Well, spring is springing, and with it comes the perennial desire by young people to achieve (or at least appear to have achieved) greater maturity. Over by the high school we experience more loud music from passing cars, young couples wrapping themselves around one another in raging hormone-flooded embraces (yep, every spring even here at the church, having to chase them off when we catch them), sneaking a smoke or a vape, etc.
Many girls tend to wear tighter clothes and show more skin in order to attract attention of the young lads, apparently mistaking overt sexuality for maturity. Boys tend to simply get loud, whether it be with loud vulgar language, loud music, racing engines with mufflers removed, or whatever — the human modern equivalent, apparently, of beating the chest or pawing the ground in testosterone-fueled attempts to be perceived as more independent, rebellious, dominant and mature than the peers. It takes a few more years for them to figure out that actual grown and mature men don’t normally do such things, and are slow to realize that greater noise is pointless—like Shakespeare’s phrase: “…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Kindness and consideration are of infinitely greater value, and certainly demonstrate a greater maturity.
Ah, well … probably most of us guys did such chest-pounding as well when young—sort of an unspoken rite of passage. After all, dominance and violence were the aboriginal existence of males—winning and defending the right to the most desirable female(s), combatting threats to protect her and offspring, and hunting down chow to provide for the family group. You’re not going to be rid of millennia of evolution by simply urging: “Now … be nice!”
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if societally-forced suppression of such natural instincts in males during school years contributes to things like shootings, sort of like sealing off a relief valve to a pressure cooker. That’s why it’s probably best to encourage young lads especially to sports or some type of strenuous manual labor—so that they can relieve some of that natural aggression which accompanies puberty. I’m no psychologist, but it seems logical.
Now, one of the catchphrases of the recent past—especially after shootings, which are very often done by young males—is “toxic” masculinity. There is, perhaps, some minor merit in that observation; testosterone increases aggression, energy and desire to dominate, as is quite evident throughout the animal world among males—fighting even to the death at times. But, short of genital mutilation of every male from the womb, that testosterone will continue to influence male behavior. So, ladies: I’m afraid you’re stuck with us and our behaviors (not to mention our laundry strewn about). But males don’t have a monopoly in toxicity; there’s some pretty toxic femininity out there as well (trust me—I hear confessions!). But it’s really not masculinity OR femininity itself at fault, but rather the levels of maturity, charity and respect for persons held by each individual.
The trick becomes steering youthful strength and energy towards doing the good rather than to the destructive. There are innumerable positive outlets for this. We witnessed such in the Houston flooding of a year or so ago: per news images, the vast majority of those in the boats and doing the physical heavy lifting and saving were almost invariably male, no doubt simply because of physiology.
But young men (OR women) need not wait until some natural disaster to assert the positives of their strength and energy; helping an elderly neighbor with various chores, which have become impossible for them, or assisting charities, or working with Habitat for Humanity to build houses are just a few. These may not seem as glamorous or as noticeable or as immediately entertaining as many of the things the young tend to do, but it’s definitely more appreciated, and useful. And they might just learn a few life skills as well. After all, it’s good not to be like the young lads in the insurance commercial—not knowing how to do a simple everyday thing like changing a tire.
Service to others has always been among the most admired of professions. We think of how young children dream of being the firefighter, the police officer, the soldier … risking life and limb for the good and protection of others. And, of course, as mentioned recently in these columns, all legitimate employment contributes to the building up of society and to the common good in some way: shopkeepers provide for material needs, scientists make discoveries for the advancement of humanity, engineers use those discoveries to build cities and civilizations, and even the sanitation maintenance worker’s efforts ensure health and cleanliness.
The model of service is, of course, Jesus … for as He attested: “…the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) It is by service to others that we can demonstrate care and respect for our fellow man, and fulfill Jesus’ commandment to love one another.
So, young lads and ladies: realize that anyone can push down a gas pedal or twist a throttle; being annoying is not impressive, it’s just being annoying. If you really want to impress, seek to do good in all circumstances and be considerate of those around you, regardless of peer pressure to do otherwise; that’s what really demonstrates maturity and moral strength and courage. And be wise in your choices, avoiding the destructive and seeking the things which build up. You will be off to college and careers or simply advancing to the next level of schooling very soon; know that our prayers and best wishes for your future go with you.