John Eldredge has written many books (Wild at Heart, Epic, Utter Relief of Holiness, etc.) designed to help men understand the different stages of life and the moral growth each will give them opportunity to develop. A man can be at several stages simultaneously but typically progresses through these under normal Christian growth.
Boyhood=The Beloved Son–basking in the deep acceptance of God. Experiencing God’s delight in YOU! This creates the foundation of your life so that you can handle the periods of discipline and challenge they will face in their lives. The morality of deep love. Acceptance is deepened in this stage.
John 1:12,13 is most useful as it reminds us that those who received Christ and believed him immediately were given all the resources to be and become children of God. That immediate reality of being a child of God is not based on natural or evolutionary processes, or by the will of a woman or man, or by works we do, but it is something given to us by God.
Adolescence (about 12-19)-Cowboy, adventuring life. You conquer some significant experiences. You get your first job. You take on a project and see it to completion. You learn a difficult skill on your own volition. You discover courage and voice in challenging some issues in your life. If you don’t grow here, you will risk becoming men who will stand down and not step up or take on challenges. It is the morality of risk, choice, autonomy. Confidence is built in this stage.
Warrior (about 20 and on). Men need training to accomplish a mission, but they need a mission to take on the severe training. Inner resolve to fight on behalf of others, for country or cause, is the main galvanizing experience in this stage of development. The morality is one of purpose, cause, commitment.
Lover (about the time of warrior). Accomplishing missions of bravery and death are more enjoyable and meaningful when you have people the mission is serving and those people you passionately love. Passionate and loving to a woman or wife is the most natural outflow of this. Like the Warrior, but in relational focus, the morality is one of commitment.
King. (Middle ages). The morality of responsibility is here addressed. Can we trust you as a man with power, or will you use that for financial advantage, sexual gain, selfish control. Whatever we have control over we need to exercise self-control, patient work ethic of service. The LEADER serves and if the LEADER doesn’t they are easily abusing power. God wants to entrust us with His power, kingdom and all his work, but we are often unprepared or unable to take on the pressures of the service HE DESIRES TO GIVE US. IT IS FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS YOU ARE CALLED TO THIS PLACE and history shows very very very few can handle this. I personally find the king metaphor to be something we can abandon for a better, more equalizing term–leader. A true leader NEVER Lords it over, but Lords it under–figuring out how to do whatever they can to bless the group.
Sage. (late 50s and 60s). We realize all along the journey that we men travel together, sharing boyhood joys with friends, conquering our fears and our missions with comrades, and sharing tips on how to love our wives and families and how to handle power. But the sage attempts to be more generative in that role, seeking opportunities to grow up into Christ.
Each stage is still going on and we are all unfinished men and we need to take up God’s call to be moral in love, courage, faithfulness, own development.
Often each subsequent stage has mopping up activities that try to make up for deficiencies in previous stages or tries to move beyond the previous stage to new directions. For example, most men continue to work at experiencing the deep centering love of God that most of us as boys did not fully experience with our earthly fathers, homes, or church experiences. However, some, who did experience that deep love, find in the next stage the reality of facing challenges of cowboy or warrior living.
1 John 3:2- Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Heavily adapted from Eldredge and other sources
|Boyhood||Adolescence (cowboy) (12+)||Warrior(20s, 30s)||Lover(20s, 30s)||King(many ages, but 40-50s)||Sage(mentor & community)|
|Basic Themes: Learning love, home life, language, chores, boundaries, and some personal exploration||Explore hobbies/sports more outside the home; develop personal interests and tastes; bond with friends;||See the warfare of life; the enemies and the way to fight internal and external challenges; intense training||Deep desire to be one another; to journey together; to support and die for the other||To create a vision for others to follow; lead and control groups or organizations; hire and fire;||Looking back, around and forward to see where you can help the group or take care of those marginalized or not engaged|
|Key Experience Needed & Desired: Acceptance||Adventure||Adversaries||Affection||Aspiration/Altitude||Advancing Others & the Group
|Success: do you know that you are loved; are you living in that love; do you obey your parents||Learning your individuality & call; practicing your voice; obedience to God||Intensive training & discipline to master skills and knowledge; obedience to mission, master/boss/cause, even to death||Intensive focus on another; Faithful and passionate commitment tried by temptation and distraction and sacrifice; submission||Set a course that fosters new visions; use power and control to create new resources and good works; avoid envy, hate, over-control, & indulgence? Responsiveness to needs and others;||Hourly concern for the success of others and growth of community and worlds success; Look for ways you can guide boys, teens, warriors, lovers, kings to get stuff done/grow|
|Warning Signs: Not learning to obey; excessive fear; lack of accepting being loved; Two extremes: Prodigal or Elder brother syndromes||No job; only hobbies or no hobbies; addictions or bitter legalism; reject God; isolation and lack of social life;||No fight, no realistic understanding of risks, no clear mission; deep fear; low commitment; “failure to launch”||Failure to listen; absence; too much time at work or with friends; fail to submit;||Avoid positions of leadership; failure to use power to help others; (money made spent on self instead of others)|
|Ways to Keep Growing: Appropriate freedom will help move to next stage||Growing responsibilities and relationships will help you move to next stage||Growing vision or mission for your life drawn from experience, education and training will help you be ready for a family or others||Growing sense of need (social, physical, mental and financial) will help be a warrior that seeks companionship||Invitation or Deep dissatisfaction born of a desire to change your world||Need to change pace or give back or vision of the shortness of life|
One Reply to “Moral Manhood- Eldredge Six Stages & Ethical Learning”
Wonderful chart. Very helpful. I am going to use this for a mens group that I lead.