Celebrating the transition from childhood to adulthood.
A rite of passage is a welcoming ceremony that bestows womanhood and manhood on young men and women who have come of age. It severs the bonds of childhood and releases young people into their future as responsible adults.
A few ancient cultures and civilizations in the course of history have performed rites of passage for their young men/women to signify a coming of-age. There seems to be an innate desire in us that makes us want to acknowledge a transition from childhood to adulthood. Hence, when a young man or woman enters their teen years, they instinctively seek for the means to affirm their manhood or womanhood. Some of the ancient cultures that held transitional events to usher their young generation into the wider world of their culture are the Spartans, the Maasai, the Akan of Ghana and the Jews.
The Spartan rite of passage prepared a young a young man for the thing mostvalued by the culture of Sparta: the warrior’s life.
The Maasai rite of passage equipped young men with all the skills and courage required to become a protector of his people. The nobility rites of the Ashanti in Ghana prepared girls for womanhood.
The Jewish bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, which literally means “son/daughter of the commandment”, prepares the young man or woman to be a full member of a Jewish family and congregation, accountable to both his family and to God.
When a young person becomes a teenager, they instinctively search for ways to affirm their manhood or womanhood. In societies where rites of passage are part and parcel of the norm, each young man or woman participates in a formal ceremony during which his manhood or womanhood is publicly and unequivocally affirmed. From that day onwards, he/she is treated differently by those around them and receives more freedom, rights, and privileges. In turn, the initiates begin to think and act more as adult than as a child. St Paul says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) Once, their manhood or womanhood has been affirmed by the society, they dedicate the rest of their lives to pursue maturity.
On the other hand, a young person living in a society that has no formal rites of passage must find their own way to adulthood. Without formal affirmation of their transformation, they vainly try to find adulthood on their own through a variety of means. Unfortunately, their search for adulthood instead of maturity may lead them down several side roads that are fruitless at best, destructive at worst.
Most societies in the west do not perform rites of passage for their children to usher them into adulthood with a sense of commission or blessing from their society or their families. As with other cultures, the rite of passage must be deliberate – something the child knows will happen at a certain time.
It should not be a surprise that it will happen, although elements of the ceremony itself may be kept secret until the proper time. In the absence of a transitional event to mark the move from childhood into womanhood or manhood, young people may spend many years trying to identify ways to confirm their own coming of age. Sadly, they often look for a random action rather than for an approved event to mark this change in status. Young people today are vainly using their first cigarette, drink, sexual encounter, theft, or some other mile marker as transitional events.
Regardless of whether a rite of passage includes tests of endurance, deeper spiritual insights, or personal deprivation, each produces a near-miraculous outcome. When the event is over, a girl or boy becomes a woman or man respectively, well prepared to assume new responsibilities and to walk boldly into their destiny. Sadly, our society has lost sight of what it takes to prepare young people to enter responsible adulthood. Our neglect of this time-tested, sacred cycle of maturity is the root cause of senseless and countless problems facing our society, our families, and individual teens
The rite of passage ends with a blessing. The blessing that acts as the climax of a rite of passage gives security and comfort to your son or daughter as they get ready for adulthood. You are their advocate. They have your support and all that goes with it. Many men and women lack confidence because they never had the support of their fathers. There is something special about the public acknowledgement of the father for son or daughter: “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:17).
This blessing you invoke on your son or daughter is like God’s public declaration of Jesus as His son. It is like Israel’s blessing on his sons, inviting each and giving a particular blessing that acknowledges each child’s adulthood and conveys your support.
A word of caution: as important and significant as a rite of passage is, a standalone ritual without investing time and energy to mentor your child will not yield the desired results. Therefore, we launched the one-2-one online mentoring service for teens to support parents in teaching lots of life skills to help get their teenagers ready for responsible adulthood.