I know in our society, manhood is esteemed somewhat on par with slughood or renal infection, but that is only serving to snowball the problem, and I want to offer an alternative picture. Being a man is something that popular media seem to equate with an uncontrollable sex drive, killing stuff, and a general oblivion to all things outside of myself. Our culture has defined manhood in a way that’s not just unhealthy, but also actively corrosive both to men and to society as a whole. In short, we’d be a lot better off if our boys had a better way to figure out what it means to be men.
One of the best possible methods that I’ve ever observed functioning toward that end is mentoring: Someone who knows what it takes and has experienced the transformation, consistently walking through life with someone who hasn’t. In a workshop last summer at CIY, Mark Moore outlined these 10 characteristics to mentor boys in becoming men that contrast with the picture painted on the big screen (and small screen).
Honor vs. Selfishness – This means doing what is right because that is who you are, not because it’s the easiest option. It is radical obedience to a standard that places value on others, not just on me.
Respect vs. Self-Centered Myopia – This echoes Honor is placing a high value on others. Boys see what affects them and their own little world. Men see and consider the effect their actions will have on those around them and are able to make a deeper impact on the world because they do.
Gratitude vs. Entitlement – Boys are concerned with getting what they can. Men live lives filled with an attitude that is thankful regardless of circumstance.
Generosity vs. Greed – A boy will hold on to everything he gets. A man freely gives everything he has in terms of time, talent, money…
Discipline vs. Unreliability – Part of being a man is disciplining yourself to carry through when someone’s counting on you. Prioritize your life in able to consistently be where you’re needed when you need to be there.
Priorities vs. Mediocrity & Frivolity – How many boys do you know who are great at things that don’t matter but who barely scrape by when it comes to more important aspects of life? Being a man means learning to understand what is really important and working to excel there – even at the expense of your golf game (or Halo addiction).
Humility vs. Arrogance – We need to teach our boys to view themselves through the lens of God’s grace, not some crap philosophy that artificially inflates their self-esteem to a point that blinds them to their need of that grace.
Honesty vs. Deceit – Our culture is a lying, deceitful culture. From relationships to tests at school to national scandals about SATs, boys seem to think that if it’ll get them what they want, then butchering the truth is no big deal. We need to mentor them to honest integrity that holds up the truth even when it’s more difficult to handle the consequences.
Purity vs. Swayability – A man has learned what is right and good and will not easily be dissuaded from that path. A boy may be easily distracted by the shiny and new (or scantily clad).
Wisdom vs. Foolishness – This is an overall quality that a man possesses helping him know what to do to act and live in agreement with the nature and character of God. It’s knowing and doing what’s right vs. doing what will often make the situation worse.
What are you doing to help boys know what it means to be a man? What if you chose a few teens in your family or church and mentored them over the course of the next year in these 10 characteristics? Model the traits and walk through life with a couple guys who need your help. Paint a better picture for the next generation of men.
(Just a quick disclaimer – the list of characteristics came from Moore, but the descriptions are my own embellishments and aren’t meant to be technical definitions of those traits. Don’t hold them against him.)