When does a boy become a man? According to law, it’s 18, but does that mean manhood? There is no clear difference between 17 and 18. During that time, boys are at various stages of maturity. Mentoring inner city teens has certainly shown me that while 1 kid can be very responsible and respectful; another teen can be hardheaded and rebellious.
Male rites of passage
It use to be that there were certain rituals that would signal a boy’s move into manhood. In many cultures, boys would have to endure physical or emotional pain, and pass the test of manhood. These ritual’s purpose was to build courage, endurance, and emotional mastery.
While the process of becoming a man, ceremony or not, does not happen in a single, magical, windswept moment, rites of passage are important in understanding when a boy should start thinking of himself as a man, when he should start carrying/comporting himself as a man, when society should start respecting him as a man, and when he should start taking on the responsibilities of a man.
In this western culture, at this time, there are no such rituals. The rituals that are still around take place within some religious sectors. The mark of manhood is not clear. When does a boy become a man? Many men still show boy/immature qualities. There are some clear indicators.
1. Boys break their word, men honor their commitments
An immature male does not understand the importance of keeping his word. Promises are made on the fly without much intention of carrying anything through. Immature males do not have a sense of responsibility, therefore, commitments, promises, and integrity is maybe optional at best.
A man understands the power of his word. He understands what it means to live with integrity. He has a strong moral code that will not allow him to dishonor the people he commits to, as well as not dishonoring himself. A mature grown man does not say what he does not mean, and in the times he may falter, he takes responsibility for his own mistakes.
2. Boys get loud for attention, men command it
Immature males need to style and profile. They must show everybody how manly they are. They think that the only way to get attention is to become the shiny object. Their egos are huge, with out of balance competitiveness, and they have no problem bragging.
A grown man does not need to ring bells and whistles to get attention. There is no need for flexing, bosting, crowing, howling or roaring. A man gets attention by not looking for it. He gets attention, but doesn’t require it. He gets attention by staying on his mission. He draws people in just by being his authentic, principled, passion driven self. A mature man has substance, and does not need superficial noise, objects, or false wins to ern the love and respect of the community.
3. Boys have sex, men make love
Boys are out for themselves in every way. When it comes to sex, the immature male only seeks his own pleasure. When his penis talks, that’s all he hears. He seeks out sex as a way to validate his weak sense of manhood. The only thing he likes about his partner is what he can get. He likes what’s on the inside of a person so long as it’s his penis. Many immature men like sex for sex, and are not too concerned about his partner’s satisfaction.
A man understands sex. He understands who he is as a sexual person. He has taken the time to lean into his masculine sexuality. He understands how to control his penis. His penis is a part of him, not some separate ego driven fuck stick. He cares about his partner’s pleasure and takes time to make sure that things are comfortable and enjoyable.
A man seeks out true connections and not half baked purposeless skin slamming.
4. Boys compound their mistakes, men learn from them
Everybody makes mistakes. It happens to the best of us. Immature males, however, make nothing of their mistakes. Boys are impulsive, prideful, and careless, so they often dodge responsibility for their mistakes and continue to make more. They layer lie on top of lie, make excuse after excuse, and move on to the next temporary pleasure in their sights.
A grown, responsible mature man learns from his mistakes. He understands that mistakes are steppingstones to success. He understands that one never fails, You either win or learn. A man takes ownership of his mistakes and shortcomings, because he owns all of himself. A man is not afraid to be confronted with his own actions. He can look in the face of his faults, his dark side, his fucked up moods and any other trait and grow from it. Owning himself gives him control.
5. Boys use other people, men serve them
To a boy, people are utilities. Everybody is around for the purpose of serving him. He is impatient and impulsive, so other people are convenient tools. He does not consider the feelings or position of others. A boy will want attention for his problems, while disregarding others. He is only cool with you for what you can do for him. Money, sex, resources are reasons, but never the person themselves.
A man is here to serve and protect. He knows that as a man, he takes on the responsibility of overseer. He does not require much from others because he erns his own. He likes people for who they are and not what he can get from them. A mature man has a purpose bigger than himself, thus, he has no time to scheme against other people’s green grass. A real man provides value, not vacuum it.
6. Boys deceive, men are truthful
A boy is always looking for a way out. He is always looking for the next slick deal. He has no problem lying, deceiving, steeling or anything else to meet his needs. He feels that he does not owe anybody any respect. He not only lies to others, but he lies to himself. He has a tough time looking at himself. Accepting himself, and owning himself.
A real, developed, mature, grown man has no problem being totally honest. He understands that a man does not have to lie. He knows that life gives him what he wants when he lives it in good faith. He respects people enough to be straight with them. He knows that the only way people can understand each other is through honesty. He is also honest with himself. He can look at himself, be objective, and make appropriate changes. He has no need to deceive, steel, trick, or dodge anything because he lives his life in all its true dimensions. What boys steel, a man erns. What boys run from, men sprint towards.
Becoming a man.
Since none of us are perfect, we all have parts of ourselves that may still be boys. That’s OK. As honest men, we can face that truth, and work to develop that part. What parts of you are still boyish? What parts of you still need to mature?