The journey from boyhood to manhood can be a tough one. Our western culture often lacks a process that other cultures use to create a Hero’s journey for a boy.
This is an experience for a boy to be challenged and supported by other men in the community as he pursues his manhood, and then be recognized by that community of men as having achieved it.
Which begs the question, what is manhood anyway and when is it achieved?
When I was a boy, even though I had some limited responsibilities, the people in my world pretty much took care of my needs. No one asked me to provide for myself, let alone others. I didn’t have to lead or make difficult decisions. Also, there were no expectations for me to be responsible for someone else’s well being.
During my boyhood years I was given things that I necessarily didn’t earn or deserve. In general I had the luxury to be self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and self-expectant of others to meet my needs. And then something happened along the way.
What seems like an arbitrary number at 18 or 21, society deems us men and says, “Get after it.” Some boys are fortunate enough to be guided and challenged along the way to easily choose different behaviors that help them embrace manhood, while others struggle or resist it.
Where are you today as a man? Do your behaviors, actions, and choices look like manhood or boyhood? How would others in your life answer that question about you?
Words that come up for me to describe my manhood are responsibility, commitment, ownership, awareness, support, choice, and consequence to name some key ones. What I do and how I act in the context of these words is very much different now than when I was a boy, or even from my early years as a young adult man.
When I think of manhood in these terms, I have greater clarity about who I am and how I want to show up as a man. These words or concepts serve as a guide for me to define myself as a man in today’s world.
It is also true that when I use these words to define my manhood, I have less need to identify, attach, or use other words like job title, bank account, muscle or dick size, popularity, or fame to define me as a man.
Moving from boyhood to manhood was not defined by my age, some date on the calendar, or a physical characteristic post-adolescence. Embracing and defining my manhood has and continues to be a journey. One that requires me to be fully present.
I can say without hesitation that the payoff is great. I have found the freedom to show up authentically as a man, as I define manhood, which in part means holding myself accountable and being responsible for my choices.
What are one or two words you would use to describe manhood for you?