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10 Reasons Why Age Isn’t What Separates Men from Boys

  • Bill Delvaux Contributing Writer
  • 2020 20 Aug
10 Reasons Why Age Isn’t What Separates Men from Boys

What does it mean to be a man? And how does one become a man?

These questions are being asked in a thousand different ways in our turbulent culture. The absence of a masculine center is epidemic.

You can see it in the tragedies on the news and in the endless public discourse. As a spiritual director to men, I see it in the conversations I have with them. In terms of age, they would all be seen as men, but emotionally many are still stuck in places as boys. My work is to help them walk with God out of these stuck places into manhood. 

What are those stuck places? Here are 10 of them, none of them age-dependent. They are the very reasons age isn’t what separates men from boys. And, they are the very reasons why men are men.

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dad carrying two toddlers with one running ahead outdoors in nature

Reason #1: A Man Accepts Responsibility

Boys shift blame, shun responsibility, and come up with excuses. But a man owns his mistakes and his sins.

He takes responsibility for his own actions and refuses to point the finger at others. When confronted by those who love him, he listens instead of becoming defensive. He chooses to accept how others are experiencing him and learns from it.

Reason #2: A Man Takes on What Is Hard

Boys look for the easy way out in situations. They try to cut corners or choose what is lazy. But a man quits trying to find the short cut or the smooth path with least resistance. He accepts the reality that life is hard.

Anything that is worthwhile will require sacrifice and endurance. Instead of letting this hinder him or tempting him to capitulate, he will forge ahead into all the obstacles. He will even grow to relish in the challenge.

Reason #3: A Man Quits Demanding From Others

A boy is always demanding that someone else make his life work. It could be a friend, a parent, a mentor, or even a wife. When that demand is unanswered or unmet, he responds with anger or despair.

But a man quits demanding that from others because he has found his center elsewhere. He is learning to look to God and lean on Him. He is experiencing the truth that only God can make his life work. As a result, he is able to accept help and love from others without insisting that they always be there for him.

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man wearing graduation cap

Reason #4: A Man Is Detaching from Idols

Boys are inordinately attached to things that bring them a momentary comfort or a passing thrill. These are his addictions, his idols before which he grovels in submission. It could be alcohol, pornography, career, fame, people-pleasing, or any number of things.

But a man is walking through the purifying fire of detaching from his idols. He is learning to stand on his own two feet without these props, because of the sure and steady love of God. He is learning to attach his soul to Him and find his true strength. 

Reason #5: A Man Knows His Identity

A boy is unsure about who he is and is forever trying to be like someone else. He is constantly looking to success or performance to define him. As such, his identity always feels like a set of clothes he is trying on, not something deeply imbedded inside of him.

But a man is finding his identity in the way God feels about him. He is learning to see himself in the unique way God sees him and rests in that. For how God sees a man is truly who he is.

Reason #6: A Man Has Discovered His Quest

A boy will structure his life around what is expected of him by his family, his acquaintances, or his culture. Or he will chase after dreams that promise money, comfort, or public acclaim. Finally, he may have no clear sense of purpose, just floating along, pushed and pulled by whatever whims come to him.

But a man lives from a very different place. As he grows in intimacy with God, he has discovered the quest God has for him. There is an interior fire burning to accomplish that quest. He is on the move, with a sharp sense of purpose.

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two men studying the bible

Reason #7: A Man Walks with Brothers

A boy keeps hiding his interior life from others.

He is bound by shame, terrified of exposing his fears and flaws. He is fearful of what others will think if they should ever discover what he struggles with.

But a man is living in the open space of transparency and integrity.

He has nothing to hide from God or others. He is walking with other brothers who know his story, his heart, and his worst sins. The light of holiness and purity shines in and around them. 

Reason #8: A Man Has Found a Guide

Boys try to figure out life on their own. They think they can somehow make themselves into men by their own best efforts. They still believe in the lie of the self-made man. 

But a real man knows he needs mentors and seeks them out at every stage of life. More importantly, a man is finding that God the Father can be his truest guide. Here he opens himself to being a beloved son of God, soaking in His presence and listening for His voice.

Reason #9: A Man Is Submitting to the Larger Narrative

Boys construct a narrative for their lives by which they hope will guarantee some level of success, fame, power, or wealth. This self-made narrative blinds them to the needs of others because they are always using others as pawns in their own ambitions.

But a man has let go of narrow, constricting storylines. He is submitting to a higher story, a larger narrative. It is the story that God is telling, the redemption of the world and the in-breaking of God's kingdom through Jesus.

As he submits, he finds not only his place in the great story but also finds that God is using him in ways he could have never imagined.

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man pointing upward to God in praise outdoors with mountain in background

Reason #10: A Man Is Submitting to Death

Boys are forever avoiding and resisting death, the death of their best-laid plans, the death of their narcissistic selves, the death of their physical bodies.

But a man is willing to enter death again and again because he knows that he will only find more life. He is following in the steps of the Great Man, the pioneer of a new manhood, who walked straight into the jaws of death without sword or shield and rose again more alive than ever.

A man follows that Great Man, Jesus, into death and finds that he too is more alive than ever, not only here but also in the life that is coming.

So, where are you? What are your stuck places? Where do you need to move out of boyhood and into manhood?

It's okay to admit you are still a boy in some ways. It's not only okay. It's a necessary part of the journey. So how do you move forward? Here are a few suggestions to get you going:

1. Take your fears, your doubts, and your insecurities to God. Be honest with where you are.

2. Ask Him to take you into manhood. Be bold in your request and keep asking. Trust me, He will answer.

3. Find another man with whom to share your journey into manhood. Talk with him about your stuck places and how you want to move forward. He will appreciate the company, for he is on the journey as well.

4. Find good books to challenge you and orient you as a man. There are many good ones out there. Gather a small group of men to read and discuss.

5. Remember that Jesus loves you with an everlasting love. He took the journey Himself from boyhood to manhood. He understands the road you are on and is not ashamed to call you a brother (Heb. 2:11).

Wherever you are right now, you can take one step forward. God will meet you there in surprising ways.

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Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has been a church planter, a high school Bible teacher, and a running coach. Seven years ago, he pioneered Landmark Journey Ministries to help men find their guide, own their identity, and discover their quest through Christ. His latest book is Heroic: The Surprising Path to True Manhood. His greatest claim to fame is being married to Heidi for 34 years and having two amazing daughters. He and his wife currently reside in Franklin, TN. Bill can be reached at

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