Why Young Men Need Initiation
Life is hard. We enter the world screaming, live 80 years and then spend our last years in some nursing home. To live is to cope with a series of losses that are an inevitable part of living. As we transition, we need to see clearly that part of ourselves that we are losing. We need to learn how to say goodbye and to honor it.
But in a comfort-addicted world, many of us need to be taught how to cope with loss. We need training in humility. This is what initiation experiences are for. An initiation is an introduction to loss and powerlessness.
This is especially important for young men. As a young man, it’s normal to see yourself acquiring power and being granted responsibility. But failure is inevitable and we need to learn how to process it as well. We need to learn our limits as well as our potentialities.
Almost every ancient culture understood that boys especially needed help if they were ever to become warriors capable of protecting and leading the tribe into an uncertain future. They needed to be initiated.
4 changes produced by initiation
Initiation introduces young people to pain to help them begin to move from the self-focus of adolescence to the responsibility of adulthood. Because women go through the discomfort and pain of their monthly cycle, pregnancy, and childbirth, they are naturally initiated. In contrast, young men, need help in learning to put the needs of others first.
So, what specific changes can we expect when our young people are initiated? I see four:
My needs Needs of others
Independence/low trust Community/high trust
My cultural fishbowl Kingdom world view
As adults, these uninitiated people sail through life with a huge gap in their past. It’s natural without the help of others for young people to become self-referential comfort seekers. Their world view stays narrow and they don’t really learn how to live a life of faith and risk in a culture that places a premium on safety. Instead of building the kingdom, their focus becomes building their 401K.