Rights Of Passage (are you a man or still a boy?)
In the neighborhood on Long Island where I grew up
most people were either Catholic or Jewish.
So when I was in middle school I attended dozens of
Catholic Confirmations or Jewish Bar Mitzvahs.
These rituals are faint shadows of a time when little
boys performed “rights of passage” that brought them
Of course these rituals are very, very different than the
way rights of passage were performed by our ancestors.
One of the parts of the Confirmation ritual was where
the priest would offer a light slap on the cheek of the
boy being confirmed.
Although this was just a tap on the cheek it represented
something much deeper.
It represents something that society has long rejected.
The light slap on the face represents the pain that is
to be endured in order to move forward in maturity.
It means that growing stronger is painful.
But as a 12 year old kid, to me it was just a stupid thing
I had to do because my parents wanted me to.
Our ancestors and all primal cultures approached this
type of passage ritual very differently.
Often the rights of passage was something that you
Only when the men of the tribe recognized that a boy was
beginning to mature in his character, would the “throw”
him into the rights of passage ritual.
The older men would literally grab the boy from his
mother and whisk him away to be “made a man”.
The violent enactment represented the fact that the boy
could no longer be saved by his mother.
It was time for him to drop the attachment to childhood
comforts and become a contributor to the tribe in the way
he was needed.
If it were a warrior culture, he would be taught the ways
of the warrior.
If it were a hunting culture, he would be taught the ways
of the hunter.
Either way the process was traumatic, painful but
When the boy came back to the tribe, after weeks or
months of tests and trials….
…he was a man!
Of course we have long abandoned these rituals. And if
a ritual does exists, its just a light slap on the face.
Young men… we have to create our own rights of passage.
We have to purposefully subject ourselves to deep physical,
mental and emotional challenges… just like the ones the
fathers of our ancestors blessed them with.
No one is there to do this for us any longer.
We must do it for ourselves.
Otherwise life is going to jump on you and tear you to
shreds, and you’ll have no idea what happened.
No one warned me about the essential pains of life.
I was very confused and depressed between the ages of 21
and 23. I had no idea what to do with myself or even who
What makes me a man? I asked.
I eventually found challenge, pain and growth by working
Though strength training, I discovered my core.
When you go to the gym, is it a mere routine event like the
light slap in the face that my priest gave me on my way to
…or is your training a RITUAL, designed to challenge the very
core of your existence and force you to grow internally as well
Anyone can pump iron.
But only a man has become the iron.