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Raising Sons to be Honorable Men (Part 2 of 2)

Raising Sons to be Honorable Men (Part 2 of 2)

Author and speaker Robert Lewis offers advice and encouragement to dads in a discussion based on his best-selling book Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father's Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood. (Part 2 of 2)
Original Air Date: September 8, 2017

Preview:

Robert Lewis: First thing I would say to a listening dad is, “You are way more important than you think you are.” And we’re not talking about massive effort in saying that. We’re not talking about you’ve got to become some kind of excellent, well-scripted dad who’s got it all together. We’re talking about dads like me, who are fumblers, mistake makers, um, have got to ask for forgiveness often. But who at least grab onto the fact that we are the great influence on our son’s life. And if we will impart just a little father food to our sons, invariably, it has great results.

End of Preview

John Fuller: You’re going to hear more from Robert Lewis today on Focus on the Family, as he talks about raising honorable sons. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus on the Family president and author, Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: I’m so pleased to return to this conversation with Robert Lewis, John. Uh, last time, we talked about the fact that many boys are growing up without any clear direction on how to become a man. Robert shared the troubled relationships, uh, he had with his own father. Many of us can relate to that. So many just didn’t have dads involved in their lives. But Robert developed a plan for giving his boys a vision for manhood that is based on the way the knights journeyed through life and the way they lived back then.

John: Hm.

Jim: It’s a great resource. Uh, if you have boys in your home, you really need to get this book, Raising a Modern Day Knight. It is one of the best books Focus has ever produced on this topic. And if you missed any part of the program last time, let me encourage you to listen online or the app or even call us here at Focus for a CD.

John: Yeah, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Robert Lewis is the founder of Men’s Fraternity, an organization that teaches men how to live lives of authentic Biblical manhood. And he’s married to Sherard, and they have four adult children. Here now is the second part of our conversation with Robert.

Jim: Robert, it is good to have you here. And we talked last time about, um, you know, where boys are at in the culture. There’s so many things pulling at the attention of the boys. And I see that with my own boys. You know, if they do any kind of video games, we’ve kind of drawn the line on the types they can do, and no blood shed, and obviously, no bad language, those kinds of things. But, um, it’s hard. It’s hard with the media, culture that we have in this country. Friends who are seeing movies and we’re kind of trying to hold that line. And they just see us as just, you know, mom and dad downer.

Robert: Yeah.

Jim: And, uh, but there are character things that you are trying to instill there, as a parent. Eh, we left off last time talking about this idea of the code of conduct. And I want to start there today. And we’ll post this online, John.

John: Okay.

Jim: Because I think this is great. I went through this with my boys last night. And, uh, they actually (laughs)… My fourteen-year-old said, “That’s really cool.” (laughs).

Robert: Really?

Jim: So, he resonated with it. And, uh, it is really cool. Why don’t you hit that list and then let’s talk about two or three of them.

Robert: Well let me first say, with that, that a code of conduct is a language that, if presented by a dad with some passion in his voice, I think, young males naturally respond to. One of the things that I’ve found about sons is they’re not deaf to things that call them up. Just like a coach calling them up to work hard. “We’re going to win. We can be the number one team,” that kind of thing. I mean, males respond best to challenges. And I think a code of conduct says, “I, as a dad, have identified some things that will make you a cut above. This is what I want to be. Let’s go there together.”

Jim: Hm.

Robert: So that’s the first thing I’d want you to hear. The second thing is, is that these 10 things that are listed in Modern Day Knight, are attributes that give a dad language that he can speak from. First, he identifies it, which we’ve identified, or I’ve identified 10, uh, Biblical ideals of code of conduct that you see highlighted in scripture: loyalty, servant leadership, kindness, humility, purity, honesty, self-discipline, excellence, integrity, perseverance. Those things are great to mention to a son. I would even go so far as to say it would be good to have posted, somewhere in the house, these characteristics that I’m calling you to. Because language advertised, language, uh, illustrated, language in front of you, as a dad, as well as the sons, are things, after a while, they kind of get in your blood stream. An, uh, incident will come up where you’ll call that word forward to a son in that moment and say, “This is what it means to be a man.”

Jim: Yeah.

Robert: So you’re in the midst of something like, uh, with my son, with my son being called out for something he’d been pursuing, to play college football. And all of a sudden, the coach told him, right before the season started, after he’d given two years, two years, to make the Razorbacks… My son walked on, which walk-ons rarely make it. He’d given two years to make it. Almost thought he made it. And right before the season started, the head coach called him out and said, “We’re going to use somebody else, this scholarship player that’s just a freshman.” So what do you say in that moment?

Jim: Yeah.

Robert: See, in that moment, after he had given himself with discipline for two years, first of all, I said to him, over the phone, “Garrett, you have worked hard. You’ve given what real men give and that is consistent effort of excellence. So now it’s the time to reject passivity.” Remember that from the previous broadcast? “And go to your head coach and say, ‘Coach, I’ve given two years. Why won’t you give me a chance?’” I said, “You need to persevere. That’s what real men do. They persevere when it seems like nothing will work.” You just don’t go confront your head coach. But I called my son out to do that. So the next day, he walked out to the coach and said, “Coach, you told me that if I would stay and work at this position of deep snapper, that you would give me a chance. And I’ve done that. And I haven’t done anything wrong. And you’re just replacing me without a reason? What’s the reason?” And the coach couldn’t give him a reason. But because he talked to his coach and persevered, when that Saturday rolled around and the big game, my son came up on the big screen as being the starting deep snapper.

John: Hm.

Jim: (laughs)

Robert: And we call that perseverance. And we’ve used that as an illustration. So I’m saying, it gives a dad language to draw from, self-discipline to draw from, courage to draw from. When they were dating and my son was going out on his first date, I helped him understand that this, right now, is God is letting you practice on how to engage a woman with excellence. And the road you lay down now will be either the fruit or the barrenness of a relationship later on. I connected the dots even later on in marriage. You’re either building a good marriage in this dating relationship, or you’re undercutting a good marriage by how you conduct yourself. So I’m calling you up to treat this woman with dignity and excellence and integrity. Because I, I had words and I connected the words to being a man. And I, and I would want to tell dads listening, when you can identify some code of conduct that you admired, that you pursue, and you call your son up to in real world applications, in the midst of the battle of real life, that’s when those words take root and begin to germinate.

Jim: Uh, this is awesome material. I mean, I just, I’m translating it into conversations I want to have with Trent and Troy. And, and this is such good stuff, Robert. Looking at that list again, John, we’ll post that. But one of the things there, purity… and I touched on this earlier… That the culture is so, it’s a tsunami, um, when you’re trying to parent boys and girls in this culture today. Why they can’t wear certain clothes, why they can’t see certain things. And it’s not just a list of do’s and don’ts. As parents, we’re concerned about their core character and what they develop in terms of their discernment capability to honor God. Um, speak to that code of conduct, particularly, because again, it’s so prevalent in the culture. How do you develop a sense of purity within your sons, as a dad, so that it’s no, “Oh, you know, Dad, this is Dad’s thing, you know. Let’s just play the part.”

Robert: Mm-hmm.

Jim: How do you really inculcate into your son that this is important?

Robert: Well, first of all, I’d tell any dad that’s listening, this is a mammoth challenge. And it’s a mammoth challenge not just for the culture, it’s a mammoth challenge for the Christian community. Because I think, I, I sometimes sense we’ve given up.

Jim: Yeah, it’s too difficult.

Robert: It, it’s too big.

Jim: Yeah.

Robert: It’s too prevalent. It’s too everywhere. And I think for a dad, the biggest challenge is to be able, not to just say, “You need to be pure.” Tell them, “You need to be pure or you, you need to not look at that.” I think that negative wavelength is, in some ways, in this culture, self-defeating.

Jim: And it may even push the sons-

Robert: Yeah.

Jim: In that direction.

Robert: Yeah, and our, it makes our family look like a dinosaur, so to speak. I think the better thing… It’s still going to be a challenge. I, I don’t want to take this away because I, I mean, I’m a granddad now. And I’ve got grandsons and I’ve got my sons. And I look at them and I’ve sometimes just said to them, “Boy, the challenge is huge.” I think what you’ve got to do is set, maybe, a loftier goal that’s got a future in it, about how living in a way that’s pure, that young women respond to. Like, when Mason was in high school, I had him practice with his mom on, uh, giving little gifts that he would write letters to his mom so he could express himself. Because I said, “What women want is heart. They don’t just want stuff. They want heart.” And I said, “Your words on a card will mean way more than how cool the card is.” And I said, “You doing little things for Mom…” And we would do certain things where we would get up and thank Mom for dinner and then clean up and have her go sit down and watch what she wanted to watch on TV. It was Mom’s night. Or taking her out to eat to just say, “You’re a great mom.” I said, “Those things, Mason, are life skills for living with a woman that will give you the best-

Jim: Hm.

Robert: Of a marital relationship because they will become kind of secondary to you. But they’re not natural for men.” You’ll go, “What my wife needs is my heart. She just doesn’t need stuff. She just doesn’t need me working hard. She needs me to make decisions that show her that she wants to connect with me emotionally, which is what a woman’s number one need is, to connect emotionally.” So we’d, I’d show my son. Then when he started dating, I said, “You know, if you really want to do something special on Valentines-

Jim: Hm.

Robert: “For this girl you’re dating, why don’t you do a cut above? You know, most guys are just going to go out and party and what. Why don’t you do something that really shows her that you value her?” So we talked about a certain flower with a little note in advance would be great. And do something cool. So my son came up with something really cool for this Valentines thing. He put a table on top of the press box at his high school.

Jim: (laughs).

Robert: Then got another friend to be the waiter. Then he took her out. They sat up on the press box and had dinner. He was the coolest kid in the whole school.

Jim: (laughs)

Robert: For a month, because he did that. And I said, “Now that’s a real man, connecting at a heart level.” And I go, “But you just don’t have to lose your, your purity. You can do things that build a reputation and other women will notice and notice you. Those are things that you need to do.” But I, I think you’re going to have to, Jim, counteract it with a vision for what purity can do above just abstaining.

Jim: Hm.

Robert: It’s giving them skills to win with young women and ultimately with their wife, that they realize this is a bigger mission in life than just getting what I want from a woman.

Jim: Hm.

Robert: I go, “Getting what you want from a woman will grow old quick. You want a relationship that’ll last a lifetime but that’s a different path.” So it’s not going to guarantee 100% success, by any means, in the world in which we live, especially with where young women are, but it will help.

John: Well we, we, uh, covered the definition of manhood last time. And as you drill into these, these kind of code of conduct, uh, goals, I love the use of words. Uh, there’s a lot of coaching that has, has to go on here. I mean, this is not a, I post the list and I keep going. So how do I get started if I’m inspired by what you’re talking about? How do I get inspired to even get to an action point? Because you’ve done this. You’re successful at this. I’ve, I don’t know how to deal with my fourteen-year-old.

Robert: Right. Well, let me go back to, let’s just say you think of yourself as the average dad. You’re lost. If you’re the average dad out there, hey, welcome, I was you. Okay? I learned three things by white-knuckle, hard work, trying to answer these questions. But the resources are now available. You need to give your son three things. I want to go back to the three things. You need to give him a definition of manhood that makes sense. That calls him, not just to the here and now, but to the future. That there’s a great reward in life than just what everybody’s doing. The second thing is you need to give your son direction, clear applications of how to live out that manhood, which will include symbols and wall art like these 10 Biblical ideals.

Jim: Hm.

Robert: I mean, rings, like I wear. My, both my sons wear these rings. It just reminds them of what manhood is. Those are not silly things. Those are meaningful things to say, “This is the better manhood.” And then you need to continually remind them, with key ceremonies that honor their growth in manhood, with men they admire that says, “What your dad’s telling you is the right thing.”

Jim: Hm.

Robert: Now, that’s not going to make a perfect son and that’s not going to guarantee that they’re not going to make mistakes, even big mistakes. But what it does do is plant imagery and vision. Because manhood, in the end, is finding a vision you can hang onto.

Jim: Hm.

Robert: But it plants a vision that these young men can come back to, even in their failure, over a lifetime. Because you keep using it and that repetitive interaction, conversation, key identification of terms and a definition that you say, “This is it.”

Jim: Robert, that is well said. The, uh, question I have is, a comment you just made a moment ago. And that is the idea that kids will fail. Uh, even good kids will, uh, make bad decisions from time to time. Elaborate on that a little bit because I think within Christian homes, we expect perfection. We want you to be as Christlike as you can be. And, uh, even though, uh, a common, uh, remark might be between you and your spouse, “Remember you at 16. Remember you at 15.” Um, speak to that issue of kids, from time to time, making bad decisions and how you father your son when that has happened.

Robert: Yeah. Well, we are flawed parents raising flawed kids and they are going to make mistakes. My prayer for my kids along the way was, “I hope they don’t make a life altering mistake.” But they’re going to make mistakes. And, uh, that’s just the way life is.

Jim: Did you ever talk openly with your boys about that?

Robert: Oh, yeah.

Jim: That, you know-

Robert: And, and I had to enter into my kids’ lives when they made those mistakes.

Jim: Sure.

Robert: When one of my sons, his first year in college, got a DWI-

Jim: Hm.

Robert: It wasn’t just a DWI. It was in the paper DWI.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Robert: Where the pastor’s son was DWI.

Jim: Hm.

Robert: Okay? And that had consequences. And, although he regretted it and although, you know, it was a hard lesson, he didn’t get Dad to reject him. We went back to the principles.

Jim: Oh.

Robert: It’s exactly what God does with us.

Jim: Right.

Robert: You know, he was hurt by that, embarrassed by that. He asked my forgiveness for that, which I readily granted. But we go back to self-discipline, perseverance, integrity. You know, you need to go around to your key contacts and ask forgiveness and say, “Man, I blew it,” that kind of thing. That all becomes part of the journey. The goal is not to have perfect kids. The goal is to have competent adults who can stand there with their wounds and their scars, but also with their successes and what they’ve learned along the way, to be able to stand and live for Jesus Christ in an honorable way, even with all that.

Jim: Right, living for those eternal principles.

Robert: And the, and the minute we try to make it perfection, we’ve already made a mistake because we’re going to be too hard on the disciplines. We’re going to be too controlling and none of that works. None of that works. I’d want the dad to know. None of it works. You’re raising a flawed child as a flawed parent who’s going to have a spotty track record. That’s it. That’s, just expect that. But the goal is to get them to an honorable adulthood where with all that, they can bring glory to God.

Jim: Yeah. Robert, uh, speak to the dad who, um, hasn’t been mindful of this. He’s been building his external values or his external, uh, resume, as you call it. Um, how do I get started? Let’s say I have a 16, 17-year-old and I’ve really not been mindful about this.

Robert: Hm.

Jim: How do you reset the training at a late stage like that? To say, okay, now I’ve got to dig in.

Robert: Yeah. And you know what’s interesting, Jim, is a lot of the questions I give off the book or Men’s Fraternity, will be dads whose sons are 30.

Jim: Right.

Robert: And 35, and who are still asking that, “What can I do now?” Because they’re way wayward.

Jim: Yeah.

Robert: And the separation between them is tragically littered with all kind of debris and it’s hard to get back. And the first thing I’d want these dads to know… In fact, when we, uh, added some additions to the book, Modern Day Knight, I actually wrote a chapter on this… To tell dads it’s never too late.

Jim: Yeah.

Robert: It’s never too late. And the first step of a dad who’s going, “I’ve lost it. I’ve… I wish I’d have heard this 20 years ago. There’s all this debris, this separation. What do I do?” Or even in a more hopeless way, “There’s not anything I can do.” First of all, realize that statement’s a lie.

Jim: And that’s passivity. Isn’t it?

Robert: That’s all… That is pas- you’re right back to passivity. There’s always something you can do. The first thing, as a dad, you need to do is admit, “I’ve blown it,” to yourself.

Jim: Yeah.

Robert: And to God. And to decide, “I need to find a different manhood.” And so, first of all, it’s a personal journey. What is manhood before God? I think a dad can put himself in environments of a men’s group, a church group, a book, or whatever, to help at least build a new foundation. But here’s the second step with the son, that’s most important. And as I speak in prisons, I, I get a chance to talk to prisoners who are sitting there, most… I just did that recently. Most of the prisoners, 98% of the prisoners told me, “I didn’t have a dad.” They’re mad at their dad. They rail against their dad. And I ask them, “What would you want from Dad?”

Jim: Hm.

Robert: A perfect dad? A dad who comes and grovels at your feet? No. You know what they want? They want a dad that will say two things to them and then all is forgiven, all those years of horrendous abuse or neglect. They want a dad to say, “I’m sorry.”

Jim: Hm.

Robert: And the second thing they want their dad to say is, “Son, I love you.”

Jim: Yeah.

Robert: If they hear those two things, the slate is wiped clean. So when I had a dad come up to me and say, “I wish I’d heard this. My son and I aren’t doing good,” or whatever. There’s some mistake, like a dad did to me, a high-powered lawyer whose son was in Harvard Medical School. “My son hates my guts.” That’s what he told me over a salad. And I said, “Okay, well let’s, why don’t we do this. You’ve been sitting listening to me teach on manhood. Let’s go buy a plane ticket.”

Jim: Wow.

Robert: “Let’s get you on a plane this afternoon. Call your son. Say you want to take him out to dinner tonight.” “Oh, I couldn’t do that.” “No, no, you can do that.” Passivity. “You can do that.”

Jim: Right.

Robert: “Okay, I’ll do that. What do I say?” I said, “Well, I can give you your script. You just take him out. You look him in the eye and say, ‘Son, I’ve been learning some things about manhood. And I have really missed it with you as a dad.’ And then say these words without any retort. ‘Son, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?’” He said, “My son will rant.” “No, no. Just say those words. Trust me.” So we got the plane ticket. He flew up to Harvard. Took his son out to dinner. Said those words. His son started weeping. And they ended up having a great conversation. And when the dad got on the plane to fly home, the son called the mom and he said, “Mom, I just had the greatest moment of my life with Dad.”

Jim: Hm.

Robert: “We’re reconnected.” What dads of wayward sons or wayward dads with sons, the way to build the road to reconnection is simply with the words, “I’ve blown it. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” And then, “Son, I want you to know I really love you. Can we start again?” And in 99% of the cases… Because the glory of sons is their fathers, the scripture says… They want to come back to Dad and reconnect no matter how bad the road’s been.

Jim: Yeah.

Robert: And I’ve seen that healing over and over again. So you dads listening, it’s never too late.

Jim: Well, in fact, Robert, um, this ties in with the discussion last time about your own father being an alcoholic and being abusive towards your mom, and your role in trying to be the negotiator.

Robert: Mm-hmm.

Jim: As you described it. Um, your dad’s story ended in a good place. Describe it.

Robert: Yeah, it really did. It actually started with, uh, of course I was, I was getting kind of this new inspiration. But my dad had a really tragic moment with my mom where he actually injured my mom by mistake. He was walking out, inebriated, slung my mom back when she was telling him, “You can’t drive.” It caused my mom to fall back and actually hit a table and broke her neck.

Jim: Hm. But he walked out the door and didn’t know.

Robert: But he walked… He didn’t, he totally was-

Jim: Oh, wow.

Robert: Unaware of what he had done. And when he was notified by the police that that had happened, he immediately had a massive heart attack. (laughs) Which, how rare is that, all that together? I was called to come fly home for my mom and my dad. My dad was, they weren’t sure if he was going to live. I went into the, the, uh, ICU. My dad was there. He didn’t know I was there. He was on drugs. He saw me as a physician. And my dad had never said anything of affection or pride to me in his life. And he thought I was a doctor. And I was talking to him. And he started bragging on his son, Robert, and how proud he was of, of me. I don’t know where that came from. But here I was, longing for these words of my dad loved me and was proud of me and my dad was telling me that, thinking I was a doctor. And out of that, as the next few days unfolded, we ended up having a great connection. I got to share the Gospel with my dad. My dad prayed to receive Christ. And that created a relationship between us that lasted until his death. And also was the foundation for my dad finally getting reconnected to my mom. And so the last few years of their life, you know, my dad didn’t drink. I, their relationship was still a little shaky after all those years of abuse and incompetence but they finished well. And I even, before my dad died, I gave my dad and mom a tribute saying, “You did it. You didn’t divorce. And you reconnected. And all of us are proud of you for that.”

Jim: Hm.

Robert: And they put that little tribute on their wall in their living room, which was entitled, by me, Here’s to My Imperfect Family because we were imperfect. But we made it. We made it because of what Jesus did in our lives.

John: Well that’s a really beautiful place to bring this Focus on the Family conversation with Robert Lewis to a close. And, uh, boy, Jim, he offered such great insights for dads.

Jim: Yeah, he did. And I really hope, uh, you’ve been inspired today to pass on this great legacy to your sons. To help your boys understand Biblical manhood in a fresh relevant way and to ignite a fire in their hearts that burns for the Lord. And this is why Focus on the Family exists. We strive to provide tools like our Seven Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment and other resources to encourage and equip you, as parents, to do the best job you can do. It’s tough and we know that but you can do it. We also have Robert’s great book, Raising a Modern Day KnightA Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood. It’s a terrific guide to help walk you through passing down a strong legacy of faith and courage to your son. And, you know, we couldn’t do this ministry without you. Your prayer and regular financial support are what allows us to help strengthen families like yours, all across the globe. When you make a monthly sustaining pledge today, we’ll send you a copy of Raising a Modern Day Knight, as our way of saying thank you. If you can’t commit to a monthly gift, we get that. Uh, we’ll send you a copy for a one-time gift of any amount.

John: Take that Seven Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment. Uh, donate as you can and get your copy of Raising a Modern Day Knight. All the details are at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Well, join us next time as we talk with counselor Darby Strickland. She’ll help you learn to identify abuse in marriage.

Preview:

Darby Strickland: We don’t see it because it’s a problem of imagination. I can’t imagine that the woman sitting next to me in the pew. I know her husband. I can’t imagine the brutal cruelty that she’s facing at home.

Jim: Right.

Darby: Or the coercion or, um, things being thrown at her. So I don’t look or perceive her husband that way.

John: On behalf of Jim Daily and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Have you ever wondered what a baby looked like in the womb? With today’s technology, Moms and Dads can see the baby’s heartbeat, facial expressions, and movements! You’ll find out why more women choose life once they hear their baby’s heartbeat and realize it’s a real living human!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

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Newest Release - Episode 2: Heroes Providing Hope

Discover the amazing work our PRC’s Directors, Nurses, and Volunteers are making in their communities! You’ll see firsthand testimonies of a PRC in action, and that there are other options outside of abortions! You’ll also discover how your family can support your local PRC!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Play Video

Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!