Growing into Manhood
1-6. What are some marvelous facts about our development up till the time of birth? Is there anyone who deserves credit for all of this? (Psalm 139:13-18)
WE CAN benefit by looking at how we each had our beginning as individuals. Just think about it: Not so many years ago you were a single fertilized egg cell smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. From that tiny beginning, you began growing within your mother’s womb. In time your body was complete with a brain that thinks, eyes that see, ears that hear, and many other marvelous organs. How did this remarkable growth take place?
2 Your parents didn’t draw up blueprints to produce you. Rather, this was all done within the fertilized egg that was formed by the uniting of a sperm cell from your father with the egg cell in your mother’s womb. In a matter of minutes, the plans were drawn up inside that tiny cell for the entire new human that turned out to be you!
3 All the information needed to create you is found in the DNA* of that tiny fertilized cell. DNA is the essential substance of the tens of thousands of genes in each cell, and these genes are linked into twenty-three sets of chromosomes. So much information is packed into each cell that, if it were to be written out in human language, a whole roomful of books would be required. But perhaps even more amazing is the fact that all this detailed information is passed along to each new cell of the body. So each cell has all the same information that the original fertilized egg contained!
4 But you may ask: How is the DNA able to use only the information it wants, and only when it wants to, for building a person’s many different body parts? For instance, how does it manage to select only the instructions needed to build an eye? And when it builds an eye, how does it suppress all the information for building your ears, kidneys, liver, and so forth?
5 It is a mystery. Humans haven’t figured it out. It is the design of a grand Creator! Because of what one of the writers of the Bible knew about the human body, he said to God: “I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, as my soul is very well aware.” (Psalm 139:14) Is that how you feel?
6 In only nine months the single fertilized cell with which you began became a fully developed baby, an amazingly complex organization of some billions of cells. Your growth will never again be so rapid! But about thirteen or fourteen years after your birth, you begin another rapid spurt of growth. At this particular time you start changing from a boy into a man.* The entire transitional period, which is known as adolescence, lasts for a number of years. It ends when you reach physical maturity, generally between the ages of twenty and twenty-three. This period is not the easiest in your life, but it is very, very important. It is a proving ground for your future development.
CHANGES DURING PUBERTY
7-12. (a) What changes occur in a male during puberty? Is there any reason to worry about these changes? (b) How can a young man tell when his sex organs have developed so that he can father children?
7 Puberty covers the earlier period of adolescence. Strictly, it is the age at which symptoms of sexual maturing appear. This age is commonly fixed at fourteen for boys and twelve for girls, but there is a wide variation in what is normal. You may have entered puberty at eleven or twelve, or you may be fifteen or sixteen and still not have begun maturing sexually. But an early or late maturing is not unusual, so there is no reason for concern. What are some of the problems you can expect during puberty?
8 For one thing, you may experience a certain awkwardness and lack of coordination. This is because your bones are lengthening and the muscles have to stretch along with them. In this expansion some parts of the body seem to grow rapidly, while others may lag. However, any resulting clumsiness will pass. It is no cause for great concern, though extra care is certainly worth while, as it could save you from possible harm through some accident.
9 Among the body parts that are stretching out are the vocal cords. The extra length makes the voice deepen. But during the lengthening process your voice may often “crack,” suddenly hitting a high note when you least expect it. Again, this is part of the “growing pains” of adolescence. So, when it happens and others are amused, just smile along with them and any embarrassment will quickly pass.
10 At the root of these body changes are your glands, including the thyroid, the adrenals and the gonads (sex glands). They produce yet other changes. One of them is the growth of hair around the organs of procreation, also under your armpits and on your chest. The amount varies from person to person and is no indicator whatsoever of how “manly” you are. Hair also begins to appear on the face. Though as yet this may be but a mere “fuzz,” your encounter with the experience of shaving is steadily drawing near.
11 Perhaps the change that most often is a source of disturbance for boys growing toward manhood involves the organs of procreation, the genitals. During puberty these not only attain their full size but also begin to function. The Bible, at Leviticus 15:16, 17, refers to ‘emissions of semen.’ If your parents have failed to discuss the matter with you beforehand, your first emission of semen may be somewhat of an upsetting experience. What causes such emission?
12 When you become developed enough to father children, then your sex organ begins to secrete the fluid called semen. It’s a heavier fluid than water and, although there is not much of it, it contains millions of tiny sperm cells. Any one of these cells can fertilize a woman’s egg cell and make it grow into a baby. More or less periodically your body will relieve itself of this semen. The emission usually takes place while you sleep and are dreaming.
PURPOSE OF SEX
13-15. (a) For what purpose did God provide sex? Why did he lay down rules to regulate it? (Hebrews 13:4) (b) Most likely, where is the best place to get reliable information about sex? (Proverbs 6:20)
13 Our Creator provided sex as a means for a man to express deep love for a woman and to father their children. But God laid down rules regarding sex, explaining that sex relations are to be had only by a man and a woman who are married to each other. This is because God purposed that every baby brought into the world should have both a father and a mother who would take all the responsibility of rearing that child. It is, therefore, wrong in God’s sight for persons who are not married to engage in sexual relations.
14 On the other hand, for married persons sexual relations are a wonderful way for them to express love for each other. The husband lies close to his wife so that his male organ fits naturally into her birth canal. This can give great pleasure to each of them. In the process, the husband’s sperm cells go out of his body through his male organ right into his wife’s birth canal. These sex cells move through the canal, and if a mature egg cell is there in the wife, one of her husband’s sperm cells may join with it, and the fertilized cell will begin to grow into a baby. So you see, God made the sex organs for a sacred purpose, that of passing on life. That is why it is proper that they be used according to God’s rules.
15 The best way to get answers to your questions about sexual development is to ask your parents, particularly your father. Your father has already experienced everything you have gone through and lots more. Also, whereas other youths might give you information that is only half right—a few facts and a lot of wild stories—your father should be able to give you good information that will help you and work for your happiness. If your father is not in a position to give you information or counsel based on God’s Word, it would be valuable for you to know what God’s Word says. You will find that elders in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be glad to be of help to you.
PROVING YOURSELF RESPONSIBLE
16-18. (a) In what ways have your parents encouraged you to exercise a measure of independence? How might what you do with those privileges affect your future opportunities? (b) Why do many young fellows join “gangs”? What might this lead to? (1 Corinthians 15:33)
16 As you approach manhood it is natural for you to feel a desire for self-identity—to feel that you are a distinct person. It is also natural that you have a desire for a measure of independence. Your parents will likely begin preparing you for the time when you can be independent. How?
17 No doubt by gradually giving you more responsibility and the privilege of sharing in making certain decisions as to things you will do. They may invite you to express your preference as to certain subjects you will take at school or they may let you take a part-time job. You may be allowed to do your own buying of some of your personal items. But whatever your parents see fit to do in this regard, it will then be up to you to show that you merit responsibility. If you act in a childish way or get “bigheaded,” then they may have to reduce your privileges until you show yourself more of a man.
18 This desire for greater self-identity and a measure of independence is accompanied by other natural desires. You will feel a need to be appreciated by others for what you are and what you can do. Some youths seek to satisfy their desire for self-identity and ‘a sense of belonging’ by joining or forming “gangs.” But such gangs generally make their own code of conduct, and the facts show that this almost always leads to wrongdoing, at times even to serious crimes. Probably more than any other single factor, bad companionship is to be found at the root of the problem when young men get into trouble.
19, 20. Why is a good relationship with your parents important? What could damage it? (Proverbs 23:24, 25)
19 During this period of life you begin to get some idea of what you are going to look like physically as a grown man. But you should also start thinking more and more about what you are going to be like inside, what the Bible calls “the secret person of the heart.” (1 Peter 3:4) This stage of your life is not the time to let a desire for increased independence somehow divide you off from your parents and the rest of the family. The changes you are experiencing during puberty, and the new urges you feel and have to learn to control, actually increase your need for their love and steadying influence.
20 So instead of drawing away from your parents and letting a gap develop, draw closer to them and learn all that you can from them as you now approach adulthood. You will never regret this. And you will bring them real happiness too, making them proud to have you as their son.
DNA is the code name for deoxyribonucleic acid.
The following chapter discusses the change from girlhood to womanhood.
[Picture on page 19]
In only nine months a single cell becomes a baby