It began as a shopping date with my daughter Laura, who was 13 at the time. I never dreamed it would end the way it did.
Laura decided that she wanted to go where her older brothers and sisters went to shop at the time—Abercrombie and Fitch. There she found a beautiful baby blue sweater, and she went to the dressing room to try it on. While I was waiting I noticed a life-sized poster of a young man completely nude, leaning up on a boat dock knee deep in water. The shot was from behind, but I had not asked to see that guy chilling in his birthday suit.
I stood there looking at that poster thinking that I thought this was a clothing store and how inappropriate that was for my daughter and other girls. Finally I asked if I could please talk with the manager. The young man, who couldn’t have been over 30, came over and I greeted him with a smile. I shared with him that I had six children and was a good customer; then I said very kindly, "This picture … I'm sorry, but it's just indecent." I thought I’d get agreement.
Instead he quipped, "I beg to differ with you, sir. By whose standards?"
A little stunned by his response, I replied with measured firmness, "By any standard of real morality."
By that time, Laura had wandered back with her sweater. I pointed to the picture of the chiseled, buff-buddy’s buns, looked the manager squarely in the eyes, and said, "Sir, if that picture is not indecent, then I'd like you to drop your pants and get in a similar pose to that guy in the picture.”
He looked at the picture, then my daughter, and back at me. He looked like a deer in the headlights. There was a moment of silence, full of anticipation. Then he shook his head and said, "Huh-uh."
I probably shouldn’t have pressed the point, but I added, "Come on, you said that picture is not indecent. Come on, drop 'em."
I smiled and said, "You know, it's a good thing you didn't drop your pants, because you could have been arrested for indecent exposure."
Then he replied, "Well, if you think that's bad, you should see our catalog."
So I went over and opened the catalog. One photo showed four teenage girls in bed with a boy; I’m not sure what they were advertising—maybe bedsheets—because none of them had clothes on. I pushed the catalog back and said, "I'd like you to take my name and phone number. I'd like someone from your corporate office to give me a call."
To which he politely said, "Sir, I can take your name and address but they're not interested. They really don't care what you think."
My response was kind, but firm: "I just want you to know I'm just one customer. I'm just a daddy of six kids, but I've got a lot of friends. And I want you to know that wherever I go, I'm going to use this episode as an illustration of a company that doesn't care about the future of our young people, their morality, or the future of our nation."
I figure I’ve shared the story with about five million people on various radio broadcasts, speaking at conferences, and in writing.
The courage to protect
One of my favorite quotes, attributed to British politician Edmund Burke, is “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” When evil invades a man’s life and marriage, his children’s lives, his work, and his community, the easiest thing for him to do is nothing.
As a husband and father, you are the warrior who has been charged with the duty of pushing back against the evil that seeks to prey on your wife, daughters, and sons. If you don’t step up, who will?
When you think of protecting your family, perhaps the first things that come to mind are keeping your house locked, or holding on to your child’s hand on a crowded sidewalk, or investigating a strange sound downstairs in the middle of the night, or teaching your children about what to do if the house is on fire. But as I’ve looked at my responsibilities as protector at home, I’ve realized that they go further. For example:
I have established boundaries to protect my marriage. I’m doing battle for my marriage when I don’t meet with a woman by myself unless the door is open or there is a window so that others can observe. I do not have lunch with other women alone. I do not travel alone in a car with other women. I copy my wife, Barbara, on e-mails written to women, and I don’t have private conversations with women on social websites without her knowing. At the same time, I do battle for my marriage by helping Barbara with household chores, taking her on dates and getaways, and spoiling her with an occasional gift of her liking.
I protected my children by training them in the choices they would make. I organized weekend getaways with both sons in their early teens to discuss peer pressure, dating, sex, pornography, alcohol, and more stuff the culture was throwing at them. I continued these conversations with my sons through the years—we even talked about things like dealing with girls who pursue them sexually, and what to do if they see a fight breaking out at school. In addition, Barbara and I made a big effort to get to know our kids’ friends—especially once they reached junior high and peer pressure kicked into high gear. We wanted to be aware of the good influences and the potential bad ones.
I protected my daughters by dating them and, later, by interviewing their dates. On these dates I showed them how a young man was to take care of them, what they should expect from a guy, and how to deal with sexual overtures. I explained why it was important to dress modestly, and I did it at an early age before they experienced much peer pressure on the issue. I met with their dates and made it clear to each young man that I expected him to keep his hands off my daughter.
I protected my family by working with Barbara to set up boundaries about media. We set standards on the types of films and television programs we would watch. We made rules about when and where they could access the internet, and talked about how to protect their privacy and how to guard against sexual predators. If I was a father with children at home today, I’d also be setting boundaries on cell phones, texting, and video games, and I’d install porn filters on all computers.
A trained warrior also has battlefield vision that anticipates the future. He scans the horizon and assesses dangers that are coming so that he can prepare for them.
And he realizes he is never off duty.
Warriors in the community and boardroom
Not only does America need warriors at home, but it also needs men willing to use their influence to protect their communities and even the nation.
Like my friend Scott Ford, former CEO of a large wireless phone network, who told me of the pressure he felt from stockholders who wanted to increase the company’s profits by putting pornography on the mobile phones they sell. Scott stood firm and many times stood alone.
Robert Rowling, whose holding company owns Omni Hotels, is another corporate warrior. He pulled all the pornography out of his hotels at a cost of more than $6 million, reasoning that if he didn’t want his sons to view that stuff, why should he make it possible for other men or their sons to stumble?
The Scriptures contain a simple admonition that men of all ages need to take to heart today: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Men, we are in the midst of a cosmic conflict of good versus evil. Wars are made up of battles, and battles demand a few good men who assume the responsibility of warriors and fight.
Many of you are not corporate leaders, but you may have the opportunity to step up in other ways. Perhaps it will be taking a stand against deceptive practices in the company where you work, or speaking out against sexual harassment, or talking with your child’s teacher if he or she shows an inappropriate film during class.
It takes courage for a man to step out and push back against evil. It will mean that you don’t go with the flow. You can’t fight every battle, but you can get involved when opportunities come your way.
When men don’t step up, the cost of doing nothing means that indecency, immorality, and other aberrant behaviors become the new norm in the culture. Our children and grandchildren will pay the ultimate price if we turn our heads. When men are not warriors, when men don’t push back against evil with good, the evil we were meant to conquer turns around and preys upon us and our descendants (see Isaiah 59:11-15).
In all these various engagements with the culture and others, real men are firm, but gracious. Having convictions does not give a man the license to be rude or pummel another person with his beliefs. Truth and love must be kept in proper tension with one another.
“Freaking” on the dance floor
I have one last admonition: Be ready! You never know when you will come face-to-face with an issue that demands courage and stepping up.
A number of years ago a couple of our teens attended a junior high dance. Barbara and I decided we’d drop in unexpectedly and check it out. As we entered the darkened dance floor we saw about 30 kids off in the darkest corner, doing a dance called “freaking.” Now if you haven’t seen this, trust me, it’s an imitation of intercourse, but with clothes on.
A handful of parents were huddled near a light in a corner watching, grousing and complaining about what they saw, but generally doing nothing.
I walked past the parents and went over and stood near the swaying crowd. I watched as two boys drew a young lady in between them. As I stood there deciding what to do, my palms grew clammy, sweating with anticipation. I thought, Here I am, a 45-year-old man, and I’m afraid of what a couple of pimple faced, 14-year-old boys think about me?
I finally concluded, What they’re doing is absolutely indecent. It’s ridiculous for me to cave in to fear!
So I stepped into the crowd of “freaking” dancers and tapped one of the young men on the shoulder. I smiled sternly and told him to knock it off. I challenged him to treat the young lady with dignity and respect.
He had a very blank look on his face. I could see him thinking, Whatever…
His response didn’t matter, because one small step had brought victory. Feeling more courageous, I approached another trio of gyrating teens and busted them up. I looked over my shoulder and a bunch of dads were now joining me.
Here’s the point, guys: God made us to pierce the darkness. He didn’t make us to fight every battle, but He did make us to stand for truth, to embrace standards. And when men don’t embrace beliefs they are paralyzed and neutralized by the culture. They won’t step forward and can’t step up because they don’t have the mandate of truth resonating in their souls. In the absence of real men pushing back against evil, the culture continues its downward spiral and becomes increasingly shameless and vulgar.
Do not be overcome by evil. Step up and kindly overcome evil with good.
Adapted by permission from Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, Copyright © 2011 Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing.
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1. Read another article by Dennis Rainey on manhood: “5 Ways Men Need to Step Up.”
2. Listen to Dennis Rainey talk about stepping up to manhood in a FamilyLife Today® radio series.
3. Dig deeper into what it means to step up and live a courageous life with the Stepping Up® video series.