When a boy turns the age of 13, he is starting to put his childhood behind him and is entering into a new chapter in his life. Becoming a man is a process that will take your son years.
But when is the actual moment that a boy becomes a man? Is it when he gets his first armpit hair? When he gets his driver’s license? When he gets married?
The purpose of a rite of passage is to give your son a moment that he can look back on and say “that was the moment that I became a man.” A rite of passage is an event or ritual that marks the end of one chapter in a person’s life, and the beginning of a new chapter. In the context of a coming of age creamy, a rite of passage is a starting point for his journey as a man.
Fathers have the unique responsibility to affirm their son’s identity as a man. When a boy’s father affirms his son masculine identity, then the boy does not have to question when his manhood began. Although a rite of passage can look different from one family to the next, the benefits are universal: it fosters a sense of belonging to the family or community, and it clearly indicate to the young person their new status as an adult.
Here are 10 reasons why it is important to hold a rite of passage for your son.
#10 – It is important to hold a rite of passage because modern society lacks a meaningful rite of passage.
Historically, examples of rites of passage include the Jewish Bar-Mitzvah, the Walkabout in Australian Aboriginal society, the Seijin Shiki ceremony in Japan, and the bullet ant ritual for boys from the Sateré-Mawé tribe in the Brazilian Amazon. Each rite of passage is uniquely designed to help young men make the leap from boyhood to manhood in a culturally meaningful way. Some coming-of-age ceremonies are intellectual in nature, like reading the Torah and giving a reflection, and others are physical challenges, like living alone in the wilderness for months at a time.
To the detriment of our sons, society today does not offer a similar coming-of-age event. The closest thing that we have to a rite of passage in American culture is a “sweet sixteen,” which typically involves a DJ and a pool party. The sweet sixteen does not attempt to pass down family values or instill a sense of responsibility in the boy. It is all party and no actual challenge. Ultimately, this is a huge disservice to him, because it does not fully prepare him for the real world. A sweet sixteen may be a fun party, but it is not a rite of passage.
It is important to hold a rite of passage for your son because society at large is not going to help him make the leap from boyhood to manhood.
#9 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because it accelerates the process of maturing.
Today we hear about men in 20’s and 30’s still living with mom and dad, not doing much with their lives. They may or may not have a job, they still play video games, and they are afraid to ask women out on dates and pursue meaningful relationships.
Is this a stereotype? Yes. We are painting with broad strokes here. But there is also some truth in the stereotype. More grown men over the age of 18 live with their mom and dad now than ever before in US history. It’s a fact that men today are less manly they ever before. We can prove it empirically. On average, testosterone levels are decreasing among men, and men are getting married at an older age than their dads or grandfathers.
A rite of passage is designed to instill self-confidence in your son. When he hears all of the important men in his life tell him “you are a man now”, it builds him up. Your son will know that other men respect him and therefore, he should respect himself too.
A rite of passage helps him to contemplate meaningful topics, not just what’s the next thing that might satisfy him. The rituals that make up the weekend trip are meant to facilitate discussions about deeper things in life. A rite of passage is not just hunting trip or a fishing trip (as cool as that might be). A rite of passage is an opportunity to use your words and communicate healthy manhood to your son.
#8 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because your son will try to “prove his manhood” if you do not.
Central to the internal conflict going on inside most teenagers is doubt. Their childhood is ending, and deep down, they are not sure if they have what it takes to be a man. This self-doubt, coupled with the fact that they are entering this new world of adulthood with nearly zero real-world experience, inevitably leads teenagers to making some bad choices.
Teenagers will engage in irrational behavior in a desperate attempt to “prove themselves” as adults. This could take the form of the sexual conquest of women (guys say things like “she made a man out of me”). It could be violence, which is essentially an attempt to try to prove “who is the bigger man” and confuses manhood with machismo. It could be video games, where a player can slay a dragon or kill a terrorist, playing into the warrior/ protector aspects of the male ego. Or it could be extreme stunts; diving off of 100 foot cliffs or driving 80 MPH in a 25 zone (I’ve seen this one personally with my own two eyes). When teenagers engage in reckless behavior, they are trying to prove that they “have what it takes” and show that they are “in control.”
If a young man’s new status is not acknowledged by his family - especially the other men of his family - he will look for acknowledgement elsewhere. He will try to prove himself by engaging in risky behavior to gain respect from his peers.
That is why it is crucial for a father to step in at the moment of a boy’s transition to manhood to affirm his masculine identity, so he does feel the need to “prove himself” to his peers. When a father has already affirmed a boy’s identity, the issue is settled. He will know, deep in his soul, his status as a man. This will bring greater peace to his life.
#7 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because he may reject masculine identity completely.
Twenty years ago, when the Rite of Passage tradition was started in our family, the primary motivation was to affirm our son’s manhood so they did not feel the need to “prove themselves” as a man. We thought that if their father, grandfather, and uncles told them “you are a man now”, then the boys would not have to test themselves with things like reckless stunts.
Today, because of gender confusion ideology, affirming your sons’ masculine identity is more important than ever. There is a real, organized effort to get your son to reject his masculine identity completely.
Gender confusion ideology is the idea that an individual has the ability to pick his or her own gender, and that one’s gender is not necessarily the same as his or her biological sex. But when a father affirms his son’s identity and says “I consider you to be a man now”, you are not only affirming him as an adult. You are also affirming him as a man. You are affirming the masculine part of his masculine identity.
Holding a rite of passage is more important today now than ever because it is a way to counteract the effects of the gender confusion agenda.
#6 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because it’s a good retreat for all the participants, not only the young man.
Every time we held a rite of passage for a 13 year old boy in our family, every man was glad that he attended. The rite of passage weekend is not just good for the boy, but for the grown men too.
The “What It Means to Be a Man Discussion” is very beneficial for all of the men in attendance. In fact, the grown men get more out of the conversation than the boy does, because they are older and wiser. A lot of the advice given to the boy during the weekend goes over his head, but the men tend to soak it in better because they have experience and can relate to the advice that is being given.
The rite of passage weekend will strengthen family bonds – you will be closer with all of the men in your family after the weekend.
# 5 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because it will help your son improve his relationship with his dad.
Many fathers believe that they have little, or no, control over their sons. They falsely believe that their son’s peer group and the internet has a bigger influence on his son than he does, and therefore he lets his son just “figure it out” on his own.
WRONG. That is a terrible mentality to have as a dad.
Every boy craves a deep, meaningful connection with his father. Contrary to what you might believe, your relationship to your son means a lot to him. Your son would rather be “cool” in the eyes of his father than he would in the eyes of some other twelve year old kid that he goes to school with.
Fathers play a unique role in developing the men of the future because dad is a boy's primary male role model. Dad is the first and most important example of what it means to be a man. How can a father show his son how to be a good man? By being one himself. As dads, our example is 90% of parenting. We have to model healthy behavior over the 18 years that our sons are living in the house with us.
But the last 10% of parenting is using our words. Every now and then dads need to have meaningful discussions with their sons, and a rite of passage is the perfect venue for those discussions.
Is a rite of passage a magic bullet? No, of course not. Your son’s teenage years might still be rocky, like most teens. There is going to be a natural tension between father and son as he starts the process of becoming a man. But when your son is an older and more mature man, he will be grateful for what you did. A rite of passage is a long term investment in your relationship with your son.
# 4 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because it teaches the young man to respect women.
A good way litmus test to determine if someone is a boy or a man is to see how he treats women. Boys view women as objects of pleasure. There are many adult males (I wouldn’t even call them men) who do not act like men but act like boys instead. Take Harvey Weinstein for example. That is not the behavior of a man. That is the behavior of a very immature, wounded boy.
In our society, many men look at women as sex objects to be used for their own pleasure. Men who disrespect women reveal just how weak and insecure they are about themselves. A real man respects women at all times and also knows how important it is to protect his own dignity. This includes not looking at pornography. We can, and should, expect that type of behavior out of a thirteen-year-old.
How a real man treats women should be something that you should talk with your son about during his rite of passage, because a key element of manhood is how we relate to women. Of course it shouldn’t be the only thing that you talk to your son about, but it is one important topic to reinforce.
#3 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because it lets your son know that he is a part of a tribe of men.
Holding a rite of passage is important because it will solidify relationships within the family or “tribe”. Your son will know that he is a part of a band of brothers, a group of men who have each other’s back. These are men who your son can go to in the future to get their advice or seek their counsel. These are men who have your son’s best interest at heart, love him unconditionally, and are willing to talk to him about anything. Your son will know who to turn to when life gets rough (and it will!) or when he has questions.
Your son is going to get better advice from grown, seasoned men than he is going to get from his peers, who are just as inexperienced as he is. This is exactly what happened to me when I was in college and was doubting my faith. I was afraid to tell my parents that I did not believe in God anymore, because I did not want to disappoint them. But I knew that I had important questions and could not go it alone. Ultimately, I remembered back to my rite of passage weekend and how all of the men said “if you ever have questions, please come to us. We love you unconditionally and we have your best interest at heart. You can talk to us about anything.” Those words gave me the confidence to go back to my parents and my grandparents and seek their advice. Of course I went to Google and YouTube and my peers as well, but I didn’t shut out my family. I had male mentors to counter-balance everything else that I was hearing.
# 2 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because it gives your son a specific point that he can look back on to identify as the exact moment that he became a man.
Men need a moment that we can look back on and say, “that was the moment that I became a man.” It is a starting point on our journeys as men. That’s what we see in Bar-Mitzvah, the Walkabout, and the Bullet Ant ritual. These are all moments that boys become men in other cultures.
Is he going to be a good man at 13? No, he is not. He has zero real world experience. He’s still a teenager. It is pretty much guaranteed that he is going to fall on his face and make mistakes. But by holding a rite of passage for your son, you are giving him a starting point, something that he can grow into.
Becoming a man is a moment. Becoming a good man is a process.
#1 - It is important to hold a rite of passage because it fosters a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
A boy’s understanding of God undoubtedly changes as he entered manhood. As children, we get our religious identity from our parents and experience our relationship with God through them. Your parents are the ones who literally drive you to church. But having maturity of faith means having an independent, personal relationship with Jesus. When your son is a grown man, living out of your house, he is going to have to take himself to church. Mom and dad won’t be there to do it for him.
Boys should not get their identity from sports teams, political parties, or social clubs. They deserve to know that they are beloved sons of an unconditionally loving Father. They will not get this instruction in public school, and it takes more than going to church once a week to instill faith in our kids.
If they do not have an authentic encounter with the Lord, they would try to fill the God-sized hole in their hearts with something else. As Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” The best thing that you can do as a Christian father is to show him how to build a life with Christ at its foundation, and the rite of passage is a perfect opportunity to do just that.
Jesus, after all, is the ultimate example of what it means to be a man. Jesus was self-sacrificing. He was not given to temptation. He had an active relationship with God the Father, and He had a close relationship with His mother. He was loving, humble, and cared for the poor. The goal for all Christian men should be to become more like Christ.
What are some ways that the rite of passage incorporates God? We read from Scripture during entrance ceremony, specifically the passage of Moses encountering God in form of burning bush. There is a Scripture sharing exercise which is intentionally set up to encourage a discussion about what faith means to each of the men. Then there is the final blessing; each man lays his hand on your son and blesses him as he officially enters into manhood.
Do you have a son about to turn thirteen? Are you looking to do something memorable for his birthday, to mark his entrance into manhood in a special way?