“We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
What do we mean by The Devil’s Apprentice?
Several times on Universal Man we have talked about the Wolf Pack – that group of men that we choose to associate with who lift us to our best selves. But life is never perfect nor is any group of mates. Often amongst our group of mates is that one guy who, for whatever reason, drags you down. They are the negative voice, the wet blanket, the one who for whatever reason always reaches for the lowest common denominator to bring everyone with them.
This is the Devil’s Apprentice and you might well go ‘way back’. They can be someone who has been a mate from your childhood or teenage days, but they have never grown up, they have never graduated into adulthood. Have you been in that scenario where over a couple of drinks on a Friday afternoon one of the group just lowers the standard through the crass joke, the bad timing, the inappropriate call and you shake your head? What were they thinking? You get the feeling they’re doing it on purpose to get a rise out of you or the group.
Perhaps the joke was funny when you were 18 and perhaps your group bonding depended upon that wise crack, when you were strong in your pub crawling, party animals days. But now you have moved on, you still have fun, you still know how to have a good time it is just that the fun more authentically reflects where you are in life now. The sick joke now grates on you, it is no longer funny.
The memory that the Devil’s Apprentice recalls, “Hey what about the time we …” you have moved on from long ago; you’re not proud to say it’s a cool thing anymore. You have grown into adulthood, you have worked hard to become the man you now are and now this bloke wants to drag you down to be your worst self.
Sometimes this person has a significant power over and influence within your wolf pack and ironically you can find yourselves as a group doing things and laughing at things that actually no one, other than him, finds really funny or really wants to do. But to name this is difficult. You can come across as the wowser, as the “I’m above you now” holier than thou type.
Why is it so hard to call it for what it is?
The Devil’s Apprentice and you probably go way back and if you don’t you certainly share quite a lot of history. Perhaps you knew them from school, you played footy with them and shared some adventures over the years. And here you now are aged 30 or 40 or whatever and they are there in their faded old school football jersey remembering what you did at school parties or some win on line from your teenage years. Often bringing it up at the most inappropriate time. That shared story has a power. There was a bonding way back then that has lasted you all these years. You have shared some good times and you have shared some difficult time; and that for men means so much.
So to ‘move on’ can seem almost like betrayal. Choosing now to ‘move on’ from the Devil’s Apprentice can feel like a denial of your shared story. But life moves on, you move on, you grow and change and normally your mates, your wolf pack move and change with you. So ultimately to now NOT move on could also be a betrayal; a betrayal of your journey into a sense of manhood that can authentically engage with the questions and issues beyond pimples and one night stands.
Some will say that you are not being loyal to that mate, but it is a false sense of what loyalty is, it is a loyalty to a lesser you, to a lower standard; certainly not to the call to be the best you, and the best ‘us’, that you and we can be. The Devil’s Apprentice is almost certainly a former version of yourself and that is why this journey is so hard.
The Peter Pan Syndrome
Often our mate – our Devil’s Apprentice is caught in the Peter Pan syndrome. They’re living out their youth for the rest of their days. But we all grow older and that is gift. We grow wiser from life’s struggles and that too is gift. There is nothing sadder than the comb over old man lining up to get into the night club surrounded by the younger men he still longs to be like.
Other faces of the Devil’s Apprentice
The Devil’s Apprentice can often, ironically, be the ultimate professional. They can have a great career, professionally and from a skill set point of view, have grown. But their sense of self has not and their growth in emotional maturity has not paralleled their professional growth. They can be manipulatively emotionally intelligent but it is an intelligence bounded by immaturity. They know you well. They know how to bait you, they know what strings to pull to get the reactions from you. They know exactly what to say to guilt you out, to get you there, to remind you of your own faults or your own faults from when you were younger. But you have moved on from playing those games. You don’t need those ego driven games from your teenage years or early twenties years.
What makes the Devil’s Apprentice?
Our friend has faced life’s challenges and run away from them. Our friend has found it easier to live by yesterday’s camp fire stories rather than finding new ones. The labels of the past are so strong and so comforting, that the pain of growth into something and someone new is too hard. And so, over and over again, as you and the others have grown and changed with time, they have stayed put. They are the odd man one, they are marching to some music you have long since moved on from.
The big challenge – the hard call
So you are faced with a huge challenge. If you are going to really grow and be the Universal Man that we are trying to be, the Devil’s Apprentice can be one anchor chain that just drags you back. You look around you, the Wolf Pack as a whole, your mates and supports, have all moved on as have you, but this one member has not. So what do you do? It is not that they are a bad person. It is just that in terms of where you are in life they are not the person to accompany you (and themselves) to an ever deeper sense of who you are now.
Sometimes the answer is to still have them as one of your mates but to change your inner expectation of the relationship. They are still the mate you enjoy having a beer with but you know, within, that they are not the person you look to for the deeper more mature level of support and challenge; and that is OK. You can still have fun with them, great, but don’t look to them nor expect them to help you grow to the next level of who you want to be.
Other times you may just need to move on in one way shape or form. Become aware of the effect on the group and if some of your mates agree that this person is holding you back, then approach them personally and invite them into a different space. If they can’t or won’t go there, this is OK, but you move on. Maybe you don’t catch up as often. Maybe you don’t go out again after you have already gone out for a meal and some drinks together. Maybe you just limit the context of your catch ups with them.
With all of this you have to change YOUR inner perspective. Sure you give them a go, sure you support them to grow but if they choose not to that is their problem; don’t carry their baggage with you.
That kind of permission to move on, in whatever way you choose to do it, can be so hard. The first step is to know that it may be difficult. In our culture we’re loyal to a fault. We will back a guy no matter what, no matter what he’s done. But that is ok to some extent but there comes a time when what they do or have done is NOT ok. So as true mates we maintain the highest standards. Our role, as a true mate is to help them grow.
It is so easy to get caught in the spiral downwards with them. Your mate has had a bad day, a bad week, and when you were 18 you got on the piss. Your Devil’s Apprentice looks to you to do that pub crawl, yet again. You are faced with a choice. Do you wake up 24 hours later knowing that it was crazy and that neither you nor him are in any better space because of it, or do you invite him to move on to a better space or do you, after you have tried this several times make the tough call and ‘move on’ – period?
You are not judging them as some sort of lesser person and you are respectful of their journey. It is just that it is not the journey you want to be walking at this point in your life. You are just knowing what you are in your life right now, where you have come from and where and who you want to be.
It is a choice not to give them power ‘over you’ anymore. They may not consciously think they are exercising power over anyone but they are. It is a choice you make in this space. I’m not giving you power. I’m not giving you the power to compromise who I wish to be. If you go on that particular journey and you do it in an authentic way you’ll come out the other side with a great sense of freedom.
When you’re in those moments and they (the Devil’s Apprentice) hold all the power, that’s when you get weak. But when you choose to march to your own drum you claim the power back in the relationship. You always have a choice no matter how many of the wolf pack are bleating like sheep. You can always opt out with respect and integrity and take a different path towards where you want to go.
Part of us wants to be the person who will help them grow. And sure, we all do our bit in that area. But often the person who will most invite us into a space of increased awareness and self-growth will come from outside of our immediate circle of friends; a mentor more than a mate. When the student is ready, the master will appear and very rarely are you the master for any friend of yours. That’s just not your job.
Lessons to be learnt
In the middle of all of this there are some great life lessons. If you can chat this through with another mate, go for a run – do whatever it is you do for some personal introspection – then reflect on what is it that is making you uneasy in this relationship? Often there is something in your relationship with them that you are now uneasy with and when you can name that – you can engage in great growth from that point of increased self-awareness.
Central to this journey is your increasing awareness of what your core values are. It is about your values, your standards and the direction you are going. You now know – and we mean really ‘know’ what you believe, what you value, what you want and who you want to be. How much are you prepared to compromise this as you grow older and hopefully – wiser?
Pricey & Grego