“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:
- In what areas have I already made progress in putting away “the traits of a babe”?
- 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?