The Truth About Becoming A Man

What is the truth about becoming a man? In my experience, a “man” is a mature male who loves someone or some cause more than himself.

I was a typical carefree and irresponsible 11 year old when I joined the Boy Scouts in 1981. My Scoutmaster was very serious about developing leadership skills in his scouts.  I was serious about just being a boy with no responsibilities and no expectations. One summer our troop was away at summer camp in the back woods of Prospect, Kentucky when our Senior Patrol Leader got homesick and went home to be with his mother. The timing could not have been worse. He was supposed to lead us on a survival hike that day. Quite unexpectedly, our Scoutmaster came to me and asked if I would take over responsibility as Senior Patrol Leader. At age 12, I assumed the leadership of this group of 25 of my peers, and led them on the dreaded survival hike. This event was the beginning of my slow and winding course toward manhood and leadership.

Nevertheless, years later when I graduated from Howard University I was still uncertain about whether I was a man. My grandfather gave good advice, but he could not tell me if I was a man.  Marriage, parenthood and employment did not settle the issue for me. It was not until I came to know Jesus in a personal way that the pieces of manhood came together for me.

The truth is that men by and large have lost our way – confused between whether being a man is a privilege or responsibility; whether it is the right to be served by Momma or the responsibility to serve others; whether an excuse to indulge oneself in video games and youthful lusts or to practice self-control for a higher good. Teens today seem to believe that they will magically become men one day as if true manhood occurs automatically with the passage of time with no effort on their part. Too many men (as defined by legal age) misunderstand the nature of their “man-ness” confusing it with an excuse for promiscuity and uncontrolled emotion. Regardless of the causes of this mass self-delusion the question remains, “What is the truth about becoming a man?”

A Man Denies Himself and Takes Responsibility for Others

There is an old saying that as parents the best thing we can do for our children is to teach them to deny themselves.  Accordingly, there can be no doubt that Jesus is the ultimate standard for manhood. Jesus teaches us in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  The truth is that the path to manhood is infinitely more complicated unless, and until, we follow Jesus and put the needs of others before our own.

I recently met a man named Shane who was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 10. Despite living with this debilitating and potentially fatal disease, he attended college, married and became a father. Shane volunteers with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, coaches his son\’s baseball team, and enjoys a successful career all from a motorized wheelchair.  Rather than focusing on his own problems, Shane tries to help children struggling with more progressive forms of the disease.  He denies his own fear and pain and lives a life intent on purpose and helping others.  Shane is a man.

Likewise, I have known teenagers who, because of unfortunate circumstances, bear the burden of raising siblings, holding down a job to cover food and housing while denying their own needs. Any teenager raising his siblings is a man (or woman as the case may be).  

Conversely, we all know 30 year-old men who were spoiled by their mothers, abandoned either physically or emotionally by their fathers, are still critically immature, and can barely take care of their own basic needs, much less those of their girlfriends or the children they create.  These individuals have never become men regardless of their legal age.

Men, we have to stop trying to do things better and start doing better things!

A Man Loves Like Jesus

How do we love like Jesus? You love like Jesus when you learn to love someone or some cause more than yourself.  Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.”  Jesus lived this principle trading life for life a moment at a time.  And he calls to the real men to live this principle as well, giving priority not to our own desires and ambitions in favor of standing up for our families, our churches, and communities.

As for me, the Boy Scouts provided the first of several mantles of leadership I was to accept. It meant not eating until the boys whom I led had eaten and in some cases denying my own fear or anger until the needs of others were satisfied.

Remembering how influential the Boy Scouts were to me, I encouraged the men in my men\’s Bible Study to charter Boy Scout Troop 15:5 at our church.  We chose the number of the troop based on our guiding principle found in John 15:5 wherein Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”   Our goal is to train youth to embrace responsibility and live purposefully for their faith, family and community.  Scouting has helped our boys on their path to manhood, but each must make up his own mind to deny himself, honor God, and serve others.

The experience in scouting caused me to consider my own sons\’ understanding of the Christian man. I did not want them to go off to college like I did, wondering what a man is and how to become one. I believe that God caused me to write down 12 principles by which I have chosen to live.  I called these principles The 12 Pillars of Manhood (www.the12pillars.org) and set up a process for my sons and other young men to learn how to embrace life as a Christian man.

Participants in The 12 Pillars of Manhood Induction Process learn about the Biblical definition of manhood. They draft a personal mission statement of how they will honor the Lord with their lives and create together with their father or mentor a family crest, which identifies their family principles. Each young man is inducted into manhood at the top of Stone Mountain in view of the “Circle of Men” from their communities.

So what is the truth about becoming a man?  Becoming a man is not an event; it is a process. It is a journey with a number of successes and learning opportunities along the way. My road has been a rocky one but, by God\’s grace, I am still on it – learning about manhood as I go.  Men, our challenge is to love like Jesus loved, boldly and without limitations.  When we do, we mature in our manhood and call out the manhood in others.  And that is the truth.

This editorial was written by Bill Green, Founder of 12 Pillars.

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