Becoming a Man: Part 1
I have two pictures that I find instructive: one is a picture from my first year in college; the other is a picture of my grandfather at about the same age. Mine was taken at an 80’s throwback party; I’m wearing a teal leisure suit with an ostentatious dress shirt. My grandfather’s was taken in China around 1945 during what I assume was Operation Beleaguer, the US occupation of China after the surrender of Japan in World War 2. He’s in uniform.
Now, I’m neither ashamed of my time in college nor of my attendance at that 80’s party. I was a pretty good student, and a fairly moral young man – but my grandfather and I had pretty different mentalities at the same age. Why? In large part, because the response needed from my grandfather was high, costly, and obvious. Not so from me. What great things did I need to respond to? Homework? Chores? Negative peer pressure? My grandfather was worried about the Third Reich and Imperial Japan. We had different concerns, and so responded differently.
When people say, “He’s a responsible young man,” they might mean, “He’s a good steward of his belongings.” Or, “He’s a man of his word.” But responsibility is more than that. Consider the composition of the word itself: “responsible” is “response + able”: able to make the right response in a given circumstance; to be able to do the right thing.
Many say that young men are growing less responsible. This is not a good trend. We need young people – especially young men – that know what the good of a situation is, and who rise to do it, regardless of the personal cost. I work full time as a missionary to high school and college students. We teach our men that one of the primary marks of masculine character ought to be responsibility. This is critical for a healthy family, community or society.
If young men today are less responsible, it might be because less is asked of them. There’s not currently a world war, but our nation, our society, is facing some major threats: dissolution of marriage, loss of fatherhood, secularization, technological uncertainty – and no one really knows how these things will turn out, but good men able to respond will be part of what is needed.
That means we need to help boys become responsible men, and grandpa can help! In part two, we will look at how!
James Munk is a full time youth worker for Kairos who lives in Lansing, Michigan.
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