Mr. 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 whose got it all together. We’re talking about dads, like me, who are fumblers, mistake makers, have got to ask for forgiveness often, but who at least grab onto the fact that we are the greatest influence in our son’s life. And if we will impart just a little father food to oursons, invariably, it has great results.
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John Fuller: You’ll 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 president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, the message Robert Lewis has to share is one we all need to hear. I love that he considers himself a fumbling dad-- so do I! I don’t always get it right; Jean often has to remind me, you know, Jim, pay attention here. And sometime I do that well, sometimes I don’t-- I’m sure that’s true for you.
John: I have moments where I think, have I messed these boys up for the rest of their lives or not?
Jim: Right. That’s part of being a dad, we’re just not as in tune as we should be and there’s no easy answer. The one thing is true: in our culture today, many forces are pulling at our children, especially our boys-- our girls, too-- but our boys as well. Violence and a story line, a narrative that is dark and negative, whether it’s video games or whatever it might be, and we as fathers have got to be more engaged to give those things context and to teach them the proper way to be a man and how we treat people and how we step in the gap for people who are hurting and are in need. Those are the kinds of young men that we’re trying to develop in our boys, is that not true?
John: That is. And there’s a need for that. Unfortunately so many boys are growing up without any good and godly male influence in their lives.
Jim: It’s so true, John and so often men will say to me, I didn’t have that father. They’ll hear me speak about my own difficulty with my childhood and my dad. It’s no excuse, guys. The fact that you know the Lord and you know the Scripture is all you need. And there is where we’ve gotta turn it around. We need to know what it means to be that example, first and foremost, so your young men, your boys can see in you what it is you’re trying to teach them first and foremost. Then that’s the foundation. You can move forward there and teach them how to treat a woman, how to treat those around them. And I’m tellin’ ya, Robert’s book is fantastic-- the way he approaches it, kind of the setting of the medieval knights and what it meant to be called into knighthood and what you had to do. It’s a great parallel for young men today.
John: Yeah, get a copy of Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis. Get a CD or download of our conversation; we’ll include yesterday and today. Or get our app and listen on the go-- all of that at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
And Robert Lewis is the found of Men’s Fraternity, which is an organization teaching men how to live authentic, biblical manhood out in the home and in the community and he and his wife Sherard have four grown children and here now is today’s Focus on the Family featuring Robert Lewis.
Jim: Robert, it is so good to have you here and we talked last time about um, you know where boys are at in the culture. There are so many things pulling at the attention of the boys. And I see that with my own boys.
Robert: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Jim: 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 uh, 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.
Jim: And uh, but there are character things that you are trying to instill there as a parent. We left off last time talking about this idea of the code of conduct.
Robert: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Jim: And I want to start there today and we’ll post this online, John.
Jim: ‘Cause I think this is great. I went through this with my boys last night and uh, they actually (Laughter) my 14 year old said, “That’s really cool.” (Laughter)
Jim: And 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 dad with some passion in his voice, I think young males naturally respond to. One of the things that I found aboutsonsis they’re not deaf to things that call them up. 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.”
Robert: So that’s the first thing I’d want you to hear. The second thing is that, these 10 things that are listed in ‘Modern Day Knight’ are attributes that give a dad the language that he can speak from.First he identifies it, which we’ve identified, or I’ve identified, 10 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 tomention to a son. I would even go so far as 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 a son, are things after a while they kind of get in your bloodstream.
Robert: And an 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.”
Robert: So, you’re in the midst of something like, uh, with my son, with my son being called out forum, something he had been pursuing, to play college football.And all of a sudden the coach told him right before the season started, after he had 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’d made it, and right before the season started, the head coach called him out and said, “We’re gonna use somebody else. This scholarship player that’s just a freshman.” So what do you say in that moment?
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 a 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: Hmm. (Laughter)
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 the relationship later on. I connected the dots. Even later in the 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 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 admire, that you pursue, and you call your son up to it with real world applications in the midst of the battle of real life. That’s when those words take root and begin to germinate.
Jim: This is awesome material. (Laughter) I mean I just, I’m translating it into the conversations I want to have with Trent and Troy. And this is such good stuff, Robert. Looking at that list, and again, John, we’ll post that. But one of the things there are purity and I touched on this earlier thatthe 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 not, you know, dad, this is dad’s thing. You know.
Robert: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Jim: Let’s just play the part.
Robert: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
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. 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.” 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 cleanup and have her go sit down and watch what she wanted to watch on TV. It was mom’s night. I said, “Those things, Mason, are life skills for living with a woman that will give you the best 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, I’d show my son. Then when he started dating I said, “You know, if you really want to do something special on Valentine’s for this girl you’re dating?”
Robert: “Why don’t you do a cut above. You know most guys are just gonna go out and party, 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 Valentine’s thing. He put a table on top of the press box at his high school.
Robert: Then got another friend to be the waiter. And he took her out. They sat up on the press box and had dinner. He was the coolest kid in the whole school for a month.
Robert: 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 purity. You can do things that build a reputation.” And other women will notice and notice you but 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.
John: Well we covered the definition of manhood last time and as you drill into these, these kind of code of conduct goals. I love the use of words. There’s a lot of coaching that has to go on here. 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? Cuz, you’ve done this. You’re successful at this. I, I don’t know how to deal with my 14-year old.
Robert: Right. Well, let me go back to-- Let’s just say, you think of yourself as the average dad. And 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 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 greater 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. I mean rings, like I wear. Both mysonswear these rings. It just reminds him of what man it is. Those, 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 withmenthey admire that says, “What your dad is telling you, is the right thing.”
Now. That’s not gonna make a perfect son and that’s not gonna guarantee that they’re gonna not make mistakes, even big mistakes. But what it does do is plant imagery and vision. ‘Cause manhood in the end is finding a vision you can hang onto.
Robert: But it plants a vision, that these youngmencan 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.”
John: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
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. Even good kids will 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 Christ like as you can be. And uh, even though a common remark might be between you and your spouse, “Rememberyouat 16, rememberyouat 15.” 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’re flawed parents,raisingflawed kids, and they are gonna make mistakes. My prayer for my kids along the way was, I hope they don’t make a life altering mistake. But they’re gonna 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 I had to enter in to my kids’ lives when they made those mistakes.
Robert: When one of mysons, his first year in college, got a DWI?
Robert: It wasn’t just a DWI-- it was in the paper, DWI.
Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Robert: Where the pastor’s son, was DWI.
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.
Robert: It’s exactly what God does with us.
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 type 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 learned along the way to be able to stand and live for Jesus Christ in anhonorableway, even with all that.
Jim: Right. Living for those eternal principles.
Robert: And the minute we try to make it perfection, we’ve already made a mistake.Because we’re gonna be too hard on the disciplines. We’re gonna be too controlling. And none of that works. None of that works. I’d want the dad to know, none of it works. You’reraisinga flawed child, as a flawed parent, who is going to have a spotty track record. That’s it. That’s, just expect that. But the goal is to get them to anhonorableadulthood, where with all that, they can bring glory to God.
Jim: Yeah. Robert, 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 called 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: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Jim: How do you re-set the training, at a late stage like that. To say, okay, now I gotta dig in.
Robert: Yeah. And you know what’s interesting Jim is, a lot of the questions I give off the book or atMen’s Fraternity will be dad whosesonsare 30.
Robert: And 35, and who are still asking that. “What can I do now?” Because they’rewaywayward.
Robert: And the separation between them is tragically littered with all kinds of debris and it’s hard to get back. And the first thing I’d want these dads to know, in fact when we added some additions to the book, ‘Modern Day Knight,’ I actually wrote a chapter on this. To tell dads it’s never too late.
Robert: It’s never too late.And, the first step of a dad who is going, “I’ve lost it. I wish I would’ve 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 is pas- that’s, you’re right back to passivity.
Robert: 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, and to God. And to the side, 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 amen’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 prisons, 98% of the prisonstell 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?
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.”
Robert: And the second thing, they want their dad to say is, “Son. I love you.”
Robert: If they hear those two things, the slate is wiped clean.So when I have a dad come up to me and say, “I wish I 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. Why don’t we do this. You’ve been sitting listening to me teach on manhood. Let’s go buy a plane ticket.”
Robert: Let’s get you on a plane this afternoon. Call your son and say you want to take him out to dinner tonight. “Aww! I couldn’t do that!” No, no. You can do that. Passivity. You can do that!
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.”
Robert: “We’re reconnected.” What dads of waywardsonsor wayward dads withsons, 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 ya. Can we start again?” And in 99% of the cases, because the glory ofsonsis their fathers, the Scripture says. They want to come back to dad and reconnect, no matter how bad the road’s been.
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, this ties in with the discussion last time.About your own father being an alcoholic and being abusive toward your mom. And your role in trying to be the negotiator.
Robert: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Jim: As you described it. Uh, your dad’s story ended in a good place. Describe it.
Robert: Yeah it really did. It actually started with, of course 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: Hmm. But he walked out the door?
Robert: But he walked, he didn’t even, he totally was ...
John: Oh wow.
Robert: Unaware of what he had done. And, and, when he was notified by the police that that had happened, he immediately had a massive heart attack. Huh! 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 gonna live.I went into the 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 the doctor and I was talking to him and he started bragging on his son, Robert. And how proud he was 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 the 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. 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.” And they put that little tribute on their wall in their living room, which was entitled by me, “Here’s to my imperfect family.” ‘Cause we were imperfect. But we made it. We made it because of what Jesus did in our lives.
John: Well what a great way to bring this conversation to a close with Dr. Robert Lewis on Focus on the Family. What insights for dads and moms and I know that he has spoken to hearts across this nation through his stories and his wisdom.
Jim: John, I want to speak to the dads for just a moment. I hope you’ve heard today how important your role is in raising your son; that’s been our goal. God has called you to fatherhood and passing the torch of biblical manhood is your fundamental mission, or should be. And to moms, that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless if dad is disengaged or out of the picture. You need to surround your son with strong examples and models of what it means to be a godly man. They are there-- look for them in your church, that is a great place to start.
And on that note, I want to encourage the men listening to invest in the lives of fatherless boys around them. As a man, you can impact these boys growing up without dads and there are a lot of ways to do that in your local community. I’m telling you what, I’m sitting here today because of men like that. Now the Lord obviously worked through them, whether it was a football coach or the father of a friend of mine, whatever it might have been, there were good, godly men in my life as a teenager, as a 20-something, who said the right things to me at the right time. This is why Focus on the Family is here, to provide those tools and other resources to encourage you and equip you as parents to do the best job you can.
And we couldn’t be here without you. Your prayer and financial support are what allows us to help strengthen families like yours, like we’re doing now, I hope. Not just here but across the globe. No amount is too small, so please, partner with us today. Become a monthly giver at $25, $30-- that would do so much to help us here at Focus to meet the needs of parents right where they’re hurting and right where they need the most help.
John: And when you donate today, generously, to Focus on the Family, we’ll send a copy of Robert’s book, Raising a Modern Day Knight. It’s a great resource; it’s our way of saying thank you for joining the support team. Donate and get a copy of Raising a Modern Day Knight and a CD or download of our conversation, our two-part conversation with Robert at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 800-232-6459. 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Next time, Dr. Gary Chapman is here. He’ll give hope to couples with this reminder.
Dr. Gary Chapman: You may think you’re standing still, but if you think that, you’re really drifting apart. And so, the key issue is: somebody has to take initiative to make things better.
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