The never ending question of male teens everywhere: What does it mean to be a man? Granted they usually phrase it in the format of: Why won’t my parents treat me as an adult? Nevertheless the answer is the same. As a married 23 year old man who is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army I hope to enlighten the young men of today’s generation what you need to know in order to be a man.
First things first, it is imperative in the order of things that you gain the respect of your elders. How can you expect to be on the same level of the adults around you without first gaining their respect? Of course you will subconsciously think that you are already on par with the adults to the left and the right of you, but what really matters is what they think and not what you think. Until they respect you as an individual you can not expect to be on the same level as that much more experienced person. Is that necessarily fair? No it is not but its the way society has worked for a long time, and like any hard current you are just going to be swept along with it, good luck changing it.
Secondly, you need to gain the respect of your peers. I will tell you the same thing that I tell any new soldier: Be confident do not be cocky. Know you are the best but do not say you are the best. Show others by your actions and knowledge that the authority you carry is well founded in experience and wisdom not in an over inflated sense of pride. Be a follower before you are a leader, but in being a follower do not add the poor judgements of those over you into your pocketbook of experience. Take the good things and emulate them by becoming a better leader and therefore a better man. By being humble you will gain the respect of your peers and easily gain the respect of your elders. Take pride in being the “go to guy,” gain self-esteem and with that your public speaking will be enhanced. Know that those you teach want to know what you know and eventually they will be saying words that are very similar to your own.
No matter your age whether it is 13 or 18 immaturity is never a desired trait, it breeds disrespect. If you do not think about what comes out of your mouth before you say it how can you ever desire to amount to anything? I see a lot of immaturity in the Army and that is from people that are usually a lot older than 18. It most likely means that they never had some one to form them when they where younger and that the older they got it turned into habit, and with habit it became part of them. Eventually they did not recognize it as immaturity but instead as a mannerism and a part of their character. If your conscience is well-tuned you will be able to recognize immaturity at a fairly early age. If you say something and then suddenly feel embarrassed by what your loud mouth emitted it was probably immature. On a side note… everyone says stupid things from time to time no matter your age. Perfect example of an older person who says things when he should not would be Joe Biden. Even the White House is embarrassed by him.
Be a thinker and a philosophizer before you start running for Student Council and eventually public office. In today’s society it is hard to be considered wise either by your elders or your peers. Prove to them by your actions and your thoughts that you are more than just a pimple faced immature teenager. Although it helps, facial hair is not the only thing that makes you into a man, and needless to say neither is your legal age. It is where your heart and mind are that place you in the endless category of the great men throughout history.
Make a difference!
One small step here and one little word there is how you make a difference. Be the man that God created you to be and not the one that society tells you to be. You can be as Frankie S. puts it “Young at Heart” and still be the best. In making a difference you need to live your life on the basis of a creed. How can you be a man well founded in principles without having a set of ideals and beliefs that you follow to the letter?
Do not grow up faster than you can manage. Be taught, listen, and reteach what you know in a way that is both influential and instructive. Listen to your parents no matter how much it pains you, learn from them by understanding why it is that they tell you what to do. Once you know why and understand it, you will grow rapidly into the man that both them and the good Lord intended for you to be. They will respect you and along with their respect and the knowledge that you are armed with, your peers will respect you as well.