FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Difference Between Boys and Men

with Dave Wilson | August 5, 2021
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How do you define manhood? What source do you use? Dave Wilson clearly defines the difference between a boy and a man and why that distinction is important.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 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.

How do you define manhood? What source do you use? Dave Wilson clearly defines the difference between a boy and a man and why that distinction is important.

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The Difference Between Boys and Men

With Dave Wilson
August 05, 2021
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Ann: I’m really excited about today.

Dave: You are? You’ve got a big smile on your face.

Ann: I’m excited for our listeners, because they are going to hear you talking about one of your favorite topics. You are pretty passionate about this.

Dave: I know a lot of people are thinking it’s football, [Laughter] but it’s not football.

Ann: It’s not football.

Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

Ann: What’s one of your great passions?

Dave: Speaking to men about being a godly man.

Ann: I’m going to tell you, like secretly, this is one of my favorite topics that you speak about; because I think every woman longs for her man to get this and to understand it, because we long for our men to really know what a godly man is.

Dave: Yes, I remember when I gave this message; it was on a Sunday morning at church. I wanted to say to the women—the wives, and the moms, and the daughters sitting in the congregation—they are probably thinking, “Oh, he’s talking to the men today. I’m going to check out.” I was like, “NO! This is what you long for. This is a moment to cheer your man—your husband, your son, your father—to rise up to become that man.” I think it’s a really important message for women to hear as well.

Ann: Well, let me ask you: “Why is this important to you in our culture today?”

Dave: Because I think the world is longing for men to be men. Boys, I think—and I say this in the message—don’t know what a man is; and there is no vision for manhood. I didn’t know what a man was until I went to the Word of God and discovered God has a game plan. He has a template saying: “This is what a man looks like,” “This is what a man does.” I’m not just saying it’s this masculine, toxic—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —dominating thing; it’s not that at all. It’s a very tender, loving, spiritual—

Ann: —servant.

Dave: —but strong/firm, where a man knows who he is and what he is called to do; and he lives that out. I tell you—when a man does that—it makes an impact on a family, on a church, on a school, on a locker room, on a city.

I mean—and it’s true for women too—when women know who they are and what they are called to be, it has an incredible impact. Obviously, I’m a man; and there is nothing more I love than just locking in with boys and men and saying, “Let’s talk about godly manhood and how to rise up to become these kinds of men.”

Ann: What about the single moms? They don’t have a husband; they don’t have a man pouring into their child in their home necessarily. What would you say to them?

Dave: Well, I was raised by one. She taught me, as well as anybody, what a man was. I appreciate single moms. I mean, I love my mom; and my mom also had a vision to help me become a man. She knew she couldn’t complete that, so she brought other men in my life—coaches. Literally—I didn’t even know this—but she spoke to them, behind closed doors; and she said, “Would you pour into my son? He does not have a dad. Could you be his dad in this season?”

Ann: I think, even for moms with sons/I know for me, I’m like, “Oh, this is what it looks like. This is what I can cast vision for. This is a template and a goal that I want for my sons to reach.” I think it’s beneficial to everyone.

Dave: Yes; I would say, “Fasten your seatbelts; I get a little riled up at times in this message.” I want to invite you to be as impassioned about it, as well, as I call boys and men to be men.

[Recorded Message from Kensington Church in Michigan]

Dave: Most men feel: “I walk alone, trying to figure out this manhood thing: trying to figure out what a man is, what a husband is, what a dad is.” Most of us men sort of walk alone. It’s tough these days to be a man—to even know what a man is—we don’t even know; there is so much confusion!

As a boy, you’re like, “Man, I just want to be able to look at a man and say: ‘That’s what a man is,’ ‘That’s what a dad is,’ ‘That’s what a husband is.’” Our culture doesn’t even know. Isn’t that crazy? You go out and ask people; and they are like, “I don’t know.” Hopefully, as a boy, you have a dad you can look at; and you can go: “That’s what a man is,” “That’s a man that I can trust,” “That’s a man that’s a good man,” “That’s a man that you feel safe with,” “That’s a man I want to follow.”

Guess what I find out: most of us didn’t have that kind of dad. If you had that kind of dad, or you’ve got that kind of dad, you should tell him. You should look him in the eye and say, “You are a good man; thank you”; and thank God for that man, because you are in the minority. Do you understand that? In fact, you are in a minority right now pretty much if you have the biological father in your home. Thirty-three percent of our homes: the biological dad has left; they are not even there. It’s just crazy how our culture doesn’t know what a man is.

Many of you know my story. I grew up, and my dad left. He was seven—when I was—he was seven [Laughter]. I was seven when he left; he was a little older than that. He walked out with another woman/actually, women. I don’t remember a whole lot, even though he is in my life the rest of my life; but as I reflect back on what I remember as my dad/my role model—what I looked to [in order] to say, “This is what a man is,”—here is what I grew up with until I was seven, and I saw it even after I was seven.

Dad was a womanizer. Some of you have heard this, but he actually took my brother and I—he was five; I was seven/even when we were six and four years old—on vacations with his girlfriends while he was married to my mom.

Dad was an alcoholic. I do not remember a single night of my life in that home that he wasn’t drunk. He wasn’t a happy drunk; he was a mean drunk. When he got drunk, he got angry and abusive. My sister and I—she was eight years older—she would grab me; we would run into my bedroom, shut the door, and cover our ears; because we didn’t want to hear what was going on between [him] and my mom. He was a loud, angry, hot-tempered man when he drank.

He was obsessed with money: big houses, fast cars, the next deal. He was an airline pilot [who] rarely came home, because he was always trying to find the next deal.

That was my role model for what a man was. What do you think I thought a man was, growing up? Trust me—our culture sort of promotes this—“A real man/a real man, who you can look at and say, ‘Now, that’s a man!’ is a man who is all about three things:

Success: you know, when a guy gets it—gets the house, and gets the paycheck, and gets it—then “He is a man.”

A lot of people say he is a sports athlete. He’s got—you know, he looks good, and he can perform on the field—“That’s a man.”

Or women—“A guy that doesn’t get women; he is not a man. But a guy that does…”

I put it in three C’s: “When he has cash, championships, and conquests, then you’re a man.”

Is that what a man is?—NO! We are absolutely bankrupt in this culture to know what a man is. By the way, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this culture is failing as men. There are more men in prison today than ever. If you are a man, you have an

11 percent chance of ending up in prison compared to women, who have a 1 percent chance. What’s wrong with our culture?

Now, I don’t know if you can tell; but I’m fired up. [Laughter] This is manhood stuff today; and I’m just telling you right now: “Fasten your seatbelts.” Now, don’t [just] fasten your seatbelt; get the harness thing over too. We’re strapping it in, and we’re going there. Are you ready? I’m going to talk to the men today, and we’re going to have the talk. I want to talk to men about a biblical vision and definition of manhood which, obviously, applies to women, as well, as husbands. It doesn’t mean this day is just for husbands and men; it’s for everybody.

In fact, you know, we live in this culture; we don’t even know what a man is. You talk about manning up—I got a text from my secretary, Debbie, in between the last service—she knows what we are talking about today. She said, “Hey, sitting here at Panera® next to two guys: one advising the other how to break up with someone. The one guy wasn’t going to do anything; just stop calling her. His buddy said to “Be a man; send her a text.” [Laughter] No lie; unbelievable. That’s the culture we live in.

Okay, guys, I’m telling you: “Are you ready?” Daniel Boone’s mom—legend has it that she said—and this is so true—“A boy remains a boy until a man is required.” You know why we don’t have men today in our culture?—because nobody has called them out to manhood. “Today is the day, fellas,”—I’m telling you right now—“Today is the day.”

I’ve got to say this: some of the women are like, “Whoa; whoa; whoa; wait. What am I supposed to do? Do I have to wait until next week?”—no, no, no. Let me tell you something, ladies—and you know this—when a guy talks to men about a biblical vision for manhood, guess who the beneficiaries are?—women and children. You’re going to benefit from your man—or your dad, or your boyfriend, or your husband, or your son—hearing what’s going on today; because if they decide—and they are going to have to make a decision today to become a vertical man/to connect with Jesus and become a man of God—it’s going to change everything. See, the problem with our society is there is/there is stuff going down here, downstream. Well, where do you go to fix that?—you go upstream. Guess who is upstream?—failing men.

Let me tell you—there are a lot of good men here; there are a lot of good men in our society—there are. There are really good men—men that you can trust, men that you feel protected with/you feel safe with—there are some of them sitting right beside you. I tell you something: “You better do this today—tell them they are a good man—tell them. Tell your dad he’s a good dad; tell your husband he’s a good man. He doesn’t even know if he believes it; he needs to hear that.”

But there are a lot of us [who] are failing our women and failing our kids; we really are. We need to be called today to step up.

Let me read you some things I wrote, along with some things that I borrowed from a pastor in Colorado named Jim Burgen, at a church called Flatirons. He said this—and I have found the same thing that so many women have asked me and are asking even in this church—they are asking this question:

“Where are the men who actually do what they promise?”

“Where are the men who don’t leave when times get hard?”

“Where are the men that, when they get angry, the family feels safer; because they know his anger is directed at protecting them, not hurting them?”

“Where are the men who want to love me, not just get in bed with me?”

“Where are the men who really walk with God, not just say they walk with God?”

“Where are the men who are not just childlike, pouting boys, who want to get their way?”

“Where are the men who obey God’s Word rather than pick and choose verses of the Bible that they think apply to them?”

“Where are the warriors, who will protect me and my children? Because all I’ve seen are men, who are bullies or wusses, that don’t make me feel safe.”

“Where are the men who will actually lead me spiritually?”

“Where are the men who make me feel safe?”

“Where are the men that I can trust when I’m alone with him?”

“Where are the men that I can trust when he is alone by himself?”

“Where are the good men?”

I’ll tell you what—there is a lot at stake here today, fellas—there is a lot at stake; because how we go, men, is how the culture goes, how our family goes, how this church goes. Let me say this, ladies: “As you are sitting beside your guy—or your boyfriend, or your husband, or your dad, or your son—please don’t be doing this whole thing [demanding voice]: ‘Yes, do you hear that? You listen!’—[Laughter]—don’t do that!”

You may have already figured this out; but when a woman pushes a man, it doesn’t work. We rebel against that; we hate that, when a woman tries to tell us how to be a man. In fact, you may already know this, ladies; but only a man can help a boy become a man. A woman can’t. There is nothing against women; I had a single mom. She was incredible; but she knew that she could only raise me from fetus to boyhood. It took a man to take me from boyhood to manhood. She got men in my life. She literally asked coaches—I never knew this—to become my dad for that season. She asked music directors and other men to pour into me; because she knew that: “This young boy won’t become a man in the presence of just women; it takes men to do it.”

Before I jump in—what I’m going to do today is—I’m going to talk about two characteristics of a vertical husband or a vertical wife. But let me make one last comment. The comment would be this/I need to say this to the single ladies: “If you are dating, or even thinking about dating a guy that doesn’t exhibit the characteristics I’m going to talk about here in a second—so as you listen to these, if you are thinking, ‘Man, that’s the guy I’m with,’ you stay with that guy. If he doesn’t have these characteristics, I’ve got one word for you: ‘RUN!’ and ‘Run fast.’ Do you hear me?—I’m not kidding. You’re dating this guy, and he’s not living this stuff out—I mean, he may say, ‘That’s who I am,’ but he’s not doing it—I’m telling you: ‘Don’t trust what a man says; trust what a man does,’—that’s the one thing you can trust. You run, and you run quickly.”

I know what you’re thinking, “Yes, yes; but if I do that, I’ll never have a date.” You lower the bar so low, it’s like, “Yes, but this guy makes me feel good; and he is so cute”; that’s a really low bar. You want to know the definition of a painful life?—I’ll tell you what it is—“Marrying a boy.” There are women right there, going, “Yes.” I would just/some of you moms, just grab your daughter, and you say, “You listen to this bald guy! He’s speaking the truth.” It’s true; you run, and you run fast until that boy becomes a man.

I wrote this real quickly yesterday afternoon: “Here is the difference between boys and men”—you ready?—it’s going to come up on a slide. “Boys take”—and by the way, single ladies, are you listening?—all ladies, are you listening?—men, are you listening? “Boys take; men give,”—is that true?—“Boys take; men give.”

Boys ask, “Does it feel good? Then I’m going to do it.” Men ask, “Is it right?”

Boys are all-in as long as it goes the way they want. Men are all-in until they finish what they started.

Boys are about self-indulgence; men are about sacrificial love.

Boys are passive; men show up.

Boys expect others to provide what they lack; men look around to see where something is lacking and provide.

Boys consume; men produce.

Boys are born; men are made. They are actually trained.

Boys cheat; men honor their promises.

Boys don’t control their lust; men choose to control their temptations.

Boys choose anger fits. I chose the word, “choose”—because it doesn’t just happen—you choose anger. Boys choose anger fits; men choose paths to peace.

A boy thinks his life is all about him; a man knows his life has been given to him to serve others.

Ladies, find a man, not a boy. If you are married to someone—you are sitting here, going, “Man, he is a boy,”—let me talk to your husband: “Today is your day, fella. You don’t have to stay a boy. It’s a decision that you make right here today to say, ‘I’m taking the first step to manhood.’”

Do you know what the first step is?—you go vertical. It’s the strongest move you’ll ever make as a real man—is on your knees—it’s a move of surrender. Victory, as crazy as it sounds, for all of us—especially for men today—comes when you surrender to Jesus.

In fact, I’m going to give you two characteristics—and I’ll just say it this way—the first one doesn’t sound like it’s the characteristic; but I’m saying the same thing. Here is the first characteristic of a vertical man. A vertical husband or a vertical man is sexy. I’m going to redefine sexy for you—okay?—because when we hear “sexy” we think: “Oh, man, that’s a body,” and “That’s perfect abs, and perfect shoulders, and a chest like”—mine; you’re looking at it right here—“here it is.” [Laughter] That’s not what a woman is looking for—well, I mean, some of the ladies are like, “I am!”—well, that’s not all you’re looking for.

Here is what I’ve discovered—my wife will come up here in a minute—she has told me this. Other ladies that you hear from, and that Ann has talked to from around the country as we speak about this—you find out that Christian women really want a man—right, ladies?—[who] walks with God—because a man, who connects vertically with God, who goes to God first, who finds life in Jesus—is a man you can trust.

Again, it’s like: “Well, wait. I know a lot of guys that say that, and you can’t trust them.” Well, guess what? They’re not really going vertical first. There are a lot of guys, who say they are Christians; there are a lot of guys who say they are men of God. A man of God walks it—not in our own power—in His power; but they are men.

I wrote in my notes: “Okay, when I go vertical/when I’m walking with God, what happens in my life? How does this affect my home?” I’ll tell you what happens: I win over sin. Do I struggle?—yes! Sin struggle doesn’t go away. I have victory; why?—because the power of God, vertically, coming through my life, I win over sin. Do you think that affects my wife?—it sure does. Do I win over lust?—yes. Does that affect her?—yes. Am I looking at porn?—no. Does that affect her?—yes!

I know my true identity, and I walk with freedom and confidence. Think about that. Most men—even men here—don’t know who they are and are trying to get their identity from their wife or from their job. When I connect vertically first—and I know who God is and I know who I am—I walk in confidence and freedom. You think a woman wants a confident man? She doesn’t want a proud man; she wants a weak man, who finds his confidence in Christ.

When I walk with God, I’m other-centered. I step into situations where a man is needed. Did you hear what I said earlier? Boys are passive; men show up. Here is the thing about boyhood and manhood; it has nothing to do with age. Does a boy become a man at 13?—16?—no! In our culture, they have no idea. There are guys in their 40s and 50s that aren’t men; they are boys that are really hairy. It’s just crazy—[Laughter]—because boyhood and manhood has nothing to do with an age. It has to do with when you start acting like a man, and connecting vertically with God, and not being passive but showing up.

When I connect with God, I lead in my home. I’m—look at this—I’m tender; I’m not harsh and impatient like I’m often will be when I’m not connecting with God. When I find strength in God, I’m tender; I have a deep sense of contentment and joy.

Guys, we should be discontented in our walk with God—we should want more and push for more—we should be contented in our life and find joy. But in our society, it’s flipped—most men are content with their walk with God—“Yes, I’ll show up to church once a week; no big deal. I don’t want too much of Jesus, because that will really affect my life.” The wife is like, “No! I want a lot of Jesus in you; because when you walk with God, you’re the man that is appealing to me.” I want to become so irresistible to my wife, as a man of God, that she starts chasing me around the house, tonight! [Laughter]


Ann: You’re listening to FamilyLife Today. That’s a message that Dave, my husband, gave in 2015 in a sermon at our church. Dave, did it work? [Laughter] Did that happen that night?

Dave: I wish I could remember.

Ann: I don’t remember.

Dave: I’m going to remember good things. Yes, you were chasing me around the house [Laughter]; I don’t know if you caught me or not. It was a good Sunday night; but I mean, the idea—because you’ve told me this—

Ann: It’s true.

Dave: —so many times—when I walk with God, it’s like I am irresistible. Obviously, I was making fun that it’s like a physical thing; but you’re talking/what is it about a man, walking with God, that draws others?—including his wife and kids to him?

Ann: The first thing that comes to my mind is you display the fruit of the Spirit: love, and joy, and peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That fruit is irresistible. What it does is it makes us, as women—me, as your wife—I think, “I want to follow you: you’re serving; you’re patient; you’re kind.” That’s attractive to any person and, especially, to your wife.

Dave: I think we’ve lived in a culture that says, if a man is overly spiritual, he’s weak;—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —and he’s not like a manly man.

Ann: He’s wimpy.

Dave: The opposite is the truth. The stronger a man is in Christ—like I said—he’s sexy. In other words, a woman is drawn to that; and I think everyone is.

Ann: I’m going to just be truthful. I think women are tired of feeling like they are the ones that are upholding the spiritual dynamic of the home or even setting the spiritual temperature for the home. We want to partner with our husbands and not feel like we’re dragging them with us.

Dave: Yes; so it really is a call for men to be men and to step out and watch what God does.

Bob: I have to believe that most of the guys, who are listening today, are guys who want to be good husbands/good dads; we want to be effective and successful at home. What Dave Wilson is saying is: “If that is true, the place to start is in our relationship with God: pursuing Him/becoming a godly man. To try to be a good husband and a good dad without going to God first—well, that’s like trying to patch up a tire that’s got leaks in it instead of replacing it with a brand-new tire—we need to start with new hearts/new lives, and then let God work in and through us to serve our wives and our families.

Dave and Ann have written about this in a book on marriage called Vertical Marriage that points us upward. If we want our marriages to be what God wants them to be, we have to start by going vertical. We’ve got copies of the Vertical Marriage book; and there is a Vertical Marriage small group series available as well. Go to to order the book or to get the small group series to go through with other couples. Again, the title of Dave and Ann Wilson’s book is Vertical Marriage. You can order it from us online at, or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Our goal, here at FamilyLife, is to do everything we can do to help effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe that godly marriages and families can change the world one home at a time. So everything we do is designed to bring practical biblical help and hope to you for your marriage and for your family.

If you’re a long-time listener—if you’ve benefitted from what you hear on FamilyLife Today—can I challenge you to join the team and make this program available for other listeners in your community and all around the world? Make a donation today online at, or call us to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Help us reach your neighbors and people all around the world with the same kind of practical biblical help and hope for their marriage.

When you do, we’d love to send you a book by Trevin Wax called Rethink Your Self. It’s all about understanding our identity in Christ. Really, it’s central to what Dave has been talking about today: going vertical in our relationship with God in order to be effective in our relationships with one another. Again, Trevin Wax’ book is our thank-you gift to you when you make a donation today; and we look forward to hearing from you.

We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we are going to further explore the impact it can have on a marriage and a family when a husband/a father goes vertical, when he commits himself to being a godly man. We’ll hear more from Dave Wilson tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.

On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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