Becoming a man; that’s a boy’s greatest and deepest pursuit. But when does it happen, when does a boy become a man? While one can focus on biological markers that are connected to puberty, it takes more than age and physical development to turn a boy into a man. Instead, a boy becomes a man when he takes responsibility for his life, rather than assuming that someone else (typically his parents) is responsible for him. In short, he becomes a man when he decides to be the dad over his own life.
A Boy Becomes a Man When He Provides
The boy assumes someone else will provide for him, take care of him, and tell him what he needs to do. The man takes responsibility for providing for himself and for anyone else with whom he has joined himself, such as a wife, children, or even a friend or group of friends. This doesn’t mean that a man does every single thing involved with providing for himself or his family. He may, and probably should, delegate certain tasks to others who are more skilled in those areas. However, he still knows that he is responsible for the outcome. If he delegates a task to someone who is incompetent and unreliable, rather than focusing the blame on the person he chose, the man accepts responsibility for the poor choice. The buck stops with him.
A Boy Becomes a Man When He is Responsible
The man doesn’t assume someone else will take care of him and his family. He is responsible for his own well-being. This doesn’t mean he never delegates tasks or that he never asks for help or assistance, but it means that, at the end of the day, he has ensured the necessary care for himself and his family. If his family is left uncared for, it’s his fault.
A Boy Becomes a Man When He Takes Initiative
Finally, a man doesn’t wait for someone to tell him what to do in life. A boy is constantly waiting for someone to tell him the next step to take. A man takes responsibility for figuring out the steps he ought to take, then takes them. Again, this doesn’t mean that the man doesn’t seek out wisdom or guidance from friends and mentors. In fact, it means just the opposite; because he takes responsibility for figuring out and taking the next step, he consults with those who can assist him in doing so. But he doesn’t sit around waiting for someone else to figure out his life and he doesn’t stick his head in the sand and avoid finding a direction and purpose for his life. He doesn’t just go through the motions of each day irrationally hoping that something good will happen that makes his life better. He thinks, reflects, studies, asks, listens, and then he takes action.
A boy becomes a man when he is ready to be his own dad. Most men of my age are fathers. They’ve transitioned in life to the place where, more often than not, they are giving direction and instruction rather than receiving it. They are teaching more than they’re being taught. Don’t get me wrong, this is completely normal and necessary. If you’re a father, you’d better be giving direction, instruction, and guidance. The problem arises when we adopt the mindset that our role is merely to govern others, rather than governing ourselves first. The best father to children is the man who governs himself harsher than he governs them.
A Man Demands More of Himself Than of Others
The best man expects and demands more of himself than of his wife, children, friends, or employees. He leads both in word and in deed, both in instruction and by example. He doesn’t lecture his children to play outside while sitting on the couch watching television. He doesn’t insist that they finish their homework while refusing to read himself. He doesn’t require that they speak respectfully to their mother while he refuses to do the same. He doesn’t require them to pick up their rooms and play areas while letting his home sit in disrepair. He doesn’t pride himself on being “tough on his kids” and “holding them to a high standard” while being lenient on himself.
Our kids need to be held to high standards. Kids will typically do whatever is expected of them. If the expectations are high, they’ll rise to them. If expectations are low, they’ll sink. So, I’m all for holding children to the highest of standards, as it’s definitely in their best interests to do so. However, as I noted here, we must model a life of high standards alongside our instruction. In short, we have to be our own dads (but not our own grandpas). We have to take responsibility for our lives and live them in a way that inspires and teaches our children.
We can’t settle for being weak and fat (The Man Strong Blueprint will solve this). We can’t settle for eating junk. We can’t settle for staying up too late (see this post). We can’t settle for a life without friends (we need a tribe). We can’t settle for a mediocre marriage (this will help). We can’t go through the motions at work. We can’t just punch the clock. We can’t settle for watching too much television. We can’t settle for being locked into our smartphones, laptops, or tablets.
We have to take responsibility for our lives. That’s what makes us men instead of boys. Otherwise, we’re just grown-up kids who still refuse to do what we know we ought to do, and we’re training our kids to be the same.
That being said, no one reading this is perfect in this. We all have room to grow. What marks us as men is the commitment to take action to grow. Pick one area today and DO something about it. Start small, but make a change. Life will be better when you do. If you feel stuck and are not sure what direction to take to change life for the better, Manhood and The Hero’s Journey is a great place to start.
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