It’s safe to say that we have an identity crisis today. Spiritual peace and self confidence are not terms that I would use to describe most young people today.
Why is this?
We live in a time and in a culture that promotes the constant need for self discovery and self definition. While self discovery and self definition may sound like good things at the surface level, what they really mean is that we are being constantly encouraged to cut ourselves off from our family roots, from our cultural heritage, and from our religion. The rise of secularism and the destruction of the family are evidence of this. The culture today advocates that we cut ourselves off from our historical past.
Additionally, we live in an age of constant distraction from our electronic devices. People today spend a major portion of their lives living in a virtual world, which can be a major distraction to living in the present moment. The modern culture of materialism breeds a mentality of “I don’t have enough”, and the only solution to our hunger is more - more money, more power, more beauty, more Instagram or Facebook followers. It is impossible to live gratefully in the present moment if you are constantly distracted and continuously told that you need more.
Finally, many people today have given up hope. Hope is what sustains us; it’s what keeps us going when we think we have hit “empty.” It is the belief that the future is going to be better than the past. By and large, teenagers have a great fear of the future. When teens say things like “I don’t care” or “What’s the point?” they are really saying “I don’t believe the future is going to be all that great, so why should I even bother?”
To wrestle with your identity is to wrestle with questions like “Who am I?” and “What makes me, me?” Questions of identity are especially important as teens make the transition to adulthood, because for most of their youth they get their identities from their parents. For the first time in their lives, they have to make decisions about who they want to be.
When someone wrestles with their identity, it is not a trivial thing. It is a serious matter.
As a boy makes the transition to manhood, crucial to the transition is his masculine identity. Masculine identity has to do with the questions like “Am I a man? Or am I still a boy?” and “what makes me a man, or why am I still a boy?” Deep down, these are the questions that boys are asking themselves when they enter puberty.
How your son answers these questions internally will determine his actions externally. When he is missing or questioning his masculine identity, there is a conflict raging inside of him. It is the fight between the inner child, and the inner man. This internal conflict will lead him to create external conflict in his life, because our external lives are merely a reflection of our internal lives. A disordered spirit will create a disordered life. Simply take a look at the average teenager’s bedroom for evidence of what I am talking about. Someone with great confidence and internal order does not let their bedroom fall into disarray.
Central to the internal conflict going on inside most teenagers is self 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 is understandable; being a man is not always easy. Being a man means responsibility and sacrifice.
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. 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.
Not sure how to help your son make the leap from boyhood to manhood? Check out our new book Milestone to Manhood on Amazon here.