Searching to separate the men from the boys

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 7, 2004

Commentary by Hank Sanders

As I stood in the pulpit of Bell Missionary Baptist Church In Auburn, Alabama.

I decided to definitely speak on the subject, “Are we boys or are we men?” After preliminaries, I invited we males to examine ourselves to see whether we were men or boys. I invited the females to examine the men they had helped raise, shape and/or partner with to see whether they were boys or men.

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First, let me confess that I fall short as a man. Every man I know falls short in some way. But at least we strive to reach the manhood mantle. Because I fall short, I do not relinquish the right to ask men to become better men or boys to become men.

Some men are of tender years. Some boys have lived many years. Whatever the age, boys shun responsibility and men accept responsibility. This is true in the church and in relationships to women, children, families, the community, work and everything else. We cannot be men in the church and boys in the community. Conversely, we cannot be boys in the community and suddenly become men when we walk in church on Sunday morning. Are we boys or are we men?

Boys make babies. Men make families. Boys become daddies. Men become fathers. Some boys boast of manhood when they impregnate a girl. That’s a sure sign of being a boy.

A boy acts once, brags a lot and is through.

A man acts repeatedly to insure that lives brought into this world are provided for and cared for.

Men build up. Boys tear down. Men build families, churches, communities, organizations, buildings, and other entities. Boys, under the illusion that they are doing manly things, disrupt, tear up, and knock down that which men built up.

Men protect. Boys threaten. Men protect children, families and communities. At the least, boys fail to protect. At worse, boys create situations which endanger our children, our families and our communities. Are we boys or are we men?

Boys shun commitment. Men embrace commitment. Boys shun commitment in relationships with girls, women, families, communities, work and play. Men embrace commitment in these areas and more.

Men provide. Boys consume that which is provided. Men provide families, communities, stability to society, peace to churches, protection to the weak, and hope to all. Boys use, misuse, abuse and consume without providing the basic needs of societies. Then they assume they are real men because they undid what men had done.

Boys want everything now. They want everything without struggle. Men know that good things require investment of time, effort and other resources. Men understand that it is only through struggle that our God given talents are developed to the highest.

Men unify. Boys divide. Men unify families, churches, communities and organizations, because they know there is strength in unity. Boys divide and weaken because they think it shows their strength. Are we boys or are we men?

Boys have fantasies. Men have visions. Boys fantasize about things they would like to have, usually that which men have provided. Men visualize what they want, make plans and work to make their vision a reality.

Men lead. When they cannot lead, they follow. If they cannot lead or follow, they at least get out of the way. Boys cannot lead, will not follow and refuse to get out the way.

Boys make mess. Men clean up mess. When boys find a mess, they stir in it, making worse the smell and sight. Men remove the mess so others will not step in it.

Men lift up. Boys trample on. Men lift up children, the downtrodden, the oppressed. At best, boys ignore the same people. At worst, they trample on them.

Boys lift themselves in their own eyesight. Men lift their children, families, churches, and organizations in the sight of God and their communities.

Boys make fun of others. Men have fun with others. Boys play games on girls, women and others. Men play with their children, with their spouses, with their friends and with their associates.

Boys think they don’t need anybody’s help. They think they can do it all by themselves because they are men. Men know they always need the help of their families, friends and especially God. Are we boys or are we men?

There were explanations, examples and other matters shared on this occasion but this is all that the space allotted for Sketches will allow.

EPILOGUE – “What is a man?” is an age-old question. Many societies have rituals to help answer that question. We struggle mightily when we cannot answer this question. This is my small contribution to helping us answer this fundamental question. Please share your answers.