Letter From a Sterling Institute Ex-Friend

Thanks to Hank for writing in about how his friendship with a longtime family friend changed as a result of the Sterling Men’s Institute (Hank’s comment originally appeared here):

I’m a veteran of men’s gatherings ala Robert Bly’s “Ironman” and was invited by a longtime family friend to participate in The Sterling Men’s Weekend (for $900.00). My friend cautioned me NOT to look at anything on the web about Sterling…which only lead me to do just that: research the “Weekend”. Frankly, I was totally turned off that Arnie Rabinowitz (or whatever) changed his name to “Justin Sterling” and that he got plastic surgery to improve his appearance. LOL! Arnie has been through one or two nasty divorces, too, and relies heavily on volunteers to do the Institute work while he takes in the dough and reportedly lives a million-dollar lifestyle. Yeah. This is just the kind of group I want to get involved with…NOT!

So I told my friend what I’d found out about Sterling and he quickly ceased to encourage me to do the Weekend. In fact, he doesn’t say much of anything about it to me anymore although he’s been involved with Sterling and subsequent Sterling-esque splinter groups for several years now. I’ve met a few of his Sterling buddies (or as HE refers to them: “his men”) at bonfires he has in his backyard and I can’t seem to shake the impression they give off as being “losers” of a sort. My friend’s marriage has been shaky for many years (he’s a gay man in a heterosexual marriage but his wife knew that when she wed him…) and the Sterling men I’ve met at his bonfires seem to either be divorced or on the verge of it.

Another particularly annoying characteristic that my friend has taken on since getting involved with Sterling is answering his cellphone IMMEDIATELY at all times. This means during dinners (where he and Mrs. are our guests), in the middle of concerts (and talking loudly to the dismay of those around him) and while supposedly spending time with me/us. His cell phone trumps everything else. It’s weird.

Last summer he had planned to go camping/hiking with “his men” to a large mountain in the northeast. It just so happened that a once-in-thirty-years reunion with his old friends (me included) was also happening that same weekend. When the forecast predicted high winds and driving rain on the mountain, he opted to change his plans and attend the reunion. From what he told me “his men” berated him repeatedly for failing to live up to his commitment even though extremely poor weather was forecast and actually happened. I’m sure they had a lousy time up on that mountain and they managed to prove the old adage “Misery loves company.” LOL!

Lemme see, what else. I know he has a 5AM conference call with his men every Sunday. Five-friggin-A-M on a Sunday. I’ve certainly noticed that he helps out with domestic house chores WAY more than he ever did and, I get the feeling, that he’s learned to do that so that he can go away on his Sterling jaunts and not have to answer to his wife. He’s been unemployed for quite some time and there doesn’t seem to be any job on the horizon YET he seems to invest plenty of time in Sterling stuff. Yep! He’s always there for His Men!

He’s invited and cajoled a number of other men in our circle of friends to do the Weekend. Most have declined but one did take the bait and I’ve noticed that he’s not around much either because HE now has commitments doing things with HIS men.

Whatever!!!! Whatever floats your boat, I guess. IMO, steer clear of scam artists like “Justin Sterling”. Unless, of course, you want to help ol’ Arnie Rabinowitz keep up the masquerade AND support his comfortable lifestyle.

29 Responses to Letter From a Sterling Institute Ex-Friend

  1. sa kioa says:

    I am a girlfriend of one of the men in a Mens group and it is hell for me. The constant monitoring my man, calls throughout the day & questioning his personal life with me, even in our bedroom. Everything being so personal and secretive. Knowing that I was there for him when he was homeless and none of the men to be found to help at that time in his life. He has completely changed our schedules and our lives to be with these men. I am to the point where I am leaving him and never looking back. It is a Cult! They are brain washing and mentally fucking these men up with their macho bullshit. Its rediculous! If you were helping a man better himself it would be with Family & Friends. Not making them change themselves to suit a Mens group. Being a man is making decisions on your own and not asking others how to be a better man to yourself & to others? Its life. A grown man needs to figure out on his own how to be to himself and others. Not be ordered like your in the friggen military and friggen driving yourself crazy to please these men you just met and say they are there for you! I mean, come on! Where is the love??? Screw money cos thats what this is all about!!! Really, its a total control issue! All bullshit! Fuck a Mens group that runs your life!!!

    • TIffany Hayden says:

      I was with a man from Maryland from 2005-2010 who ran the Sterling group from his house every Tues from 7-11pm. He treated me so abusively the more he got involved. They treat women like objects and tell their Sterling men that women are only good for one thing-sex. I believe my ex was bi sexual, because during our relationship he wanted to start doing 3somes with men. I refused to. But he also was obsessively on the phone with them. One evening, I caught them all NAKED IN THE POOL OF HIS BACKYARD PLAYING CATCH WITH A FOOTBALL. There were about 30 of them. You know, it got so bad with him ( he was controlling, verbally abusive and constantly cheating) that I overdosed in his basement. This man did NOT bother to check on me for 3 days…when I woke up , he told me to basically get the fu** out of his house. He is a Chiropracter so no one knew how twisted he was behind closed doors. That Sterling Group destroyed him. He had no respect for women. I am just so glad I had my faith in God, and friends to get me out because he beat my self esteem so low….BEWARE LADIES AND STAY FAR AWAY FROM THE MEN IN STERLING MEN’S Group. They are really a cult….I really was in love with him, but the beliefs they instilled in him destroyed him.

      • Pr says:

        I have been to that house! I thought the man that lived in the basement seemed gay and that your husband was prob involved with him. Then I heard you all split up.
        My totally mysoginistic underemployed ex husband ruined our marriage being married to the “men” of the men’s group. We’ve been divorced for a decade and he continues to have a string of fucked up relationships. Nice work Justin. It’s also crazy how the men do all the free work for sterling recruiting driving organizing. His constant recruitment efforts ruined our normal social friendships. What a mess. Yes it’s a cult for sure.

  2. bfreeofcults says:

    I have several friends who are sterlinites. It’s complete bullshit. It should be called rent a friend seriously. When i get together with these jerks they are always trying to coerce me to sign up. They put on a real front about how wonderful it is. My friend who was unemployed and in sterling needed a job. I got him lined up with a job paying more than he’s ever made in his life. He couldn’t take it because it conflicted with his “commitments”. He’s always trying to sponge off of people. Many of the men in Sterling secretly think its bullshit but, all their friends are Sterling Men so they won’t ever leave. If they do those MF won’t be calling to harass them anymore or do CPR’s or shave each other balls or whatever they do. It’s sad that peer pressure is so powerful even in the lives of grown men.

    • steve says:

      i dont mind hearing complaints from women whose men have had dramatic changes since their weekend, but this is total bullshit ……………………

  3. Avraham says:

    Let me ask you the following:
    What would you prefer?
    Group of men that will take your BS and will not put a mirror to your face and will not have your back when you need the most, also will say they are your friends but when needed go look for them in the corner.
    Or you want group of men that will stand up for you when you need help, will not have your BS and will not let up waist your and thiere time .
    Men that will not say they are your friends but are more than that.
    You will learn much and teach or you stay where you are.

    • SterlingKidSurvivor says:

      Instead of spending time in a men’s circle, take an English class at your local Junior College. You will get more self-development than Sterling will ever offer you.

  4. Craven Moorhead says:

    WTF does that mean!! Good Lord, the grammer above almost made me cry.

  5. Matt says:


  6. Joyce says:

    As a woman who has been approached to go to a women’s weekend at Sterling, I thank you for saving me the time and money and possibly more. I’m glad I did my research and that there are people who speak frankly and truthfully. Thank you!

  7. Runfromsterling says:

    Sterling preys on the vulnerability of weak men who want to feel important by enrolling them to do free marketing in his behalf. The Sterling’s men’s group was the “other woman” in our marriage. my husband devoted all his emotional energy and free time to the men. I have been divorced now for five years. No question this secretive mens group drove a wedge in our marriage. My ex still can’t earn a living or make true friends outside of the group. It is sad.

  8. Darcey says:

    The comments here are baffling. My husband went through the weekend more than 20 years ago, stays connected with his men, and I have only seen good things come from his connection with Sterling. He supports others that go through the weekend, connects with his team each week, and supports and has been supported by those men in an amazing way. I don’t get this cult thing. Is it true that all groups that have suggestions that work and are good for you – are cults. Eh. I just think people are judgemental, and unable to take suggestions even if they’re good for them. I applaud Sterling!

  9. I dated a man-child in the mid 90’s who was involved in these groups. What a freaking nightmare. I was never able to fully understand any of it because it was all so secretive. All I knew is that he was a misogynistic asshat that sponged off of me and everyone else that would allow it. And he was always trying to recruit other men into this ‘amazing’ way of life. The relationship lasted one calendar year before I finally couldn’t take anymore.

    P.S. Interesting that others have commented on the ‘spongeing’ aspect of some of these men. That was kind of his thing. The guy never paid for anything.

  10. Erik says:

    I went to the weekend 15 years ago and was on a men’s team for 4 years. it was a lot of fun. Yes I gave 500 hundred for the weekend but after that never gave justin another dime for the next fours years. in fact I think i only spoke to Justin once or twice after that weekend. The mens team is really the best part. I was on a great team that would meet once a week. As for the 5AM on sunday morning each team decides when to meet so everyone on their team can make their lives work. I met men that were unemployed and guys that owned their own company’s learned a lot from both. there is a lot of power/freedom from learning to honor your word and having a bunch of guys that hold you accountable to what you say your going to do. Been married for 24 years now. I see that couple of people were in bad relationships and got out of them and good for you.

  11. Field says:

    Please note. The only positive response in this conversation was by someone who was actually involved and experienced the Sterling Weekend and it’s many benefits. All the negative comments came from people who have never experienced the weekend.

  12. Areyal says:

    Dated a guy who was deeply involved w/this group; had been for years and was rather high up in the South Bay hierarchy. . He was secretive, deceitful, greedy and stingy. As time went by he began showing disturbing misogynistic traits, including rants about his mother who was dying of cancer. He spent most of his time in meetings and volunteering in weekend activities that lined the pockets of the fat ugly troll, Justin Sterling. He teaches these guys to use women and to only communicate with “the men”. Truly sick group. Don’t get involved, You’ll lose your sanity, your precious free time, your money, your manhood and your relationships with normal people..

  13. Artie Kasarjian/ Sterling or whatever his name is, is a total crock. A few friends who became involved with this group have completely disavowed long standing friendships, if one refused to participate with them. In fact, my husband went to one of their meetings was told he was no man because he declined to go any further, and refused to do the weekend. Also, most are divorced now. So much for their commitment to family.

    • Sally says:

      Yes I left my ex.he hasn’t remarried or Re committed in over a decade. Well except for the woman who left him bc he was sexually compulsive and wouldn’t get real treatment. Sterling is a predator.

  14. Heather Bradley says:

    My husband has been approached and is planning on attending September 12, 2014 in Oakland. I have heard more bad than good and I’m concerned. They required $600.00 from him and this does not include his meals for each day. We have a good relationship but he has seemed very restless. Mid-life crisis? Who knows…I do believe when people are vulnerable..not just men or just women but “people” are feeling lost or looking for something…this weekend might cause further harm. What a big chance to take. If I were going to judge my decision on everyone’s comments, I would have no choice but to not go. It sounds like a legitimate nightmare.

  15. eleni127 says:

    Wow, what an eye opener. I am not sure if everything I read is true but I can tell you that I met a man a year ago who is so narcissistic that I think it may have been exacerbated by the fact that he went to this Sterling group many years ago. He gets quite defensive when anyone puts down Sterling. i think he keeps in touch with these men. He has never been married and can’t commit as he is looking for perfection.

  16. Sharon Rose says:

    My (now) 45 year old son found Sterling Men’s Group in approximately 2005. Initially I saw positive changes in him and I was so happy he had found something to inspire him. Ten years later he has all but alienated his family. He is always stiff, and kind of like on guard during our family gatherings. He attacks any topic or casual comment made that doesn’t fit the Sterling code. I’m a liberal pro-female, and there are few things that I can say that doesn’t bring his sharp opinion down on me. This last family event may be the last one he’s invited to as his siblings don’t feel he brings anything to the table. What initially seemed to help my son has now destroyed his ability to socialize, to have compassion or connection to anyone outside of his circle. Coincidently, I made a friend recently who actually helped Artie begin the Men’s Group. He said it began as something very different and after a few years he saw that the direction Artie was going was not good and he left. His opinion (which others here have stated) is that the institution takes advantage of the most vulnerable men (often young), and keeps them boys. Other than a few positive character changes in my son, such as striving to keep his commitments, I have not seen any deeply valuable changes in him. We no longer have deep philosophical conversations, and he never shares anything about his life unless I ask 100 questions. He doesn’t return my phone calls, regardless of how many I make and never answers email or texts any more. According to his behavior, what the Sterling code has done is to successfully alienate him from all activities that are not Sterling sanctioned. From watching my son over the past 10 years, and speaking with my friend who helped begin the Men’s Group, I do not see this as a path to betterment or personal fulfillment, and certainly not a path to wisdom. It is obvious to me that my son is the victim of brainwashing. I cry every day and then I pray for him. I have lost my son and it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever experienced. We used to be close. Secrecy is the first sign that something isn’t right. Please don’t let this happen to someone you love.

  17. J says:

    I wrote the following in May 2006…

    After my initiation of a “Men’s Weekend,” in 1997, I was part of a men’s group for one year. At first it felt like I could change the world and everything was great to be part of this camaraderie and team of men doing the right thing for families and communities.

    But it was all bullshit.

    The number one directive was to recruit more men to go to this “Men’s Weekend.” After adding it all up, we were the only persons doing all the work, for free, so that new men could pay $500 to $600 to Sterling, just to go to the weekend and be brainwashed by him. I didn’t see anybody’s life get better by going to the weekend or by joining men’s groups. Just worse.

    If you read Rick Ross’ Cult Education web page , you’ll learn that one of the main cult initiations include not allowing the men that are being initiated any sleep. Well, we didn’t sleep for a full 24 hours during the weekend, there were no clocks, and the room lighting was the same throughout the ordeal. You can imagine going a little nuts at this time. The having Sterling and his posse, tear you up and bring you down, just to build you back up and make you feel like the best thing that’s ever happened to humankind. Build you up, tear you down, hour after hour.

    A week later, like an idiot I joined the men’s group.

    A year later, after rising through the ranks of teams and positions, waking up at 3 am to go to these useless meetings once a week, and even paying money once a month to be able to stay in this group, one day it occurred to me like a bolt of lightening. “What the Fu*k am I doing here?”

    I grabbed my balls back from the men’s group, mustered all the courage I had, walked into the “Circle” during a meeting and stood tall and proud and told them. “I’m leaving today.” After catching all the shit I knew was coming to me, I still stood proud and determined to stick to my guns and there was nothing they were going to do about it.

    I walked out the door and never looked back and I am so glad I did it that way. Fu*k the “dishonorable discharge” mentality. It was for my honor and myself that I left, not theirs.


  18. Jim Kirk says:

    Erik’s comment pretty much described my experience. I did the men’s weekend over 20 years ago and it was fun. When I did the weekend Sterling told us to trust our women completely with the relationship and let the woman run the relationship. Never question or argue with the wife when she makes a decision regarding what’s best for the children or the best place to raise them etc. I still remember him saying “A man trying to manage the relationship is like a gorilla performing brain surgery. The more he applies the scalpel the more damage he does.”

    I moved to Japan with my wife and saw that the Japanese were already living that way. The women control all aspects of the relationship and the man’s paycheck is even deposited into her bank account. That’s even more hardcore than Sterling come to think of it! But I think it worked for me because my wife being Japanese was raised in the “Woman’s weekend” without ever having to attend one herself. In Japan emotions are rarely displayed. They are but not to the extent they are here. It’s kind of like living on planet Vulcan but it definitely has it’s advantages over the often abusive, violent and overly emotional of the nyc neighborhood I grew up in.

    So all in all the Sterling weekend was good for me. I grieved the death of my father and bonded with men in a way I never had before. One of my favorite memories was when the men and women’s division volunteered to renovate a park behind Confucius Plaza in Chinatown behind P.S.124. We had men from Europe even do a marble mosaic and the men and women spent the day supporting each other. It must have been 200 people at least. Anyway I’ll never forget the end when we were all in the school basement/cafeteria and the school Principle came in to thank us and we all just surrounded her and had a very Loud (foot stomping while applauding her) intense emotional moment where we thanked her for letting us help the kids because that what it’s all about and we thanked her for trusting us. She burst into tears and so did the rest of us. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

    Yes it had some silly aspects (men are jerks so we’re taught to embrace our inner jerk!) but overall it was a pretty positive time of my life and I still fork over my paycheck to my wife every week. Sterling said we should try to stay married for the sake of our children and I agree.

  19. Teri says:

    I went on the women’s weekend in 2008 and had one of the worst experiences of my life! “Justin” is a mean, abusive jerk who, in front of everyone, told me to f*** myself when I challenged his man/child theory. We had zero sleep, had to request permission (“to be cleared”, whatever that means), had little food, and were basically forced to do ritualistic exercises that felt like cult material. I hated, it and I recommend anyone considering going to think twice.

  20. Ben says:

    HMM! i did the weekend 22 years ago. This weekend was a great part of what has made me the man I am today.
    I have been married 23 years have 5 children and 2 grandchildren. Through this group I have made life long friends. The teams I have been on and the other teams I have met are always made up of different age groups.
    A good thing for younger men, who at times may not have had father figures. Good for our elders too to stay open minded and be with younger men, be active get away from the TV…

    The weekend costs that $600. This is not out of the ordinary for a weekend workshop. People pay this all the time for yoga retreats, meditation camps. Martial arts camps. Hell many men spend this much in a pub in a month in an attempt to bury the issues they are afraid to share in their lives.
    The benefits from the attempt to better yourself is always worth the effort and money if you have it. If you don’t? Well this weekend might just point out the barriers that stand in the way of achieving those goals too.
    I get it the process is sometimes messy. Life is messy anyways. What’s wrong with going through those challenges together.

    I’m well aware that anything can be cut apart and made to be shit.

    The thousands of men everywhere on the continent that meet with their teams, their men, their groups are doing it so they can vent, be listened to and listen to others. They are trying to be better husbands, parents and contributors.

    I stand behind that.


  21. mjkrist says:

    I am glad that these discussions are being had. It’s important to get both sides of every story. And every individual has his/her battle to fight. I just got back from the weekend and can see how it can have different effects for different men. I can only say that the weekend was worth it for me. Definitely. And i would recommend it to friends. The psychology, history, and sociology taught is sound. And the experience was quite moving for me.

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