Men

The wood representing this tenet is Willow – Willow is known for its flexibility.  It is used in the structure of the sweat lodge which is a sacred space for men to do deep work together.  Willow is a rare wood in that if it is severed from the tree it will regenerate itself if soaked in water and properly nurtured.  Similarly, our relationships with men in our circle can always be regenerated with the proper care and feeding no matter how severe the initial break.

The symbol that reflects this tenet is that of men’s arms embracing in the secure grasp of one another’s wrist.  This grip is often referred to as the life saving grasp typically used by firefighters, life guards and others.  It is the grasp used to rescue those who can not save themselves.



Embrace – to clasp or hold in one’s arms as a sign of affection; to encircle or surround; to include within one’s bounds; to accept eagerly; to take in with the eyes or mind; to submit to with dignity and fortitude.

Embrace ALL Men – Sounds like a big job.  Yet we each have done it.  In our initiation weekends we had a chance to stand within a circle of men, most of whom we did not know.  On day one we did not know their name or life story, yet we were prepared to take them in for who they were at that moment.  We each continued into MDI because we discovered the power of embracing all men.  We discovered our commonality: the shared wounds, common dreams and struggles.  We connected despite difference in education, political belief, background or race.  I have long since come to realize that no matter how different other men may look, when you strip us down we are really very similar.

To engage in an embrace one must let his guard down.  I never feel more vulnerable than in that moment before an embrace is completed.  This is all the more so after an intense or heated confrontation or when I meet an MDI man I did not previously know.  There is always the lingering doubt, “is this going to be returned?”  But in that instant there is complete trust between two men that each will follow through in the unspoken promise to complete the embrace.  It is why the actual embrace feels so good.    Its power can be frightening and uncomfortable.  (How often do you ache to “tap out” of the embrace?)  That is why I invite you to welcome the discomfort.  Hold it, feel the connection.  A lot more can be communicated in silence than with words.

Often times we don’t like to acknowledge just how much we actually share.  Often we are surprised to realize how little we need to say to communicate what we feel.

To live this tenet open your arms to the warts and strengths of the men in your circle and consider when a man reveals something about himself that  “you are that man”.   This tenet demands that we are clean with one anther; that we say what we need to say to one another in that moment and don’t allow ourselves to censor our thoughts.  How often have you felt like calling a man out ore asking for help but didn’t want to go there because you did not want to derail the meeting or call attention to yourself?  Instead you keep silent the resentment or pain festers and two weeks later you have a major blow-up that takes twice as long to address than if you had dealt with it when the issue first arose.

I have often heard from guests at team meetings that what made them come back and ultimately join our circle was when tow men almost came to blows at a meeting yet when the meeting ended they still embraced and went on as if the prior incident never occurred.

The more obvious piece of this tenet is the practice of tolerance and acceptance of all men regardless of sexual orientation, race or religion.  I would hope that this now extends to men regardless of the “weekend” they have done or if a man has done no weekend at all.

Howard Spierer

  1. hey there – I would like to know more about Mens Division. Can you help? I’m in Brooklyn. best, norm

  2. Great reading your stuff, Spierer. This is a “total nit” but I suspect the last word in this is a typo: created an ark which contained 15 different pieces of word.