Today many teen boys can be very confused about what manhood is all about. What does it mean to be a man? Is it an age you turn? Is it a club that you join? Are there achievements that determine your manhood?
One thing that we can confidently say is that teen boys bodies will change as they go through puberty. Physiologically, they will make the transition into physical manhood without effort – but is that all that manhood is all about?
When I look around society today, I see many examples of what I call the Peter Pan Man. Just like Peter Pan lived in Never Neverland (a land where you never have to grow up) we have boys who don’t really grow up. So often in our society the examples of manhood that are given to our young men are men that are proving their manhood through drinking, sexual conquest, aggression and pornography. Is there any question why there is so much confusion around manhood?
In my work with young men, I often ask them to stop and think about what attributes differentiate men from boys. Their answers tend to include the attributes of respect, self- control and responsibility. Personally, I don’t believe real men are disrespectful to women, the Peter Pan man might be, but not real men. I don’t believe real men express violence toward those they love. Boys may not know how to control their anger, but men should. I don’t believe real men will blame other people for their own poor choices. Instead, they will take responsibility for their actions.
There is a deep desire in boys to become real men and for this to happen we must continue to discuss the attributes of true manhood with the young men in our lives. We must take every opportunity to place right and real examples of men in front of the boys/young men around us. The Peter Pan examples that our society has to offer must not replace the important examples that fathers, brothers, clergy, teachers, grandfathers, coaches and other greats in our society have to offer. The hearts and minds of the young people in our world depend on this.