In ancient tribal times, or perhaps in certain cultural situations today, a boy had rites of passage to manhood as early as 12 years old—not that he was a man physically, but he began to be a man spiritually. These days, as it has been at various times in history, it can take all a man’s life to become a true man; and only he can tell—when he’s being honest. Our challenge, as men, is to embark on this spiritual pilgrimage.
The essence of true manliness, certainly in Christian tradition, is Jesus.
The study of this man’s life can lead us to a better understanding of how to live life as a man. This article is not about mapping that journey, for how could we map something so intricate, so voluminous, and so variegated? No, this article simply sets out to introduce the emotional challenges every man faces in traversing the vast chasm from boyhood to manhood.
It is a journey that will reach its completion no time soon; yet, certainly at eternity, for many men, it will be accomplished. But, alas, many men will still go to their graves having given up on becoming a man. The real tragedy is that some give up in early childhood and never return to the shores of the land of self-discovery.
Embracing a Man’s Emotional World
Men are supposed to be emotionally intelligent, just like women are supposed to be emotionally intelligent. Emotions are not just the domain of women. This is precisely why we have many of our societal problems; men are not being men emotionally.
But it is hard to be a man emotionally these days. All of society, especially in advertising, media, workplaces, and even in families, expects a certain ‘inadequate’ man. Our environment somehow also wants him to be (emotionally) mature, but it doesn’t provide him the right supportive context most of the time. In any event, our modern man is self-conscious anyway. Is any man authentically comfortable, from within himself, in most social settings? (I think the same challenges exist for women.)
The Character of This Emotional World
God’s idea of a man’s emotional world is a safe and strong and sound place for anyone who would go there—not least of all for the man himself.
The point is his imperfections characterise his emotional world and he is connected to the truth. He is available emotionally. He doesn’t get it right sometimes, but it isn’t the end of the world. He quickly moves on, but by first doing justice to what just happened. He manages the complex social environment the best he can; he accepts what he cannot change, and with courage he changes what he can. He is appropriately diligent, prudent and not naïve, and he can feel what he should feel.
In a very real way our idea of a man is one who simply practices this above. He can never say, “I’ve made it.” But what he can say is, “I know what that mountain range looks like; I’ve been up there; and I will return as much as I can; it is my purpose as a man of God.”
The vital clue in this pilgrimage is truth—he can give himself away to the truth; he can be married to it; it can form the very basis of his existence; his value for truth runs past fear; he can do the things he doesn’t want to do; his fears don’t immobilise him—they motivate him.
This is such a short article, and so inadequate, for we’ve hardly scratched the surface.
But discussing the pilgrimage from boy to man is a never-ending discussion. It is to be every man’s purpose. If it is his purpose he will have correct direction and he will serve society well and he will obey God.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.