"Almost every culture... (except Western cultures) have
some form of 'rite of passage' for their boys to become
recognized as men" (12)
Ask any group of males what is required to become a man
and you will get a lot of blank stares! When exactly does
a boy become a man and what are the characteristics of a
It could be said that biologically, a boy has begun his
journey into manhood with his first ejaculation of semen.
This would be similar logic to a girl experiencing her
first period and being accepted as being on her way to
becoming a woman. The boy's transition is fairly private
and generally is not formally recognized.
Without some form of official closure to childhood and
welcoming to manhood, a male can become caught in a
subconscious life long quest to prove he is a man!
Many unspoken ways are presently used to try to confirm
manhood in Western society including:
- Being a workaholic
- Alcohol consumption
- Sport involvement
- Sexual conquests
- Heroic exploits (bungee jumping etc.)
- Promotions at work
What the Bible says
You are already a man if you have reached puberty! Your
body may still have some growing to do, but the
biological days of being in a child's body are over!
There doesn't appear to be the concept of 'teenager' in
Jesus was "about his father's (God's) business" when he
was 12 years old. We could read into this that God didn't
worry about Jesus' immature body while asking him to do
things only a 'man' would do. (in this case teaching in
David received a visitation from God when he was a youth
- indicating his body was not fully matured and yet God
treated him as a man rather than a boy. David went on to
overthrow his nation's enemy (Goliath and his army) while
he was still quite young.
The completely matured physical body is not required in
order to be classed as a man! The body will continue to
change from the first sign of puberty until death in old
The fact that you are a male and you have reached puberty
means you are no longer a boy in God's eyes! The
consequences of accepting this fact are life changing:
- You don't have to do anything to become a man - you
already are a man!
- You don't have to do anything to prove you are a man
- you already are a man!
- You don't have to believe others who label you as
less than a man - you are a man and that can't be
- Nothing you can do will make you more of a man - you
are a man and God made you perfect as you are!
The Jews do it this way
The Jews recognize the boy is no longer a
child with a ceremony called a "Bar Mitzvah". It is an
official "rite of passage" ceremony held when the boy is
13 years old. This ceremony is considered to be the most
important day in a boy's life. (12)
Many married adult men who have been through a Bar
Mitzvah actually verify that day as being the most
important day of their lives! In its simplest form it is
some form of ceremony or celebration to mark the closure
of childhood and the new passage into adulthood. In a
Christian setting it would be accompanied by a person
praying a blessing over the young man's life. Praying a
blessing like this releases God's power into the person's
life to empower them to prosper (thrive, do well,
During this ceremony, it is imparted to the boy that:
- God, before the world was created, had planned for
the boy's life. He was no surprise or accident. He is on
this earth with a purpose from God which only he can
- God made him perfect - God doesn't make mistakes.
- God and those around him, see him as a man from that
day forward and will no longer treat him as a child.
Characteristics of a Real Man
The biological changes from boy to man happen without any
input. A ceremony (as described) is often used to mark
The character traits of a real man, however, must be
Rejects Passivity (sluggishness, inactivity, laziness)
Adult males have a natural tendency to avoid social
responsibility. Real men reject being passive in the
areas they have responsibility in. (14)
Accepts responsibility (obligation, loyalty)
Jesus had the responsibility to do God's will while on
earth. That responsibility defined Jesus as a man and
He pursued the responsibility as a source of great
satisfaction. The responsibility of every man is:
i) To obey God's will (as revealed in the
ii) To do his work (at home, at his job, in the church
and the community)
iii) To love his wife (if he is married)
Leads courageously (brave, fearless)
Real men lead rather than follow. They do not ignore
their principles in order to yield to the emotions and
feelings of the moment. Leadership demands that men
must have the courage to master their passions and
control them with the principles of truth revealed in
God's word. (14)
Expects a greater reward
Life is not just work day after day. The anticipation
of later joy kept Jesus obedient to God's will for Him
on earth. Real manhood is liberating and a call to
life. It is also a means of great reward here on earth
and afterward in heaven. (14)
Why this interaction is so important
Masculinity is an essence that is hard to
articulate but that a boy naturally craves as he craves
food and water. It is something passed between men. When
a father and son spend long hours together, we could say
that a substance almost like food passes passes from the
older body to the younger. That is why my boys love to
wrestle with me - why any healthy boy wants the same with
his father. They love the physical contact, to brush
against my cheek, feel the sandpaper of my whiskers, my
strength all around them and to test their strength on
me. And it is this testing that is so essential.
Ancient societies believed that a boy
becomes a man....only through the active intervention of
the older men. The father or another man must actively
intervene and the mother must let go.
Sometimes when the mother clings, the boy will try to
tear himself away, violently. She feels rejected and he
feels guilty but he knows he must get away. Whatever the
mother's failure it can be overcome by the father's
...when the father-son relationship is right, the quiet
tree of masculine strength within the father protects and
nurtures the fragile stripling of masculinity within his
A rite-of-passage is more about defining the path forward
for a boy rather than an acknowledgement of past
achievements. A boy of 13 does not really have any
achievements to earn the passage, but many who work in
this area agree that 13 is the age to have the most
effect from the rite. It defines the path for the coming
teenage years. Some boys have no outward signs of
puberty, but anecdotal evidence is the boy has benefited
from the rite-of-passage.
An official recognition by another man (preferably your
father) can have an amazing effect on your life. It frees
you from having to read constantly "between the lines"
from your friends indirect comments about your
masculinity. Instead that question is settled with the
official rite-of-passage. You are free then to relate to
your friends in a more confident way.
have to put some effort in to get that rite-of-passage
affirmation from the significant man in your life. In the
Bible a guy called Jacob went to great lengths to secure
the blessing from his father. That blessing enabled him
to prosper, where his brother who did not have that
blessing, went no-where! Words carry power! (see Bible:
Genesis chapters 27 and 28)
A rite-of-passage is a tangible way to formalise your
love and belief in your son.
Father love...is the key to help boys feeling motivated
and believing in themselves, that being a good man is
something to strive for. (61)
For parents see sample rite-of-passage letters
Focus on the Family
Dr. Jeff Brodsky is the founder and President of
International He is a Messianic Jew with many years
of missions experience as well as the author of the
International best seller, "Stepping Into Adulthood." Dr.
Brodsky travels the world explaining the importance of
celebrating the transition of children into adulthood.
Nearly every culture in the world has a "rite of passage"
experience for boys except Western society.