"Almost every culture... (except Western cultures) have some form
of 'rite of passage' for their boys to become recognized as men"
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 real man?
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
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
Many unspoken ways are presently used to try to confirm manhood in Western
- 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 the bible.
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 the
King 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 age!
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
- You don't have to do anything to become a man - you already are a
- You don't have to do anything to prove you are a man - you already are a
- You don't have to believe others who label you as less than a man - you
are a man and that can't be changed!
- 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.
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, succeed, flourish)
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 fulfill.
- 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 those changes.
The character traits of a real man, however, must be learned:
- 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.
- 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 scriptures)
ii) To do his work (at home, at his job, in the church and the
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.
- 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.
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
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
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 son.
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.
You might 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
Father love...is the key to help boys feeling motivated and
believing in themselves, that being a good man is something to strive for.
For parents see sample
Focus on the Family
Dr. Jeff Brodsky is the founder and President of
JOY 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.