Let's look what the Apostle Paul said:
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 childish ways behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:11, NASB)Note the progression: (1) A child acting like a child, (2) becoming a man, and then (3) putting away childish things. Step 3 does not come before Step 2.
We like to say, "Act your age." Why do we do this? Because we have subconsciously regarded biological age as the determining factor of someone's development. You don't expect someone who indeed a boy to act like a man. Likewise, you don't expect someone who is indeed a man to act like a boy. Life is indeed a series of initiations for men. They are not initiations from boyhood to manhood, but initiations from one social set of expectations to another. Some rites are indeed optional, like marriage or having children.
The cultures of the past understood this. They may have said, "You don't become a man until you do (xyz)" but their actions pointed towards a different, far deeper reality. Think about the Bar Mitzvah. People don't have the ceremony for 26-year-old men with jobs, houses, spouses, and children. They don't say to these men, "Ok, now you're a man." No, the Bar Mitzvah happens at a very young age. While the Bar Mitzvah may not be a initiation in manhood, per se, the Talmud is clear that boys become men around the time of puberty.
So, we need to remind teenagers of a sobering reality. They are no longer boys and girls. They are men and women. They are at an age of life when their focus should be on taking on the responsibilities of adulthood. What I am saying is shocking to a culture that clings tightly to extended adolescence, the banalities of youth culture, and the choice of older people to refuse to act their age ("60 is the new 40" or whatever). And yet, what I am saying has support from other conservatives.
Teenagers need to realize that just because they are adults, they do not get the privileges of adulthood until they earn them by acting responsibly. I didn't get to use a car for myself until I learned to drive. I didn't get to come and go as I pleased from my home until I moved out, got a real job and payed my own rent at age 24. The expectation was there that I needed to move towards these things. If I stalled anywhere along the way, I got dressed down.
Teenagers are not ready for sex until they are ready for marriage. If they are ready at age 18 like their great-grandparents, more power to them. If they have to wait till their forties to get ready for marriage, so be it. Marriage and sex are the a privileges of adulthood, not the things that make you an adult.
Someone will retort that a 16-year-old "boy" [sic] is not as mature as a 26-year-old man. True, but a 26-year-old man is usually not as mature as a 46-year-old man. Just because a male teenager doesn't have all his ducks in a row doesn't mean he is not a man. In fact, having all one's ducks in a row usually takes a lifetime. The 16-year-old man just happens to be near the beginning of the journey unlike some of us. Remember, the State may say one is a man at 18, then bump the age up to 21, then to 25, etc. But what the State does is irrelevant to nature. It may prohibit me from doing things until I reach a certain age, but it can't deny that I am a man when indeed I am a man.
What have we learned? There is no real initiation into adulthood, per se. You are an adult when your body says so, but you don't get the perks and privileges that adults enjoy until you earn them. The last point goes for any age.
Now, a reader said something about people regarding me as a "boy" when they denied I was a "man." Well, if I was indeed a boy, then why the contempt? If I was indeed a boy, then I was acting according to the stage of my physiological development. However, if I was actually a man, then the people calling me a "boy" were most likely trying to insult me and trying to play upon any insecurities society attempts to inculcate into men about their masculinity.
Inasmuch as people uphold the age-old lie that manhood, unlike womanhood, is something that can be granted or denied by culture, then I must regard any charge they make against my manhood as being in earnest. After all, such people clearly think they can invalidate my manhood through opprobrium and censure. They would, however, be guilty of slandering me, an action which is regarded as sinful by the Word of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). If God and nature says I am a man, then who are you to bear false witness? If we want men, but especially young men, to be mature, then let's do it by speaking according to the truth, not by resorting to playground insults and acting like children ourselves.