The 20-Day “I Love You Man” Challenge

I have loved men all my life. I began with my father and my grandfather. Then it extended to my friends. It even included a few men I’ve felt attracted to. And it has continued throughout my entire life.

Yet my love for men is something I’ve always felt I’ve had to hide, simply because I’ve never been given a context in which to love men.

Recently at a conference I met a man. A brave, tall, man, whom I admired. He was clever, kind, and accepted by people I deeply respect. So I did something I don’t normally do with men. I told him how I felt.

I walked up to him and said that I enjoyed our conversation and that I wanted to spend more time with him. It was scary. I was more nervous than I normally am when expressing my feelings.

I expected to see that uncomfortable feeling on his face that I’ve seen so many men wear. The sort of screwed up expression somewhere between nausea and surprise. But that didn’t happen.

Sure, he looked a bit uncomfortable, as men tend to be when confronted with manly emotions, but instead of stammering he simply thanked me and said he’d like that.

Over the past few weeks we’ve spent time hanging out together. We’ve shared our fears, our excitement, our dreams, and our ideas. It’s taught me to see how important it is to have deep relationships with other men.

Men and Love

Men long to be loved by other men, yet we don’t feel like we can do it. Men are afraid we’ll be considered gay. Even though we know there’s nothing wrong with it, 20+ years of exposure to homophobia takes it’s toll. And a tiny part of us still sees homosexuality and manliness as diametrically opposed.

So we men say nothing. We love men in implied conversations. And even when we do say I love you man, it’s accompanied with excess alcohol and/or extremely awkward pauses.

Frankly I think this is BS. If men truly want to be manly, then we need to own up to our manly love. We need to throw off these false shackles of homophobia and be willing to say “I love you man!” often and without regret.

Which is why my new friend Kyle from the Heartmen Project and myself have decided to take on the challenge of flexing our heart muscles like a couple of weepy Arnolds.

For the next 20 days we’re going to be writing 20 “I love you man” letters to the men in our lives that have influenced us, shaped us, supported us, and made us the men we are today.

We’re doing this as part of the upcoming Good Life Project Camp. Attendees have been challenged to take action fill three buckets: Contribution, Vitality, and Connection. And it’s our hope that by doing this challenge we can fill all three.

My request to you, whether you are a man or a woman, is to take a few moments and think of at least one man in your life whom you love. And if you feel inspired, sit down and write them a short letter.

Begin with the line “Dear _, I just wanted to write you and say: I Love You Man!”

Then just go from there. Don’t be shy, don’t hold anything back.

There’s nothing unmanly about loving another man; there’s nothing unmanly about loving anything at all. Real men have big hearts, and it’s about time we stood up for the one thing that keeps us from being the leaders, the fathers, the brothers, and the partners that the men and women in our life need us to be. It’s time for us to say I Love You Man, without a hesitation in our voice or a doubt in our hearts. I hope you’ll join us.

To read more about this, visit Kyle’s blog on Heartmen.