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A long time ago, there were clear rites of passage for a boy to become a man.

Today, we have no such rituals. Perhaps the closest common experience we have is graduating high school or college.

What does it take to graduate school?

Do your assignments.

Pass the tests.

Tolerate boredom.

It takes no feat of courage to graduate school. To the contrary, boys are trained to seek the approval of the teacher (usually a female). In negative terms: don’t be rejected and you will succeed. This is the opposite of courage. It’s the opposite of what real life requires of a man.

It is rare that a teacher will encourage boys to experiment… to try a new idea… an idea that could be wrong.

Instead, we’re trained to ask, “will this be on the test?”

If a boy passes enough of these tests, he supposedly becomes a man and is ceremoniously released into the “real world.”

But inwardly, he does not feel like a man. He lacks direction. The burden of performance is great. And he feels unable to cope.

Assuming he does not immediately give up, he is forced to initiate his own rite of passage. He must find his own “Hero’s Journey.”

Yet the inner boy is not prepared for this journey.

He soon discovers that there are no adequate role models of mature, successful men in his life.

It’s “every man for himself.”

In desperation, he attempts a move. He takes a stab at what he was perhaps created to do.

His first attempt is unsuccessful.

His efforts are met with hostility. He is ignored and belittled.

He failed the “test.” He got the “wrong” answer.

So what is he supposed to do?

The “correct” answer is given to him:

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Be grateful for what you have. Work hard and try to keep your job. It’s a tough economy out there. Remember that family comes first. And you better treat your woman well. You’re a lucky guy. Don’t blow it.

OK. Now he knows how to pass the test:

  1. Keep the boss happy
  2. Keep the parents happy
  3. Keep the wife happy

Oh, and what about God? Doesn’t he have the highest authority?

Well, turns out He wants the same things:

  1. “One who does not provide for his own is worse than a heathen”
  2. “Honor your father and mother”
  3. “Love your wife as Christ loved the church”

So the young man sets out to pass these tests.

Yet as time goes on, he finds himself losing energy. Perhaps he needs to do something for himself?

He goes back and attempts his rite of passage again. That difficult but important project that’s been buried in his heart for all these years.

But soon enough, his “selfish” pursuits interferes with his ability to pass “the test.”

His boss demands more time. His parents disapprove. He has less time to help his wife.

He faces resistance. Clearly this is not what God wanted him to do.

So he compromises.

It’s a balancing act. How can he keep all his key relationships afloat and still sneak in some time for his passion project?

In the end, he ends up being just another guy who “doesn’t have it together.”

He’s the bad employee. The bad manager. The bad husband. The bad father. The disappointing son. The weak Christian.

And, on top of that, he never became the king that his heart yearned to become.

So it is that the manipulated man never completes his journey into mature manhood.

The test was rigged from the start.