A former student of mine who took my dance classes when she was attending the high school where I taught back in 2002 – 2004 asked me via Facebook: “After a series of events that have occurred around or in my life lately, and a conversation with a friend just now, I pose the question: What defines a MAN? At what stage in life can one call himself a MAN!?”
I didn’t start calling myself a man until I was 32. I defined it as the time when I was finally completely self sufficient. And to the point many people make about working/being adult/etc not being sufficient to define a man, and to the point others will make about how a person lives his life each day: When I say “self sufficient,” that isn’t just about money. The decisions you make and the reasons you make them need (for me) to come from a place of consideration and purpose, not impulse and impatience. So even though I was working and paying my own way before I was 32, too many of my choices were made from a place of desperation (that I often created myself). There is (for me) a quieter place from which manhood projects itself, and it has a very different tone and texture than the brazen rowdiness of boyhood. It doesn’t mean men have to be stern, reserved, aloof, boring and inflexible, but that men (as opposed to boys of whatever age) understand why they make their choices and accept the results and/or consequences.
There is also a forward thinking quality to manhood that demands an individual consider not only himself and his current situation, but how today’s choices affect the future and those around himself. I don’t know who said it (perhaps Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin?), but I agree that “happiness is putting off the impulses of today for the rewards of tomorrow” (or something very similar to that phraseology). Age has little to do with it. Some adolescents are already men, and some adults are forever boys (regardless of how much money they make). For me then, manhood is not about age, money, or fatherhood/sexual prowess, but discernment, maturity, and responsibility.