What does it take to become a man?

I think this is an important question as I’m thinking how our (American) culture is experiencing greater extensions of extended adolescence. Things that people in their 30’s do today, people did in their 20’s a generation ago. And things that people in their 20’s do today, people did in their teens. These are things which include marriage, working, play, relational stability, etc..

The topic of becoming a man is one that is close to my heart because I’m one who is often remarked for my great spiritual maturity yet people are puzzled with my bouts of immaturity. I remember thinking to myself often, “Man, how do I get myself to grow up? I wish I was more mature.”

This article is the summation of those reflections, and actually trying those things out.

I’m writing because I think that our generation is suffering from the absence of strong men. When I say strong men, I’m not meaning this American-constructed idea of manliness which the church has often adopted, where I’m big, climb mountains, have a beard, inconsiderate, independent, loud, like football, brash, rude, base…you get the picture. I’m concerned with issues in our character because I think that that is a greater measure of manly maturation.

I’m also writing because I see this also as dating advice for men. I think that women are looking for men to marry and date, not boys.

If you are a young man in your teens, 20’s, 30’s, looking for a rite of passage to manhood, or looking for ways to “grow up”, here are some ideas that have worked for me in helping me mature into the person I am today. I’m definitely not the “perfect man” but I hope these will help you in your journey.

Here we go, 5 ways to grow up to manhood:

1. Having a strong vision for your life

I have heard that it was said that at the end of your life, the success of your life is not dependent on how many things you master, but it is what you choose to have master you. It’s what your gripped by which determines the course of your life. That, my fellow dudes, is what you call having vision for your life.

It is having a vision for who you are as a person, and realizing what God made you to do on earth in the 30 seconds also known as life which makes a man grow up.

If you lack vision for your life, you need what I call “a midlife crisis” right now. You need to imagine yourself dead and gone today, standing before the throne of God, giving an account for your life, and explaining to God what you strove after and are currently striving after. If you can, with every drop of blood within you, tell God that you are doing today what God made you to do, then you sir, have vision. But if you are unable do that, you are most likely suffering from lack of vision.

You see there’s something that happens to men when they have vision. It’s called having priorities.

When you have vision for your life, truly unimportant things in your life will begin to fall by the wayside. The first evidence of this in my life after I began developing vision for my life was that I completely stopped playing video games. It was fun, entertaining, enticing, blah, blah, blah, but I realized that couldn’t stand myself at the end of my life realizing I wasted so much time, money, and energy on something that has no bearing for the significance of my life and the benefit of others. It was also the same time I stopped caring so much about professional sports and fantasy basketball. As a matter of fact, I don’t even own a television.

What do you do that’s unimportant and meaningless? I assure you that you will have a much different attitude about those things when you realize how precious your life is and the amazing things that God has called you to do.

You’ll never be bored when you have vision; you’ll only have fire.

Did I mention that being driven is a very attractive quality for a being a boyfriend or husband? Women need to know you’re going somewhere because they want to know that you’ll take them somewhere significant at the end of their life as well.

First step for manliness–get vision.

2. Taking responsibilities for your actions

If I could teach younger Phil one phrase that would have helped him in his maturation process earlier, I would have taught him what I’m about to teach you:

“I take responsibility for that.”

Go ahead, try it out. Say it a few times. Actually, get really used to saying it because that will be one of the most helpful things that you will ever learn how to say as a man.

Learning to take responsibility of my actions was very important for me to grow up.

Learning that my contributions to problems, ways I make mistakes, admitting those mistakes to necessary parties, and reflecting on what to do differently will make a world of a difference.

So here’s my recommendation:

If you’re late for an event, take responsibility for it.
If you’re delinquent on your payments, take responsibility for it.
If you’re pissing people off, take responsibility for it.
If you’re in the wrong, don’t roll your eyes, don’t complain, don’t run away, don’t make excuses, take responsibility for it.

Being faithful with little will yield to being faithful with much. And part of being faithful is recognizing ways we haven’t been faithful. It teaches us that our actions have consequences. And by being a person who recognizes and values the consequences of our actions, we become trustworthy people, both in God’s eyes and in people’s eyes.

Second step for manliness–taking responsibilities for your actions.

3. Not Being a Lone Ranger 

One of the biggest misconceptions about what it means to be a man is this idea of being a lone-ranger. My two thoughts?

Unbiblical and unhealthy.

Being a man is about having relational maturity. It is about learning to love, like, and get along with people different (and similar) than you are. A healthy man is one who is surrounded with healthy relationships which act as a fortress for his being. We were made for deep relationships, both with other men, and healthy platonic (read: non-sexual) friendships with women.

Some thoughts on cultivating deep relationships:

It means having the courage to initiate conflict resolution and having the wisdom to communicate clearly and generously. It means having the adventuring spirit to know another person deeply. It means having the humility to not compete against others.

I think what’s modeled as what men do are: pridefulness, conflict-avoidant nature, passive-aggressiveness, rudeness, and loneliness.

I think what Jesus (as the best model of manliness in the universe) emulated was humility, reconciliation, gracious confrontations (except when fighting evil!), and living in community.

Third step for manliness–be in community and have deep relationships.

4. Embracing the Brokenness of Your Being

One of the biggest things I’ve faced as a man is facing my inadequacies. There’s a reason why men don’t open up easily–whether we know it or not, we are desperately sensitive and defensive about the frailty of our being. 

We make that up by being funny, by being sarcastic, by going to the gym and hiding our insecurities, by watching pornography, by shutting down and stone-facing difficult times, by putting down others, and a plethora of other ways we build a wall around us to keep people from looking in on the inside of us.

Speaking from personal experience, seeing the last few months have been excruciatingly difficult coming to grips with my addictive behaviors, there’s something so demoralizing about looking at the mirror of your soul and wondering if anyone will accept you for the weak, wicked, and broken person that you are.

And that’s where Christ meets us.

We are met in the brokenness of our being, our vices, our imperfections, our weaknesses, and when we come to the place where we encounter God and receive his massive grace for our frailty, it will set our hearts free from needing to flaunt our strength.

You will stand up naked as you really are (not as clothed as you desire to be) and feel like the freest man on earth because you realize that it is not our strength which gives us value, but it is God’s strength which gives us value. 

It is not how great we are which makes us men, it is how great God’s love for us which makes us men.

And we as men, as strong as we are, will become even stronger men when we embrace how weak we are. And God will get the glory for it.

5. By Letting God be Your Heavenly Dad

In John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, he proposes that many men don’t feel like men because they’ve never received the affirmation from their own dads about what it meant to be a man. I find his observations to be true, especially from my own life.

Like many, I’ve had my fair share of experiences of an absentee father who had his own brokenness he didn’t know how to deal with. I know people with great dads, and worse dads, but one thing I know for sure–all dads fail to do what Daddy God does.

Part of my personal testimony has been the story that God has adopted me as his son and he is my heavenly father in every sense of the word. In ways my earthly dad failed to teach me about life, about how to treat women, how to be a person of character, how to be a person of purpose, how to fish, how to love people, my heavenly Father taught me faithfully and wisely.

When I tell people “I am God’s son,” I dead-seriously mean it. And for me to come with that revelation is very healing in my journey towards adulthood.

It’s when you lie down on your bed, gaze heavenward and hear your heavenly Father whisper to you how great you are, how precious you are in His sight, how he created you with purpose and delight, how you’re not a failure, and how he loves you unconditionally and infinitely more than you can imagine–that, my fellow dudes, is when you become a man.

As I’ve said before, it’s not how great we are that makes us men, it’s how great we are loved. And that is all done when we let God be the dad we’ve always been looking for.

Those are the ways that I’ve learned, in my journey towards manhood, which have helped me grow and mature as a man.

I hope and pray that they will be life to you.

Peace out, fellow dudes.