Last week I brought up the importance of men and women complimenting each other with their sexual differences by living according to authentic masculinity and femininity. So I was pleased to come across this column at the Catholic Exchange’s TOB Channel on what one man is doing to teach his sons how to grow to be “Godly, Loving Men.” He calls it the “Manhood Project.”:
The fact is – a boy is not mentally capable of making judgments like a man. I’ve been told that the brain is not fully developed until around 20 years old. So expecting manly behavior from a boy is a recipe for disaster. I repeatedly emphasize to my boys that it takes 10 years to become a man because it is such a big deal. Nevertheless, my acknowledgement that we had launched his manhood naturally motivated him to join the project…
By making it a joint project, I established myself as the trustworthy guide for this new adventure. I had a license to work with him on any number of subjects all pointing toward the stated goal, “Becoming a Godly, Loving, Man”. Every month or so we talk about any subject that presents itself: hygiene, body changes, responsibility, and interaction with girls. All of these talks, while useful in themselves, are laying the foundation for an ongoing discussion about his sexuality.
The Manhood Project gives my son permission to start modeling manly responsibilities without the added pressure of manly judgments. It enables him to approach me with questions. He knows with certainty that everything he asks will be answered honestly and to his benefit. He has a trusted advisor who has walked this road before.
This approach has elicited powerful results. It has opened an avenue to start talking about human sexuality. We talk about men’s responsibilities, his issues with purity and the beautiful growth caused by our interaction with women. The teenage years are challenging, but they need not be onerous. In our thoughts, actions and particularly our words, we have to remain positive. These years are a gift from God to both my son and I.
This is exactly what our boys and young men need – not just lessons on how to be a men, but how to be good and loving men, the kind of men that God created them to become, not the kind the world and their fallen state would have them settle as. In a more recent article for CE, Fr. Thomas Loya explains the “gift” of masculinity, how it has fallen as a result of Original Sin and how men learn manliness:
The “gift” of masculinity is its fundamental “externality,” its ability to point to the transcendence, the “out-thereness” of God. The masculine energy acts upon the environment, solves problems, accomplishes a task, defends, protects, oversees, resists, tears down, builds up, penetrates, and explores. All of this is stamped in the “language” of the masculine body, in its fundamental “phallic” energy. The fallen side of the gift of masculinity will manifests itself in control, domination, violence, and the propensity to use and abuse the environment, especially that part of the environment known as “woman.”…
Manhood by its nature is something that is “bestowed” on a man from outside. Manhood does not come “automatically ” to males. Authentic manhood is the message that a boy should get from his father and the male world around him that he “has what it takes,” that he can be “one of the men.” Men drawn masculine energy from other men. This is what is behind the “male bonding” need of men. But in its fallen side the male bonding can be an excuse for irresponsibility and laziness, of not tending to the woman and the needs of family and home. Gangs are one of the extreme manifestations of the fallen side of the need within men to have their masculinity “bestowed” on them by other men.
Men learn manliness from other men, especially from their fathers who are their very first models of masculinity. That is why today’s broken home/single mother society has such a devastating effect on healthy male development. This may not necessarily true in all situations, but as more and more families break apart and children are born out of wedlock our young men are growing up with less consistent, let alone positive, examples of manliness in their lives.
Fathers, do your sons a favor, be attentive to them and school them in the art of manliness and the gift of masculinity as it is meant to be lived. Catholic Exchange columnist Matthew Burriss offers some excellent advice in his columns The Box and the Masculinity of Christ, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
I would also advise single mothers to look for a man who can be a positive and consistent male presence for your sons who have absentee fathers. This could be anyone from a grandfather to an uncle or even a trusted family friend as long as he can maintain a steady and active presence in your sons lives, especially as they grow into manhood.
(I’ve got to start working on these earlier – I barely finished this one while it was still Tuesday!)