August 31, 2008

When Did You Become a "Man?"

In my research, I came across a surprising number of men who never felt they had crossed any clear line marking their entry into manhood. If you look very closely, you can find some rites of passage in modern culture. They are built into the structures of many youth serving organizations, and others are found in some religious communities. Nevertheless, for so many men, nothing major ever happened to mark this important crossing, and as a result, questions about their core manhood are left unanswered late into life.

Hard questions I ask of men in my workshops are:

What was THE moment in your life when you knew, for sure, that you had become a "man"? Who was there? What was done? What event, action, or ceremony took place so that you knew a line had been crossed and you were now a "man" (or at least more man than boy)?

If you can't remember any defining moment, how do you feel about it now? How do you know if you are a "man" today?

You can read men’s responses to these questions on the Man-Making website at this link:

I challenge you to take just a moment to think about this part of your journey to manhood. How would you answer those questions? How has your notion of being a man been shaped by the rites of passage that did or did not happen?

Some tribal cultures have learned the importance of drawing a hard and deep line for boys to cross. Sometimes that line is marked in a young male's flesh. Here is a website that claims to show The 5 Most Terrifying Rites of Manhood from Around the World, and another that has to be among the most painful at this link.

While most of these are very hard to watch, I wonder if a painful crossing into a certain manhood isn’t better than none at all.

What do you think?


  1. Waren8:00 AM

    Interesting question-it got me thogging (thinking and blogging)!

    I'd rather hope that a boy becomes a man in his heart and mind first; moreso than in/through what he can
    accomplish via his body. THERE ARE FAR TOO MANY OF US THAT CAN DO THE OUTWARD PHYSICAL ACTING OF 'MANNING UP'. It's when we're alone, or with our family, loved one, or in a (medical, emotional, financial etc.) crisis, that the men we are (and becoming) is shown; as well as in the day-to-day routine that seems dull and hardly worthwhile in proving our manhood.

    In the West, we have a trite little saying, 'Manners maketh the man'. Now, I DO certainly think that manners that are taught/learned by boys, set them up for smoother times with older (old fashioned?) authority figures. However, even sly foxes can wear the manner-making mask of a 'man', and be the slimiest little weasels you'd ever met.

    So, a physical mark, like the rage in tattoos (what's going on?) over the past decade or so, SHOULDN'T be needed in the Western world. The sign of manhood in a male is something that's FELT, as much as SEEN. Most women would (do?) tell us that!

    Our tests for our modern (jungle'-trekking) males and men-to-be require MORE than brute strength; now, more than ever, the inner muscle sets of courage (presence of fear-yet action), honesty and integrity ('In-the-gritty'),
    faith/spirit, empathy and love (among a myriad of others) are the means by which we men/males lift/hold/get-to-grips-with the tremendous weights of RESPONSIBILITIES (the abilities-to-respond) in and for the betterment of our families, work places, schools, communities, and wherever we're called to 'bloom where we are planted'!

    The example of this INNER SIGN - MARK of manhood, that always (X2) brings me to tears is the scene in The Passion: (NOT scriptural, yet possible-example of 'Dramatic License' by Mel Gibson) when the actor playing Jesus kneels and leans on the stump, about to be scourged/whipped to shreds. He says softly, "Strengthen my heart Father."

    Take care guys, and Blessings Earl.


  2. Looking at this email, I was uncomfortably made to face the fact that I have never really experienced a specific time in my life where I could say, "this is the time and place when I crossed into my manhood." Even my Mankind Project weekend did not do that for me. Maybe because I didn't allow it.

    I am, by most definitions and to most people, a good "man." But in reality, I still react to most things in my life like a "little boy"- just ask my wife. I continue to try to be a "good man" and to walk the talk of being a man. It is not at all an easy thing for me to do,. It seems to be much easier for me not to take responsibility, to often blame others, to sulk, to either cruelly lash out or timidly retreat (depending on how powerful my antagonist is), to whine, seek undeserved attention and sympathy, to brag, show off and feel (or act) either superior to others or not nearly "good enough"- again depending on who I'm dealing with.

    AT 63, I am a work in progress- and happy that I am progressing, and have not simply given in to remaining a boy in a world that asks me to be a man. Part of my "progressing" is (reluctantly) staying in my Men's Group, and continuing my volunteer work for boys, while my little boy is screaming at me to stop taking away his play time.

    Keep up your good work, my friend.



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