Category Archives: About Men

The Need for Good Men

I hope we can all agree that the world could use a few more good men. Lord knows, we have enough bad ones. We need good, mature men; men who have been tried and passed through to mature masculinity by elder males in society. Men who know what a man is capable of, both the good and the bad, and who choose to seek out the good in them for the good of society. I believe this is how we can move society forward and halt some of the ills that we continue to fight against. I believe this for two reasons:

Mature men can serve as the solution, not the problem, in many of the areas that still plague women and society.
Which is better, helping someone overcome a problem or causing someone to not be a problem anymore to others? Of course, both are good outcomes, but the latter can slowly eliminate the problem, whereas the former is just a bandage we place on it. I think about sexual assault prevention and women’s pay equality, among other things. These are both areas where good work is being done, but so often, what I see and hear is how to keep something from happening to you – “here’s how to make sure you’re paid what you’re worth, here are safety tips for you and friends”. That just put a lot of pressure on one person to make sure something doesn’t happen to them; it is them, focusing on something, in general, that is outside their locus of control.

Can you imagine a society where those seminars or discussions, while still valuable, are not necessary? Where would that change come from? Men are the ones, primarily, who are sexually assaulting women; so, let’s stop that behavior by introducing them to mature masculinity. Men are the ones in work roles who devalue women and their contributions; what if they truly saw women as their equals and treated them as such? I had a colleague once say that if women ruled the world, none of the problems today would exist. Now, we may not be able to turn the world completely on its head like that, but it does show that these problems stem from men who have not yet achieved full, mature masculinity. This is what “Navigating the Wild” is all about, helping men achieve that full, mature masculinity.

Mature men can develop other mature men.

Obviously, just a few mature men won’t make a huge impact, but one of the callings of the mature man is to raise up other mature men to stand alongside him. This is where the change gets really exciting. The Bible instructs that “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I use a honing steel to sharpen my kitchen knives, and I know that the quality of the honing steel will ultimately affect the edge I get on my blades. When we have mature men raising up other to stand alongside them, we are sharpening the iron of these men with the best possible iron. They will be ready to stand up and fight against the ills, problems, issues caused by their immature male counterparts. And, they will understand where these almost-men are coming from, because they were once there themselves.

In our society, we have lost the art of initiation and welcoming to mature masculinity. Part of that is due to many different views on what it truly means to be a man. My hope is that men will be empowered to step up and guide others forward, teaching them and initiating them (however that may be) into full, mature masculinity.

To men leaving their boyish ways behind, building each other into maturity, and focusing on eradicating the ills they have been perpetuating,


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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in About Men


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Boy to Men: The Gap

In my study of what it means to be a man, something keeps arising that has been bothering me. There’s no real distinction of when a boy becomes a man. An informal poll of my friends and students yields that either (1) they do not know (or have not hit that crossing moment) or (2) they became a man mostly when they struck out on their own, independent of their family, paying bills themselves, working jobs, the like.

But, when I look back to what makes a man, what I’ve discovered at least, this striking out on their own does not do justice as a rite of passage. As I’ll explain in the coming weeks (as I delve deeper into this subject), the rite of passage occurs with the guidance of older, respected males at the helm, teaching and guiding the way. It culminates, typically, with a challenge, at which point the adolescent male (that time between boyhood and manhood) returns to his mentors victorious, and is brought into their fold as a man. Probably the best example I can give is that from 300:

Prior to this scene, you see the boy being raised as a fighter, taught everything he needs to know, before thrust into the wild for his final quest as a boy. When he kills the wolf and returns home with it, it signifies his crossing into manhood.

Know that I’m not advocating that we throw our boys into the wild with a loincloth and a spear. But, at present, in the US, there is not much in the way of rites of passage. Because of this, we run the risk of having adult males like Marcel, described by authors Stephen James and David Thomas. Marcel was a successful plastic surgeon, but his marriage was dying, his work bored him, and he was close to depression. But, more so, he was unmanly…boyish, unhardened by life, wide-eyed and exuberant. This innocence came from his loss of his father before fully being initiated into manhood. To hear Marcel say it “I guess I never learned what it means to be a man. My dad died when a boy needs a dad the most.” (pp. 273-274)

Richard Rohr points out (cited in James and Thomas’s book) that “only our Western culture has ‘deemed it unnecessary to “initiate” young men. Otherwise, culture after culture felt that if the young man were not introduced to “the mysteries,” he would not know what to do with his pain and would almost always abuse his power'” (p. 276). This is so true. Continuing from James and Thomas, “without initiation, boys become disillusioned, dissatisfied, and disenchanted. They have nothing greater than themselves to be a part of – they lack a moral and¬†spiritual¬†identity – and they have no greater story to guide them. … Without initiation, boys are groping for direction, but without meaning or purpose. Ultimately, an uninitiated boy lives isolated and disconnected from himself, from others, and from the world” (p. 277).

Our boys need an initiation. They need a rite of passage that they can claim as their passage into manhood. If adult men that care about them (especially their fathers) do not provide this, they will seek it somewhere else. Many times, in my work with fraternities, the hazing that goes on inside a chapter is referred to as a rite of passage. These college males never were initiated into manhood, do not have the three pillars of manhood (responsibility, respect, and reverence), and so, they place themselves at the will of adolescent males 2-3 years their senior, who have no more knowledge of what it means to be a man than they do. Other boys will turn to gangs, and still others will never be initiated into manhood, and will become like Marcel above.

My challenge is for men, real men, to step up, and look for opportunities to help the boys in our midst have that rite of passage. You cannot replace their father, but if he is present, you can encourage and help him to offer an initiation into manhood for his son (at the proper time). If he is not, you can work with other men who are invested in that boy’s life to offer a model of masculinity and an initiation into manhood.

To helping our boys chart a path into manhood, to proper rites of passage, and to refinding the “lost boys”,



James, S., & Thomas, D. (2009). Wild things: The art of nurturing boys. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in About Men


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