“My father died when I was three years old. Sometimes I feel envious of boys who grew up with a father in their life. They seem to be a lot more confident than I am.”​—Alex. *

“My relationship with my father is minimal. I’ve had to learn on my own what it means to be a real man.”​—Jonathan.

CAN you relate to the statements of the young men quoted above? Do you fear, for one reason or another, that you’ll never learn what it means to be a real man? If so, don’t despair!

Consider how you can overcome two common challenges.

CHALLENGE 1: Popular misconceptions about manhood

What some people say:

  • Real men are tough; they don’t cry.
  • Real men don’t let anyone tell them what to do.
  • Men are better than women.

Another way to look at it: Manhood is the opposite of boyhood​—not the opposite of womanhood. You become a real man when you leave behind the traits of a child. The Christian apostle Paul wrote: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) In other words, the more you replace childish ways of thinking, speaking, and acting with  mature ways of thinking, speaking, and acting, the more you prove yourself to be a real man. *

Try this: On a sheet of paper, write down your answers to the following questions:

  1. In what areas have I already made progress in putting away “the traits of a babe”?
  2. In what areas can I improve?

Suggested reading: Luke 7:36-50. See how Jesus proved himself to be a real man by (1) standing up for what was right and (2) treating others​—including women—​with respect.

“I admire my friend, Ken. He is a strong man​—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—​but also a kind man. His example has taught me that a real man doesn’t put other people down just to raise himself up.”​—Jonathan.

CHALLENGE 2: Lack of a wholesome father figure

What some people say:

  • If your father isn’t in the picture, you’ll never really learn what it means to be a man.
  • If your father set a poor example, you’re doomed to repeat his mistakes.

Another way to look at it: Even if you’ve had a less-than-ideal childhood, you are not doomed to fail! You can rise above your circumstances. (2 Corinthians 10:4) You can choose to follow King David’s advice to his son Solomon: “Be strong and prove yourself to be a man.”​—1 Kings 2:2.

Admittedly, it can be difficult to grow up with an inattentive father​—or no father at all. “Not knowing your father is a huge  disadvantage in life,” says Alex, quoted at the outset. “I’m 25, but I feel as if I’m just now learning things that I should have learned in my early teens.” If you feel similar to the way Alex does, what can you do about it?

Try this: Find a mentor​—someone who sets a good example as a man. * Ask him which qualities he believes are especially important in a real man. Then ask him how you can develop those qualities in yourself.​—Proverbs 1:5.

Suggested reading: Proverbs chapters 1-9. Notice the fatherly advice that can help a boy to grow into a wise, spiritual man.

“I’m proud of the man I’m becoming. Although I wish my father had been a part of my progress, I’m optimistic about the future. I’m convinced that I am not doomed to fail.”​—Jonathan.

^ par. 3 Some names in this article have been changed.

^ par. 24 Elders in the Christian congregation can be good mentors.

WHY NOT ASK YOUR PARENTS?

What, do you think, defines a real man? How am I doing when it comes to maturity?