When We Lose Our Men – The Collective Loss

James Anthony Ellis
Editor, Legacy Magazine

In hindsight, I first lost my “circle of men” the day Jamie moved out of Huntington Beach in the summer of 1975. My best friend living directly across Cambay Lane. We were inseparable. I was 11 years old. He moved to Irvine with his family. And I was left behind.


I never really knew how devastating this was to me until years later, 22 years later, when I did a Sterling Men’s Weekend intensive and discovered many, many things that I had forgotten I already knew.

The most important “ah-ha” was the fact that I lost my bond with the masculine spirit, and more importantly, it was something that I truly needed.

Perhaps it’s the case that this masculine spirit – found in men’s groups, men’s circles, men’s teams, band of brothers, childhood buddies, or your tribe – is vital for all men.

Could be.

The lack of such a connection has shown to have its pretty heinous consequences: men isolated, alone, adrift, unsure of their identity – cast aside in a society that might carry a collective will to degrade masculinity if not dismantle it.

Ironically, men themselves – on some subconscious level – may too be joining in the folly to disempower the mighty force that originates from the masculine principle itself.

Chronologically speaking for me, after Jamie left, I didn’t feel the loss immediately, though I definitely felt alone and misunderstood in a family led by a strong-willed mother and flanked by an older sister and a younger sister.

Onward on my path, I would make new friends in what could only be called my “circle of women!” I somehow gathered many female friends along the way, which I started to realize might be a reflection of something amiss. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with females; I was just discounting what was right with males. This culminated in my early 30’s with a desire to find a men’s group. After being informed that the men’s group at my church was led by a woman, I realized something was truly off-base in my life. I needed more balance. I was led to the Men’s Weekend and then an MDI organization of men’s teams, in which I have fully participated for over 25 years.

Team “Watch This,” me second from the right, and a steep cliff, circa 2000.

Within this community I have discovered the power of joining forces with other men, for various reasons, most of which can barely be identified or named. But to give it words: camaraderie, outrageousness, unbridled fun, raw unmitigated honesty, brutal masculine truth, accountability to my best, benchmarks of honor, leadership lessons, unconditional care, and a reflection of the spirit of masculinity I would not receive without a tribe of my own.

Over the years, I have observed the concept of having a circle of men as opposed to being without one, as well as the idea of the impact of “losing the men.”

I ponder: Do men actually need other men in their lives? Is there a negative result in a man’s life without a brotherhood they can rely on? If so, how have men lost this connection, and does it matter to them?

First off, now that I have enjoyed a consistent men’s team for so long, I most likely take for granted the gifts and benefits I experience here. I can barely recall a time without this camaraderie, and I forget there are other men out there possibly suffering without knowing of an inner and outer connection that could serve them.

Is there indeed such a thing as “losing the men?” It has shown up in various places within our society.

This can be related to the concept called “The Disposable Man,” outlined in detail by men’s work pioneer and author Warren Farrell. In this identity, males can, over time, be seen as insignificant – with their supposedly purposeful deaths in battle, with the exclusion from their children during biased divorce court proceedings, and even with the honorable call of “save the women and children first.”

I believe the Sterling Men’s Weekend partly attempts to jar the reality of “losing the men” to the forefront of our minds within specific moments of that 3-day experiential. Feel and experience the separation, and then realize the power of a reunion!

But did I feel the loss of the men during the Men’s Weekend? No.

I also believe there is that loss experienced after college if any fraternity brothers must go on their own journey of life, most likely towards girlfriends, wives and families. Did I feel the loss after college? No,

The loss most definitely arises with the military battle-mates during war when the goodbye comes in the form of a burial. Though the surviving soldiers often reunite in VFWs across the land, I do not know of this experience, personally.

I was present for one International gathering in Orange County in 1998 when a men’s division from Vancouver was blown up and basically disbanded. Since I was so new in the organization, I didn’t grasp what it meant for a division to be “blown up” or the implications there. I also couldn’t grasp why there were men in the audience – not even part of that division – who were openly weeping. Did I feel the loss here? No.

There have been other losses along the way, of course. Tons of men leaving the organization, shuffles of teams within the division, David Sander moving to the East Coast, the humongous departure of entire divisions and regions, most recently the Los Angeles and Orange County Southwest Region and the Mid-Atlantic Region. For all the various departures, the ones that hit me the hardest were the men who left the division when I was the San Diego Division Coordinator, perhaps because it was correlated with a belief I had let them down or abandoned them in some way. Did I feel those losses? Yes.


Now, will we see some of these men down the road? Yes. Will we support or help the men we have “been in battle with” if we ever run across their paths? Yes. Brotherhood is brotherhood, and the bond – once established – doesn’t truly break … even if there is no longer a shared circle in which to gather.

And yet, with every departure – through death, quitting or honorable farewell – there is a loss. A collective loss. When men leave our lives, it can be felt at the core foundation, if we are indeed in touch with a unity found in the indescribable masculine spirit.  

The masculine spirit – a unifying force that shall outlive us all.

In hindsight, I first lost my “circle of men” when Jamie moved away from Cambay Lane in 1975.

And yet, it was my first opportunity to see the cost of losing the masculine spirit and the innate and unyielding need for embracing it in my life … for the rest of my life.

1 thought on “When We Lose Our Men – The Collective Loss”

  1. I particularly like the sentence: “After being informed that the men’s group at my church was led by a woman, I realized something was truly off-base in my life.”

    That one gave me a chuckle.

    Very deep article — we are connected in important ways, but it is challenging when people move, leave, etc., because at the same time everything is finite.

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