FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Married to a Passive Male

with Robert Lewis | June 8, 2006
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Today on the broadcast, Robert Lewis, Pastor-at-Large for Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR, talks frankly to fathers about the four things that every son needs.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Robert Lewis, Pastor-at-Large for Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR, talks frankly to fathers about the four things that every son needs.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Robert Lewis talks frankly to fathers about the four things that every son needs.

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Married to a Passive Male

With Robert Lewis
June 08, 2006
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Bob: Helping your son grow to manhood involves more than just instruction.  It involves modeling.  Here is Dr. Robert Lewis.

Robert: And the most important thing that a young boy needs to see in the early stages of his life is dad loving mom in a responsible way – unbelievable, the gift that gives a young son growing up and, equally, a thing a young boy needs to hear is his dad constantly reaffirming him with words of love.

 You know, you go, "Well, is that it?"  That is about it.  But what you're doing is you're creating for this budding young masculine spirit a sense of emotional security, which becomes bedrock in his development.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 8th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll talk today about things your son needs to hear you say and see you do as you raise him to be a man.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  We started out this week with the thought in mind that we were going to help equip dads to raise the next generation of young men, and we've spent most of this week helping dads understand what they didn't understand about their own masculinity, which, I guess, is a part of where you have to start before you can pass it on to the next generation, you've got to understand it yourself, don't you?

Dennis: If a man is going to give his son direction, he has to know where the North Star is.  He has to have some direction about his life and, hopefully, men and dads specifically have been encouraged this week by our guest, Dr. Robert Lewis.  Robert, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Robert: Thanks, Dennis, good to be here.

Dennis: Robert is the father of four, soon to be a grandfather, and he has a huge heart for this generation of men and the next generation of men, and that's why he's created a video series, a six-part video series, called "Raising a Modern Day Knight."  Now, some of you, as listeners, have Robert's book that's by the same title, "Raising a Modern Day Knight," and, I don't know, probably three or four years ago, Robert, you called me on the phone and said would you have any interest in helping you host this, and I thought, you know, "I know where the motherload of ore is on this, where, in Robert's heart where he is passionate about men, I'd love to toss you softballs and let you answer them in front of a video camera, and so we did that, and he's created a brand-new series that is designed to really equip young fathers to guide their sons toward manhood with a biblical definition.

Bob: And your goal for this is for guys to get together in small groups, either in a church setting or just with a group of guys, watch this, and they'll get a roadmap out of this that will serve them for the rest of their lives as they raise their boys, right?

Robert: Yeah, I think this is kind of a low-intensity commitment, in one sense, that you're not going to be given tons of things to do, and it's not going to overwhelm you, read what it is – and, Dennis, by the way, I want to thank you for graciously consenting to be my host on this video series.  You did a great job.

Dennis: I enjoyed the costumes.


Robert: And you did a lot more than toss softballs, you threw a couple of strikes yourself through that series.  But the whole thing is it's out a passion that I have to help young dads be proactive in their parenting by depositing substance into their sons' life that will stabilize them for a lifetime.  And it's really designed, the target audience is for dads who have sons six to 12; they come in together as a group of dads, they watch a video with Dennis and I and some other dads on the video interacting at the same time they're reading the book, "Modern Day Knight," which kind of complements the series, but the series goes way beyond the book.  They get to do some small, user-friendly projects with their son that gets them tasting what proactive, substantive parenting is all about. 

 Midway through they get a game plan that will allow them to have a roadmap to parent their son from the time he's one to the time he leaves home and, at the end, they get a charge to get together maybe with one or two other dads for accountability to implement that plan and cheer for one another until their son waves them goodbye.

Bob: You know, our listeners have heard your passion on this subject this week, and a lot of the wives who are listening are thinking to themselves, "I just wish my husband had that passion, but he doesn't."  Either the spiritual lights aren't on or maybe they are, but he's just not stepping up …

Dennis: Well, he's afraid, more than likely.

Bob: Whatever it is, he's not engaging in raising our sons.

Robert: It's that passivity we've been talking about.

Bob: Well, it is, and she's thinking to herself, "Is there anything I can do as a wife to help ignite the passion in him?"

Robert: You know, that's such a good question, and there are going to be a lot of frustrated mothers and wives out there thinking, "I don't think this can happen."  I think the way the curriculum is designed, it's designed to be initiated by a church leader or by an aggressive dad who would invite those kinds of dads to join him for a visual experience.  In fact, in the curriculum there is an orientation meeting where the dads just come by the invitation of a dad who would take the lead, and he shares with them about the series, and they get to sample it before they commit.

 And so if I was a woman out there listening wishing my husband would get in but don't – "I don't think he would do that" – then I think she needs to link up with a dad by maybe even showing him the material where he would say, "I can do this," and then let him call her husband and invite him to join for this visual experience, and they'll get a little sample in that orientation meeting.  But here is what I get excited about – I think – what I've experienced is if you get dads in the series, just watching and discussing and interacting – they start talking about their own lives and get in touch with what maybe they lost with dad or found with dad.  But because it's a low-impact kind of experience, some of the lights do start coming on. 

 Just like what I've experienced with Men's Fraternity, with guys who are out there who don't have a clue what it means to be a man, and the lights start coming on, and some of the engines fire up.  So the key would be, a, have a dad invite or, better maybe even, is to show it to a leader at the church, and I'm going to be doing this with our church, I'm going to be offering it to the whole church of men where I, as a leader, say, "I'm going to lead you through this visual experience.  Would you join me?"  And it's going to be low impact, and they come, and they get that experience.

 So you could take it to your church leader and ask him to initiate it or to a dad, maybe, that your husband knows.

Dennis: And I think one of the things that a wife ought to understand is fear is a tremendous paralyzer of men when they don't know what they're doing, and the safest thing to do is not risk anything but if you stay in the background, in the shadows, and never risk it with their son.  And if they call another wife and get her husband to start this group, it would be important for that man to create some safety around this study.  And this really is a safe study.  This is a low-risk study for men to get involved with because today, more than ever, and I've seen this, as well, Robert – men want to talk to men.

Robert: They do.

Dennis: They just want to talk about their struggles, where it is that they feel like they're not matching up and getting a definition and a direction that can give them some hope.

Robert: That's exactly right.

Bob: And I think you pointed out something – I don't know how many of the wives were thinking to themselves, "He's going to give me the words that I can say that will get my husband going," and, the truth is …

Robert: … don't say anything.

Bob: There is probably nothing she can say.  She can't nag, she can't cajole, she can't plead, she can't implore, she can't beg …

Dennis: … can't leave a note …

Bob: That's right.  She needs to get other men – somehow, she needs to encourage the community of men to invite him in.

Robert: That's exactly right, she can suggest – and the truth of the matter is, if a man invites another man, especially a strong guy who seems confident and says, "Hey, I'm going to be doing this with my son," other men are attracted to that.  What I've tried to do is take as much of the fear out of it as possible so that the maximum number of dads could participate from the passive, non-involved dad to the fearful dad who is problematic to the dad who is just new and goes, "What is this?"  And that's why you have an orientation session; that's why you show them some samplers, you show them the material before they say, "I want to do it."

Bob: Well, let me ask you one other question because I know, again, there are some wives who are listening who are going, "There's nobody for me to call on.  I don't know how to get my husband motivated into something like this, and I'm afraid my sons are growing up with deficits.  Is there anything I can do?  I can't be their dad, but is there anything, as a mom, that I can do to help my sons embrace a biblical view of manhood?  Can I do any of this?"

Robert: You know, it's a hard thing to say on a radio program, to say a woman can't make a son a man.  What a woman can do, a mom can do, is put her son in environments with other men who are healthy.  She needs to still be a great mom, but she can't make a boy a man.  It just doesn't work that way, and it's a hard reality, but she can put that boy in environments where he will get a vision of manhood he can get attached to.  This same material that we're talking about, the video series, can be taught to a group of mentors who could go out and mentor young boys, and I'm hoping that there will be mentors, men who say, "Hey, my sons are grown.  I could take on a young man and begin to play some of these things if I know who they are."  So I just think some of this for a single parent or for a divorced mom or for one who has a husband who is just simply absent, I think what she has to do is make some wise plays, and those wise plays are navigating her son into environment where there are healthy men."

Dennis: Where that young man is put in contact with the right kind of man.  And you know what – a coach, a Sunday school teacher, a camp director – if you choose the right man, those can be …

Robert: They can be powerful.  And, listen, I'm a living example of that.  I mean, my mom dealt with a very difficult dad for years, an alcoholic dad.  She navigated me into sports.  One of my coaches had a profound impact on stabilizing my life emotionally, which I still credit, to this day, and that's why my oldest son is named after that coach, see?  Now, that's what I'm talking about.

Dennis: Robert, let's actually go to the dad's workout program for his son.  You've kind of mapped out what a son needs, and you kind of map it out by age.

Bob: Yeah, you really – you cover things a son needs to hear, things he needs to see, things he needs to experience, and things he needs to receive at different developmental stages.  When a boy is just a little boy, he just needs to see and hear some basic things, doesn't he?

Robert: Yeah, and the most important thing that a young boy needs to see in the early stages of his life is dad loving mom in a responsible way.  Unbelievable, the gift that gives a young son growing up.  And, equally, a thing a young boy needs to hear is his dad constantly reaffirming him with words of love.

 You know, you go, "Well, is that it?"  That is about it.  But what you're doing is you're creating, for this budding young masculine spirit a sense of emotional security, which becomes bedrock in his development.

Dennis: And, Robert, back to the wife we've been talking to, who may be married to a man who is not doing this – she can coach a man.  She can say to him, "You know, sweetheart, your son needs to hear, 'I love you,' or 'I'm proud of you.'" 

Robert: Even if she's not hearing it that much from him.  She can still impart some of that to him.

Dennis: And just remind him that he needs to say those words to his son even though he's never heard it, as a man, from his father.

Robert: Right.  Now, let me just say this – a dad will say to me, a young dad will say to me, "Wait a minute, I'm looking, is that substantive fatherhood?"  And I go, "Absolutely, in the early years," and he goes, "Well, that's not that difficult."  I say, "Wait a minute now – your son needs to see you loving mom."  So in those early years of your marriage, where your emphasis and work and being courageous, leading courageously and accepting responsibility and – needs to be in the area of loving your wife and establishing that early on.  That's strategic fatherhood.

 See, that's beginning to impart to your son the essence of masculinity because you're stabilizing in those early years.

Bob: So if my son is two or three or four or five years old, I'm a dad, you're saying my focus ought to be communicating love to him and communicating to his mom that I love her in ways that he sees that, he's aware of it, he picks up on it.

Robert: He senses it in the home.  It's the environment of the home, and what's helpful to a young man, he goes, "Thank you.  That didn't overpower me, necessarily, those are real clear roadmaps," and I go, "That's what I'm trying to tell you.  All of this is not a list of 100 things to do.  They're just some strategic points of engagement that if you do these things, you're creating in your son a rich, masculine identity."

Bob: There will come a point when a boy turns from five to six; he moves into the early elementary years and, at that point, it's not that a dad quits loving mom or quits saying, "I love you," but he may need to add a few things to his arsenal, right?

Robert: Yes, and what I began to do in this roadmap and, by the way, your listeners can't see this, but we have this roadmap right in front of us, where a dad could go to any year in his son's life and go down that roadmap and see the two, three, four, five things that he needs to concentrate on, on that particular year.  So, for instance, if it was year eight, he would look on this roadmap, and he would see – I need, of course, to continue to love Mom, but now my son needs to receive from me some other things, in particular, an emphasis on affirming encouragement because, in those elementary years, a son is beginning to need to hear who he is and what he does right.  And he doesn't need to be remade in Dad's image, he needs to be affirmed in the image, in the talents and gifts and abilities God has given that son.  You might be a great athlete as a dad, you may have a son who is more inclined after mom, and he's got maybe some artistic gifts.  But rather than trying to bend him in an opposite direction, you need to be affirming him, saying, "You're really good in art.  Keep that up."

 I have a son who is an artist, and I know nothing about art. 

Bob: Let me explain something – you were a middle linebacker in college, right?

Robert: That's right.  My role was to hurt people.


Bob: And your son was good in art, so was this a hard counterintuitive thing for you, as a dad, to say, "Boy, you're a good artist."

Dennis: Tell the truth, Robert.

Robert: It was different, it was different, but the point was is that you could see it because of his little drawings and what the teachers were saying, so we got him art lessons.  And, to this day, he's still taking art lessons, and it's just wonderful to see that gift bloom in his life; that a son starting at 9, 10, 11, more and more through those teenage years, in particular, he needs to be encouraged with who he is so he doesn't – like, I work with a lot of the guys – they're always longing to be something they're not.

Dennis: Bob, you remember our interview with Dennis Jernigan?

Bob: Sure.

Dennis: The songwriter, and this is who we're talking about here, Robert.  You may not know Dennis, but he's written over 2,400 praise and worship songs for the church – a tremendous, gifted songwriter, great vocalist, just a great man.  But when he was a little boy, he didn't get this but instead, through some odd circumstances, was sexually abused by an older man, and the absence of being affirmed for who he was, spun him off, as a young man, toward the homosexual lifestyle.

 And I think increasingly in this culture today, if there has ever been a time for dads to be connected heart to heart and soul to soul to their sons, to affirm who they are in their masculinity and their identity and in their giftedness, as Dennis was, in the more musical side of things – and art – he's gone on to become a great dad.  He has nine children and has written all these great songs.  But if he'd had that, it wouldn't have perhaps sent him off into a lifestyle that cost him several years of his life.

Robert: Yes, and that's the importance of having a roadmap, because you look on there, and you say, "I need to emphasize this when my son is eight years old."  Now, if you look down, you'll see he needs to experience a special one-on-one time with me as a dad.  And what he's going to hear is we're talking special, you know, because sons live with memories of dad, and so you take this son off, let's say, to a fishing experience – just you and him. 

You might have other sons, but during that year all you've got on here is one special one-on-one time that you make sure that he doesn't go from year eight to year nine without at least one special getaway with you, and it begins to continue every year until he leaves home and goes to college or goes in the workforce.  But here is what happens – that son goes in the workforce, and he looks back.  He's sitting there in his office one day at 34, and he's thinking about the eight to 10 special one-on-one moments that he had dad climbing a mountain, going on a vacation, getting away, you know, to a special ball game or something, and they were all of these dates with dad, and you know what they leave?  Unbelievable pleasant memories, and he lives there for a moment, and they stabilize his life.

 How do you do that?  One at a time, looking at the roadmap saying, "This year I've got to do a special one-on-one experience with Junior," okay?  Those are the kind of things.  Then as they get a little older, you start adding some other elements, like a ceremony, like when they get to be a teenager, if you look on the game plan, at 13, you look down there, and you're going to introduce your son to the definition of manhood in a ceremony.  How does that ceremony take place?  You organize some special trimmings around it, some mementoes.  We talk about that, Dennis and I do, in the video, maybe get some other people involved, and you introduce him to manhood and make it a special, spotlighted moment sacred to him.  He'll never forget it.

Bob: I was going to say, you map out for all dads from birth to release – how a dad can go through a process each year incorporating intentional things you can do that will help …

Robert: Substantive things, core things.

Bob: That will build your son's masculine identity.  That's in your book, "Raising a Modern Day Knight," but it's really found in this video curriculum.

Robert: Right.  It's found in this video curriculum, and we illustrate the curriculum.  Dennis and I show other dads doing it in the curriculum so the viewer gets to watch and have an experience, watching other dads have a ceremony with their sons.  So you get all that, but here is a thing that Dennis and I emphasize in the video, and I want to say to the listeners, and that is this – any dad could have this worksheet in front of him, and work on any year and go down it, and it wouldn't overwhelm him.

 It's only a few things, but here is what the few things are – they're visionary, and they're substantive, and they stabilize the son for a lifetime.

Dennis: And it's interesting, these steps came from Robert Lewis, who was a young man raised in a home where he didn't have a father.  So even that man who is feeling like a victim can turn that loss into a real gain, and he can see the benefit that Robert and other dads have seen.

Bob: Well, and it helps to have the mentoring, and that's what you've provided, both of you, in this video curriculum, "Raising a Modern Day Knight."  Any man can get a group of guys together, all of you raising sons and go through this material and all of you come away with a game plan for how you can invest in your sons and point them in the direction of biblical manhood.

 You can go to our website,  You'll find more information about the video curriculum.  We also have information about the book, "Raising a Modern Day Knight," which is available in our FamilyLife Resource Center, along with the book you wrote called "Rocking the Roles," that's written for husbands and wives to better understand our responsibilities and our roles in marriage relationship.  In fact, any of our listeners who want to get "Rocking the Roles" and "Raising a Modern Day Knight" together, we'll send at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week on this subject that you can listening to again, or you can pass on to other dads – get them excited about this whole idea.

 Again, our website is, and if you go to our site, there's a red button in the middle of the screen that says "Go."  You click that button, it will take you right to the page where you can get more information about the resources we've been talking about, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, mention that you're interested in either the books or the video curriculum from Robert Lewis, and someone on our team can answer any questions you have or make arrangements to have these resources sent out to you.

 You know, our team was taking some time recently to look back over the last several weeks of broadcasts, and they were noticing that many of our listeners had responded to a conversation we had with Elyse Fitzpatrick, who is the author of a book called "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat."  We were talking about food and about eating and how some folks, when we're discontented, we turn to food as a way to try to make us feel better; how we really can develop an unhealthy, unbiblical approach to food.  It can become an idol in our lives.  And because so many of our listeners had contacted us and mentioned that as a helpful program, we wanted to make the CD audio of those programs available to any listener during the month of June who can help FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  We are listener-supported. 

Folks just like you get in touch with us from time to time and make a donation either over the phone or online so that FamilyLife Today can continue in this city and in cities all across the country.  And this month, if you are able to do that, we want to say thank you by sending you this audio CD with Elyse Fitzpatrick on the subject of food and eating.  You can request that when you make your donation online at  As you fill out the form, you'll come to a keycode box and just type the word "Eat" in there, and we'll know that you want the CD sent to you.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can donate over the phone and, again, just mention that you're interested in the audio CD you heard us talking about on FamilyLife Today, and we'll be happy to send it out to you.

 We appreciate your partnership with us.  Your financial support is crucial, and we are grateful to hear from you.  Thanks for linking arms with us in this ministry.

 Well, tomorrow Dr. Robert Lewis will again be with us, and we're going to continue our weeklong look at how dads can raise sons to be godly men who understand what God has called a man to be and to do.  I hope you can be with us for that conversation.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

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