“Don’t Grow Up, It’s a Trap” & Other Lies
“Don’t grow up, it’s a trap.”
That’s the way the picture of a street sign read in a whimsical Facebook post. I think most of us can identify with the desire to forego the roles of adulthood and return to the memories of endless summers without a care. Yet, the simultaneous reality produces a conflicted heart, because all at once I desire the simplicity that childhood affords while pursuing the freedom that can only be provided commensurate to maturity. In a very real way, I believe this statement is symptomatic of a deep seeded problem within our culture today.
Now more than ever we have a society, which produces and caters to people growing older without emphasizing nor demanding the necessity for maturing…and I believe this is most dangerous among boys. Droves of boys are getting older, progressing into their 20’s and 30’s, who are content and determined to remain as boys, failing to become men. Sadly, in the midst of all of this, the definition of what it is to be a man has been lost in the annals of time to bygone generations.
More than any other qualifying factors, manhood has become associated with income, indulgence, intimidation and sexual immorality. This should not come as a surprise as we have been fed Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for more than 65 years now through every level of our school system. If you have ever been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” then you have been subtly trained under this theory. Placing “Self Actualization” as the pinnacle of achievement for mankind, boys in their masculine failure are actualizing these dreadful symptoms in a feeble attempt toward manliness subject to the tutelage of Maslow.
So what can we do to combat this “Peter-Pan-Syndrome”, which views growing up as an evil to be avoided at all costs, instead of as an imperative? We must look to another archetype to establish a standard by which we can pattern ourselves. Who better to look to than Jesus himself to display for us what being a man is really all about? I believe that everything about Jesus’ life is exemplary toward this end and that careful observation of how he conducted himself reveals two broad categories identifying four major pillars, which sustain the qualifying factors of what determines true masculinity. While these principles may be widely applied to both men and women on a broad spectrum of development and maturity, I am going to take aim at what it takes to make the transformational steps from the childishness of a boy into manhood.
While virtually any text of Scripture containing the person and work of Jesus would easily suffice to display these principles, John 17:19 exhibits them for us in a unique way, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” Jesus states here, that his work has both the purpose and result of benefiting others. It is only because of Jesus that we have been awarded access to this sanctification. Equally true, it is only because of Jesus that we can actually experience the sanctifying result. Jesus is the embodiment of what true masculinity is by displaying clearly that the foundation, which a man is built upon, is comprised of responsibility and sacrifice.
These categorical principles of responsibility and sacrifice need to be broken down into four major pillars that uphold the entirety of what a man is. These pillars also give us a framework by which they can be properly and specifically applied.
These pillars as displayed by Jesus are:
1) RESPONSIBILITY FOR SELF
“I sanctify Myself” -Jesus
The first of these four pillars is that of taking responsibility for your self. A man, a real man, assumes responsibility for himself, at all times. His thoughts, emotions and actions are only his and he will not shirk responsibility for them. He does not view himself as being victimized either by the conduct of others, poor circumstances, or somehow the exploitation of God. A man always says, “My life, and responsibility for it, rests squarely upon my shoulders alone.”
2) RESPONSIBILITY FOR OTHERS
“And for their sakes…” -Jesus
Secondly, a man will not only assume responsibility for himself, he also willingly assumes responsibility for those around him, and going further actively seeks out that responsibility. The answer to the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is, without fail, a resounding “YES!” A man does not view those around him as a nuisance or an inconvenience regardless of the situation because he is responsible for them. A man always says, “Your vulnerabilities are my opportunities.”
3) SACRIFICE OF SELF
“I sanctify Myself” -Jesus
One of Jesus’ statements carries a duel meaning to round out the third bastion of manhood. A sacrificial mentality will characterize a man to a fault. A real man will view sacrifice as strength; or as meekness (power under control) and will not perceive sacrifice as a weakness. He extracts from Jesus’ command to take up his cross, that self-deprecation is an imperative and serving self is an idol to be left in ruin. Pride is his mortal enemy. A man always says, “If someone has to give up, it’s going to be me.”
4) SACRIFICE FOR OTHERS
“…that they also may be sanctified” -Jesus
Finally, the fourth mainstay takes sacrifice further than a religious obligation of piety. A man knows that sacrificing himself simply for the sake of sacrificing himself, takes one of the most exquisite exploits and reduces it to a meaningless platitude. His forfeit is for the benefit of someone else. He does not expect others to sacrifice before him, nor for him, because the choice to forego has already been deemed as his first and his alone. Humility is the wellspring that supplies this attitude of heart. A man always says, “I place you and your needs above me and mine. I’ll give up my rights for your benefit.”
When training our boys to become men we must be careful to allow them to experience what it is to take responsibility and what it is to make sacrifices. In an effort motivated by love, our tendency can be to insulate our kids from the pain and failures we have had to endure. The danger of this sequestering is that we end up crippling the chances of this child actually growing to maturity. We want to step in and save them from the repercussions of the responsibilities and sacrifices required for their growth…yet these consequences are vital and necessary. The natural ramification of failure uniquely produces some of the greatest leaps in maturity because there is no safety net, and falling hurts.
The human heart lies in a lackadaisical state of idolatry. This slothfulness capriciously drags us from those things that require our maturity. Yet Jesus runs into them, all the while beckoning us to follow after him, as this is the necessary cost in producing a man out of a boy.
“And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” -Jesus