Three Taverns Church

How To Separate The Boys From The Men


“The Twelve-Step program gives us a second chance to grow up; many of us missed the first time around with regard to our emotional lives.”
J. Keith Miller, A Hunger For Healing

I’ve always thought of myself as a boy, and emotionally I often behave like one. When I compare myself to other men it is as if they are in a class above me. I often defer to other men because I still think like a kid. I am only recently starting to see myself as a man and to think like a man, and it is like looking at the world through a new pair of glasses.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am learning that the difference between a boy and a man has nothing to do with age, knowledge, or physical size or strength. For example, there are boys around the world who are smarter than me and know more about certain subjects than I do. There are high school students (heck, junior high students!) who are bigger and stronger than me. And sadly there are many men older than me who behave as childishly as me.

So what does it mean to be a man if it doesn’t mean being bigger, stronger, smarter, or older? I think it must be maturity; maturity is what separates men from boys. And maturity, I think, is simply learned and applied wisdom. When a teenager makes the decision to do homework instead of play video games, we say he made a ‘wise choice’. On the other hand, if he goes out drinking with friends on a Friday night and gets into trouble, we call him foolish and immature. Though I am in my mid-thirties, I behave like a foolish boy more often than not. That is why I am so thankful that the Twelve-Step program is giving me a second chance to mature, to ‘grow up’, by teaching me to learn and apply the wisdom of the Twelve Steps.

And what is the wisdom of the Twelve Steps? I’m glad you asked:

  • I am not in charge and I am not in control; God is
  • Only God can truly solve my problems
  • I must give God control of my will and my life every day
  • I must face my sins of omission and commission every day, and I must confess these sins to God, to myself and to another person on a regular basis
  • I must adopt an attitude of humility in order to allow God to heal me
  • When I harm someone I need to make immediate and appropriate amends
  • I must pray daily for the knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry that out
  • I should help others come to know God in these same ways

If a boy of ten or twelve somehow knew and employed these ways of living, wouldn’t we call him a “fine young man”? I would venture to say that such a boy would be appropriately considered more of a man than many ‘men’ I know.

4 thoughts on “How To Separate The Boys From The Men

  1. Ephesians 4:11-14 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

    As I think about what you said about being a man and not a boy I was reminded of this passage and I think it reemphasizes what you were saying about biblical manhood.

    But we also have a lot to learn from children as well, for instance Matthew 18:1-4 “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

    From that passage Jesus is saying to the disciple unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. So which is it Jesus? Manhood or boyhood? I think in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians talks about growing up into manhood while Jesus is saying we still neede to learn to be humble LIKE children (not be children or childish) before the cares of the world get to them.

    Anyways love the blog! God bless you in your ways!

    • Hi narrowpath, thanks for reading and for your compliment!

      With regard to your question and scripture, there is an element of true humily present in small children and in ‘true men’ as defined by my post. There is a ‘boyhood’ or ‘adolescent’ stage we all go through, and some of us stay in our entire lives. The key to successful living, I think, is to re-emerge from that adolescent way of thinking back to the humility of knowing that we are not God and are not in control.

  2. I hear you, Brother. For a long time, I’ve felt so immature and childish, that I’ve never matured and stepped up to be the man God has called me to be. This was especially present in my marriage, where I did not step up to be spiritual leader of my household. My wife did, and I resented her and myself for it. So then I would retaliate by being selfish or manipulative when I did get the chance to lead. Now I’m seeing that behavior for what it truly was, and I regret not making wiser choices all the way back into high school and college, decisions that formed the person I became. My wife saw it for what it was all along, but of course I never listened to her because I didn’t want to admit she was right (’cause then I might be guilted into changing!). I pray she will forgive me for my childishness and how it pained her.

    • Yeah, the more sobriety i get, the further back I can see in my life with regard to dumb decisions and lifestyle choices I made. I just hope I can keep from repeating those mistakes now.

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