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What Men Need (Part 2): When Does a Boy Become a Man?

After decades of working with men, I can tell you that a boy does not become a man when the following happen.

- He hits puberty.

- He turns eighteen.

- He gets a job.

- He gets married.

- He fathers a child.

- He buys his first car.

- He takes his first drink of alcohol.

None of these things make a boy a man. Over the years of working with, counseling, and teaching men, I have found that most are not men at all. Most are in their mid-twenties to mid-forties. Most have multiple children with multiple women. Most have had jobs and lost jobs. Many have been married and married again. Many of these “men” may look like men, but they are not men. At least, not yet. The problem is not fully their own as most of these men have not had anyone to teach them what a real man looks like, thinks like, and acts like. The American culture has failed men at every level and then we wonder why so many of our men end up addicted, incarcerated, unemployed, homeless, and account for 8 out of 10 suicides in the nation.

What exactly then, makes a boy a man? What defines manhood? What qualities does a male have to possess to be considered a man?nnAt Next Step Recovery Ministries, we teach four very critical qualities of manhood based on the life of Jesus:

1. A man rejects passivity.

2. A man accepts responsibility.

3. A man leads courageously.

4. A man invests eternally.

Yet there is so much more to say about manhood. As a man with 58 years of life under my belt, what are the things that helped me be the man I need to be for my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my friends, my co-workers, and my community?

1. Character. My dad used to have a sign on his refrigerator that read, “Today, do the right thing.” Men do the right thing all the time. Alone or in a crowd, men just do the right thing, and can be trusted to do the right thing no matter what. A boy becomes a man when he does the right thing even when no one is there to force him to do the right thing. Many call this character.

2. Generosity. A man sacrifices for others. He gives. He loves. He has hope for the hopeless and help for the help helpless. In a world that devalues and destroys innocent life, a real man becomes a voice for the voiceless. He stands strong when the world caves to weakness. A boy becomes a man when he becomes a channel of mercy.

3. Chivalry. Now there’s a word that is not often used anymore. He’s loyal to noble things, not corrupt things. He’s brave, polite, gentle, honest, humble, considerate, gracious, yet tough, fierce, and protective. He fights against wrongs and promotes what’s right. He’s not a momma’s boy. His wife is not constantly rescuing him from his bad choices. A boy becomes a man when he conforms himself to the highest standards of conduct.

4. Diligent. A boy becomes a man when he pulls his own weight. He doesn’t have to be asked or coerced to do his job. He works harder than anyone else in the room. He takes responsibility for his actions and holds others accountable. He’s not afraid of hard work and he’s not afraid to call others out who are not pulling their own weight. Marcus Aurelius said, “If unwilling to arise in the morning, say to thyself, ‘I awake to the work of man.’ “ A man that won’t bust his rear-end is not qualified to enter marriage or have a family.

5. Encourager. A boy becomes a man when he encourages people to be better. He lifts others high. He loves others more. He teaches others to be better. When he wins, he lifts the loser. When he loses, he celebrates the winner. He never complains. He never complains. He never complains. And finally, he never complains. A boy becomes a man, when complaining and the victim mentality leave his mind and his life.

Men, we are designed to live in pursuit of godly masculinity and not chase cowardly cultural lies and fables. We once lived in a culture that passed along good and godly manhood principles and truths. However, like most declining societies in history, we can no longer depend on the culture to be true and honest. Shattered families, absent fathers, and unnatural and unscientific positions and promotion of gender have replaced the wisdom and responsibilities of manhood that were once shared with boys to grow them into men.

President Teddy Roosevelt stated of manhood, “we do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life.”

Men, go be men!

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