Recently, my nephew McLain became an Eagle Scout. His dad took this occasion to create a rite of passage, asking four men to speak into his life, including his grandfather. Each of the four used a letter from the acronym R.E.A.L. to outline what it means to be a man. It is a modified version of Robert Lewis’s definition of manhood. For more ideas about how to shape this kind of experience, see Lewis’s book, Raising of a Modern Day Knight. Below are my comments in absentia.
Well done Eagle Scout. This event marks a big step towards manhood. I know your Dad has shared with you the acronym REAL to help define what it means to be a man: Reject Passivity, Engage with God, Accept Responsibility, and Lead with Courage. For your Court of Honor, he invited me to speak a few words on the subject of “Accepting Responsibility.”
Regrettably, my own responsibility to a group of young boys kept me away, so I offer these few lines below.
Once upon a time, boys worked, fought,and became men beside men. On the farm, as apprentices, and even in battle, young men were called up to share responsibility and opportunity. However, for the past few generations, not so much. By-in-large, the same pressure to reap, produce, and fight has taken men from home apart from their sons. Even men who do not travel during the week often rise first and return home last. In this kind of pattern, men must become more intentional in the ways we engage you as sons and celebrate your progress. We must lay claim to these moments together.
Your Father and I have talked over the years about inviting each of you boys (your brothers and cousins) into manhood intentionally by marking important milestones. Your Court of Honor certainly qualifies as one of those moments, placing you at the very threshold of manhood. If you choose to accept it, every such honor comes with greater responsibility.
Accepting responsibility may seem dull at first. It sounds a bit like chores, homework, and rules. A young man like you on the edge of greater freedoms may not find much appeal here. However, accepting responsibility can be a doorway into a new world of deeper freedoms.
This kind of freedom grows out of the soil and toil of responsibility. To accept it, you must take up your spade, turn over that soil, and sow good seed.
An example of this needed effort can be seen in marriage. One day when you marry, you will turn away from the entire world of women and turn towards one. In so doing, a whole new world of treasured freedom can open up to you: to know and be known, to love and be loved. But good things do not grow out of marriage just because you say, “I do.” Like a garden, it requires care and investment to yield its potential fruit in due season.
Going the distance on your journey into manhood takes a lifetime commitment. Like any great pursuit, it means knowing where and how to step. So as you go, Reject, Accept, Engage, and Lead.
Sounds like another list that a prophet named Micah made thousands of years ago–a simple inventory of a man’s responsibilities: “Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly.”
Signal Mountain, 2013