We are posing the question: How many crimes in America derive from one’s effort to “prove one’s manhood”? Yesterday we touched on the killer of 20 children and 8 adults (including himself and his mother) by the 20-year old at Sandy Hook Elementary School ten years ago. And raised the question regarding Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha last summer.

Malidoma Some, 1997, in Portland, OR. Wikimedia Commons.

Does this obsession to “prove one’s manhood” apply to many politicians as well? And many of the January 6 Insurrectionists as well? And those who planned and directed it behind closed doors beforehand? And have been cheerleaders for it ever since?

Why do men and their mentors lack a sense of healthy masculinity? Maybe it is because the healthy masculine is too seldom on display in a patriarchal culture and mindset—one that puts “being number one” ahead of being a complete human being.

Maybe also it is because our culture lacks effective rites of passage for young men and young women that are meaningful and effective. The late African spiritual teacher Malidoma Some used to say that without rites of passage, young men get stuck in anger and shame.

“Singing Spiritual Warrior” Drawing gifted to Matthew Fox.

It is a mark of our anthropocentric culture that we imagine a rite of passage derives from our accomplishments—graduating from school or getting a drivers license; or joining the army. But that is not so. A rite of passage derives from Nature’s accomplishments. Nature brings us to an age when, no thanks to us, we are capable of bringing a child into the world. Nature calls us to responsibility and community building.

That is why it requires authentic ritual that marries macrocosm (Father Sky) with microcosm (human). Such ceremonies may require, especially for the males, some severity. It must open the youth from “me” to “we.” If not, it fails us.

And lurking behind this failure there will often lie intense anger, hostility, and even grief on the part of the budding adult. The true entrance into the community has never been accomplished. Shame and not-belonging is compounded.

This failure to offer meaningful rites of passage falls on the shoulders of the adults. It is the adult’s responsibility, the elder’s responsibility, to offer meaningful rites of passage for the young.


Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors for Awakening the Sacred Masculine, pp. 309f.

To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Healthy masculinity modeled by a kind coach in Walukuba, Uganda. Photo by John Peltier via Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What is the role of rites of passage in your life personally? Is it something you were granted by elders? Or something you had to devise? What is your role as an adult leading youth into rites of passage?

Recommend Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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9 thoughts on “Proving One’s Manhood—Continued”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, You ask today: “What is the role of rites of passage in your life personally? Is it something you were granted by elders? Or something you had to devise? What is your role as an adult leading youth into rites of passage? In my new book, THE WISDOM OF SOLOMOM: ACCORDING TO… me I devote a whole chapter to rites of passage. In it their are rites for birth, rites for becoming a teenager, for marriage, for “croning” and “sage,” and finally for death. At the last church I worked at we did a rites of passage ceremony for our young people instead of confirmation where instead of just teaching them about Christianity, we taught them about Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, and worshipped with with the believers in their places of worship–we also studied and worshipped at Greek Orthodox Church. We did this in view of the importance of Deep Ecumenism.

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    You have written in various places that you do not like violent sports. I agree. We have had four youth killed in Canada playing rugby – Manny Castillo, Wesley Jerich, Rowan Stringer and Brodie McCarthy. Football has killed thousands and now there is very strong evidence it causes CTE. Doing these sports in our Catholic schools teach the opposite message from the one we need about reverence for life. We need to say “enough” to leading young people to CTE. I have been trying for nine years since one of our students was killed playing football, but there is so much resistance to change. We need a creative alternative because for many playing football is their rite of passage.

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    I am grateful for my earthly father’s model and teaching wherein compassion was and is the key—The Lakota Way is also the Way of Christ.

    #yellowhorsejourney —My own pilgrimage and vision quest.

  4. Avatar

    Matthew, thank you for reminding us of the values of the Sacred Masculine in our indigenous cultures and our contemplative/mystical spiritual traditions embodied by many elders, mystics and saints from our many past and present world spiritual cultures who continue to inspire us on our evolutionary human journeys….
    I plan to gift my two young adult sons, who fortunately are compassionate (more credit to their loving mother), with your book, “The Hidden Spirituality of Men”.

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