Rite of Passage: When does a boy become a man?

“A world away, in the Australian Outback, boys become men in a waterless place. The “walkabout” is a well-known Aboriginal rite of passage in which indigenous male Australians undergo a journey, typically between ages ten to sixteen. Living in the wilderness for a period as long as six months is part of a spiritual and traditional transition into adulthood. These walkabouts are a boy’s first steps into maturity, independence, and identity. Enlightenment and spiritual awakening are essential elements of these solemn rituals. Ironically, Western Civilization, in spite of its many advances, struggles to find a dynamic equivalent. The West struggles to measure the transition of boy to adult using an incoherent patchwork of markers such as getting a driver’s license, graduating from high school, loss of virginity, or getting married. Yet, none of these provides our boys a fraction of what the ancient walkabout delivers to its sons. Boys stuck in childhood, caught in this limbo, are at great risk.

What happens to boys who don’t have a firm marker for their manhood? In short, disaster! “There is a strong belief that much of the risk-taking behavior displayed by teenage boys is, in fact, their attempts at self-initiation. Fast cars, binge drinking, fighting in the street and drug usage are just a few examples of ways that boys try to prove their manliness. Unfortunately, the result can be disastrous and have long-term consequences. Simply put, a man cannot lead a healthy and fulfilling life if he is still functioning at the level of boy psychology and his community will suffer, as he will not provide a positive contribution.”[1]

Dr. Ame Rubinstein compiles two lists differentiating the what he calls “Boy Psychology” from “Healthy Man Psychology.”[i]

  • BOY Psychology
  • I seek acknowledgement
  • I want it all for me
  • Power is for my benefit
  • I am the center of the universe
  • I believe I am immortal
  • I take no responsibility for my actions
  • I want a mother
  • Healthy MEN Psychology
  • I seek that which I believe in
  • I share with my community
  • Power is for the good of all
  • I am just part of the universe
  • I know I am mortal
  • I take full responsibility for my actions
  • I want a relationship with a woman

The set-backs for the uninitiated male and eventually for his family and community are clear. Cultures have preserved manhood and societal health through challenging journeys like the Aborigines’ venture into the outback for generations. These events have supplied an essential vehicle for young men to prepare themselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically for adulthood and community membership. The difference between boys and men is one of heart and thought, and these challenging sojourns to the face danger from without and fear from within hold play a vital role in a male’s identity formation. The mystery of what it means to be a man is decoded and transferred during the days and weeks of passage. Males flounder through adulthood without them.”

NOTE: This post taken from The Manabouts Manual: A Mentor’s Guide for Leading a Boy’s Rite of Passage into Manhood.

[i] www.Schooloflostborders.org “Modern Day rites of Passage for Boys/Men – the ultimate form of preventative medicine by Dr. Ame Rubinstein 20 April 2007]