By: Warren Nunn
What is a rite of passage? Does it have any relevance in our society today?
A rite of passage is vital for helping introduce men into what it is to be a man, according to Richard Fay, CEO of Centre for Men and Families Australia.
His organisation helps men have “mature, honest relationships with other men, with their families, and in their communities”.
Richard told 96five’s Timothy Charles that boys in particular greatly benefit from being taken through the process of learning what it means to be a man.
He so benefited from taking part in a Rites of Passage course 10 years ago, that Richard eventually became a volunteer with Centre for Men and Families Australia … and then its CEO.
Centre for Men and Families leads retreats including the Men’s Rites of Passage, the Young Men’s Rites of Passage and other men’s mental health-based training events.
Rites of passage once celebrated
In times past, most communities celebrated rites of passage where boys were taken through various rituals that introduced them to their responsibilities as a man.
Richard said the aim was to help build a generation of mature men who provide “wisdom to their families, society and the next generation of males”.
Groups take part in wilderness-based retreats, education seminars, mentoring, counselling and spiritual direction.
Life is hard; it’s not going to be a walk in the park.
Absent fathers leave a wound
Young men were once taken from boyhood to manhood very quickly, Richard said, but teenagers nowadays lacked direction, particularly because of absent fathers.
“Society now breeds narcissism into teenagers,” Richard said. It’s all about the coolest clothes, latest video games and music. “That doesn’t prepare anyone for the real world,” he said. “Life is hard; it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”
Richard uses the terms “father wound” and “father hunger” to describe negative impacts that can be addressed through a rite of passage.
There’s an innate need for a father which so many people growing up today don’t have
Father “hunger” is from growing up without a dad. “There’s an innate need for a father which so many people growing up today don’t have,” he said.
Father “wounds” come from having a dad who may have been aggressive or dismissive. “He’s put the child down; or he’s made it about himself because he himself never knew initiation; he’s never known how to deal with his pain and so he will wound a child.”
Benefits of a rite of passage
Some of the benefits of a rites of passage course include:
- Young men come away from it taking responsibility for their lives.
- They have a deep sense of worth and purpose in their life.
- They know their limitations and respect their strength.
- Promises are integrated through experiential rituals. A ritual is a simple way of saying a sacred or profound truth in such a way that a man will never forget it.
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About the author: Warren Nunn has been a journalist for more than 45 years. For 27 years until 2013, he worked at Queensland’s main daily newspaper The Courier-Mail.