In many cultures special ceremonies are conducted which initiate a boy into manhood. Such events mark the point of departure from one stage of development to the next. It is a commencement juncture or line of demarcation whereby a youth is inducted into what it means to be a man. This might include being taken into the woods at night and exposed to darkness, danger, and doleful sounds. In other cases the youth may have to prove his mettle by killing some ferocious animal.
In isolated cases in the west some fathers do their own thing in terms of inducting their sons into manhood. Some ceremonies might involve the giving of a ring or the bestowal of some other durable item. Among the Jews the ceremony of Bar Mitzvah initiates the boy into manhood as a son of the law.
Whatever activity is conducted by the particular culture ensures that the child does not slide into a quasi-adulthood but properly matriculates into the most important period of his life.
Of the many human rights that are often tooted this one is certainly the most neglected – the right of passage into manhood.
In the Caribbean and the wider west no recognisable event marks the transition from boyhood to manhood. Some people might do their own thing but usually a boy drifts into the age of manhood often times possessing the body of a man without the corresponding maturity.
As a consequence there are many men-boys among us who are emotionally and mentally immature. They are grown physically but are low in terms of their intellectual an emotional quotient. This explains in part the reason why we have so many sexual and violent crimes as well as inanities and perversion in the mutations we often call music.
A man-boy lacks a sense of identity and has no meaning or purpose in life. He has low self-esteem and can hardly hold down a job. This pattern continues to proliferate as the society spirals downward.
There is, therefore, the need for a point of transition or right of passage for every boy approaching manhood. Such a ceremony can make the world of a difference in the attitude of our youth towards themselves and towards other people. It gives them a sense of their true worth, not only as males, but as men and enables them to take their place in the ranks of the movers and shakers.
Boldness, courage, a sense of direction, and meaning are qualities that emerge in the youngster who has gone through such an event. He is able to face life with his head held high, his shoulders thrown back, his eyes sparkling, and his steps confident.
“I am now a man,” he says, with certainty booming in his voice. For he is a man with chest and not a chicken. He can take whatever life wants to throw at him or has in store for him.
But such an event takes preparation. A boy does not transition into manhood overnight without some effort on his part or on the part of significant others in his life. There should be a period of proper mentoring, most of all from his father or some mature man in his life.
In the absence of a father, as in the case with most Caribbean men, the mother should connect her son with a dependable man to mentor or disciple her son. The mother of Michael Phelps, the great American Olympic swimming champion, did just that. And look at the results! It takes a real man to reproduce a man.
I would recommend to parents who catch a vision of this right of passage that they sit down and work out a plan in preparation for their son’s transition into manhood. Ideally, thoughts of providing proper preparation of your boys for their right of passage into manhood should begin in the womb.
Begin to dream of the kind of man that you want your son to be; not simply in terms of a career, but particularly with respect to his character and manhood. In the case where a father is absent the mother can identify an uncle, relative, a trustworthy friend or member of the community who can assist her. This is where a godfather can come in.
I want to humbly suggest that the child be taught the kind of person that Jesus Christ was as a child and also as a man. He had all the outstanding attributes of the ideal man, for that he was and so much more. He is the best model that a boy can follow into manhood.
We are told in Scripture that Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man.(Luke2:52). Apart from being the Son of Jesus and therefore divine he also possessed amazing qualities as a man which can be emulated. In fact, he met some men by the seaside in Galilee and called them to follow him in doing some tough stuff that only real men could do – fishing for other men to become part of his Kingdom-purpose.
Here are some examples of his amazing qualities:
He grew mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially, Luke 2:52
He made God’s business his business, Luke 2:49
He had an agenda for his life, Luke 4:18; 9:18-22
He attracted men to himself as a leader, Matt. 4:17-19; John 1; Luke 9:23
He led by serving others, Mark 10:45
He had a sense of his own identity, John 13:1-5
He sacrificed himself for others, John 10:15
This right of passage should not be limited only to boys who have arrived at adolescence or puberty. There are also many grown men who would benefit greatly from such a ceremony. I have heard of a young man whose father conducted a right of passage event for him and gave him a horse to commemorate the occasion and perpetuate its memory.
On sharing his experience with a friend the latter began to cry as he said, “I wish my dad had done the same for me. Can your dad help me?” The youth’s father was more than willing to comply. The ceremony was conducted and the young man was given a sword to commemorate his official graduation into manhood.
Many men in our Caribbean culture never had a good relationship with their fathers let alone being officially launched into manhood. As a consequence, there is a gaping hole in their personalities and a sense of not having matured or arrived as man.
I would suggest to such persons that you find an older man that you respect and admire and ask him to mentor you and then induct you into the state of manhood. It will mark a signification transition in your life and awaken positive vibes within you. Then you can do the same for your own son.
I am working on a plan to have a right of passage program for some young men. It will be a pilot program which I hope to expand on as time passes on. God expects us as fathers and responsible men to pass on the baton of manhood to the next generation. It is the greatest thing we can do for our sons and for our society.
As we pass on the baton to them they will then run the race of noble manhood and subsequently pass on what they have received to the generation following. As a consequence, we will be preparing leaders for our society.