“When all else fails, read the directions.”
– Bob Smith
If you’ve ever built anything, cooked anything or learned anything, no doubt you followed a series of steps to bring the desired outcome to fruition. If you’ve decided to live a life of consequence, and you’ve begun to discover your purpose, and you’re developing a hunger and thirst for wisdom, you must devote yourself to the process of becoming the man you were created to be.
The process weaves the strands together
Process versus program
Earlier in my career, I attended multiple quality management seminars. One lesson that stuck with me is the distinction between programs and processes. As the instructor explained it, programs are designed to come to an end, while well-managed processes can run indefinitely. Since I’m not selling snake oil, I’ll shoot you straight: becoming the man you were created to be is going to take commitment and resilience over a period of years. I’m a grown man with two grown sons and my process is ongoing, if that tells you anything.
What are you fishing for?
I’m a terrible fisherman. My one redeeming quality is whenever I go fishing with my friends, no matter how few fish they catch, compared to me they always feel successful.
On one such excursion in frustration, I was casting off the end of a dock when a boat pulled up. The captain asked if I had caught anything and I replied, “Not yet.” His next question was a revelation: “What are you fishing for?” He was not asking why I was bothering — he wanted to know what I was trying to catch. I replied that I was fishing for whatever would bite. This is horrible, because to fish successfully, you have to use the right bait at the right location, at the right depth . All of this follows from deciding what kind of fish you’re trying to catch. Application: If you’re devoted to the process, start by clarifying what sort of man you’re supposed to be.
Understand what masculinity is and what it’s for
When I took my sons through the process of masculine initiation, I began with a physical ordeal — a backpacking trek in some challenging terrain.
When we had made camp that first night, I began with a simple, yet profound question: Why did God make male and female? I’ve written previously about this topic, and you can read more here
. For now, though, reflect on these questions: As a man, what is your role? In your family? In your career? In your community? What does God say about that role? How closely do you resemble that template?
Initiation into manhood
Did you have a rite of passage — a date, a time and a place you could point to when you became a man? Most men did not and it’s a pity. To understand your process, you have to have the assurance — the blessing — that you are indeed a man, and that you are made to come through.
There are masculine organizations that have provided something akin to a rite of passage, but I’m unsure how individual men are supposed to satisfy the deepest questions of their existence through group rituals such as fraternity initiations, military induction ceremonies and training, Scouting and sports. In my view, this is a father’s main job, but as we know a lot of men are spending their formative years apart from their dads. I’m concerned that street gangs with their more flexible, more personal approach may be filling the gap.
A question for you mentors reading this: What role could you, your tribe or your church play in providing a rite of passage for younger men? One resource is All There
— a year-long mentoring course co-founded by Derek Bell and Bob Buford.
In Part II, we’ll talk about the components of a viable process.
So how about you? What is your process for becoming the man you’re intended to be? What have you found helpful? Add your comments below.