Letter from the President: Why Do We Do Mental Toughness Week?
We completed our first January Mental Toughness Week of 2018. I usually approach these weeks with a bit of ambivalence. It is so encouraging to see men who are curious about making some significant life changes. And it is heartbreaking to watch a man give up on himself so easily.
The first morning of Mental Toughness Week, the men are usually somewhat reserved. They are doing their best to maintain an air of toughness despite being unsure of what they have gotten themselves into. It doesn’t take long before the tough-guy personalities fall off and the men begin to bond around the shared experience of the workout challenges. The whole purpose for the morning workouts is not to see who is in shape, but rather, to see who can push themselves past the point of wanting to give up.
By the afternoon, the men are so happy the workout portion of the day is finished that they are actually looking forward to the team building activities we have planned for them. We ask these tough guys to do some of the silliest things. It is entertaining to watch a man’s face as he decides whether or not he is going to participate in a game of “telephone” or jump in and build a tower out of dry spaghetti noodles and mini marshmallows. Every aspect of the afternoon is designed to help us determine who can follow directions, who is a leader, who is a follower, and who is just too cool to be bothered by the silly activities.
As if the workouts and the team building activities weren’t enough, we give the men a poem to memorize as well. The men have four days to memorize See It Through by Edgar Allan Guest. On Friday morning after a week of working out and doing team building activities, we ask the men to come prepared to recite the poem from memory and sit through a panel interview (one guy interviewed by four 4:13 Strong staff members).
The transformation from Monday to Friday is really quite amazing. We see men begin to find confidence in themselves. We see men begin to find a sliver of hope in what they thought was a hopeless situation. We see men getting excited about the possibility of a better future.
But unfortunately, we also see men who can’t find the confidence to believe in themselves. We see men who believe there is no hope for their situation and that their future will be no different from their past. It is for these men that we do Mental Toughness Week. Even though they did not make it into the program, they got a brief glimpse into a different world. They met men who cared about them. They had people pray for them. And for a moment, they believed that they could become someone different. Those brief interventions are sometimes all it takes for seeds of hope and change to begin growing. We will see some of those men come back and try again. And the next time, they might just make it through the week and into the program.
We had 24 men show up Monday morning for Mental Toughness Week. We had 20 come back on Tuesday. All 20 of those men stuck it out for the rest of the week and showed up Friday with the poem memorized. We ended up taking 16 of those men into the program. Please pray that God uses the staff and volunteers of 4:13 Strong to help these men become the men that God intended for them to be.