Where Men Miss the Mark
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Dave WillisDave Willis is a speaker, author, relationship coach, and television host for MarriageToday. He works with his wife, Ashley, to create relationship building resources, media, and events as part of the team at MarriageToday.com and xomarriage.com. They have four young sons and live in Keller, Texas.
Dave Willis talks honestly about where he feels men are missing the mark. He reminds men that selfishness is the opposite of respect, and advises men to train their sons to serve others as Christ did.
Where Men Miss the Mark
Bob: All of us face the pressure/the temptation to act one way with one group of people and a different way with another group. For adolescent boys, that pressure can be pretty intense, especially as it relates to how you view young women. Here is Dave Willis.
Dave W.: They need to know that all parts of our life have to be an open book before God. If we’re going to live with honor and integrity, and if we’re going to be men of God—and in this specific case, if we’re going to be respecters of women—it has to be in all parts of life. It can’t be just: “In this part, online, I’m not respecting women,” or “In this one group of friends, I’m not respecting women”; it’s got to be all over.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 24th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. It’s important that our sons know that there is not a certain time when we’re supposed to be godly and another time when it’s okay not to be godly. We’ll talk more about that today with Dave Willis. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. It’s interesting, in the conversation we’re having this week about how we raise sons to respect girls, one of the things that emerges is: guys have got to be confident and competent in their understanding of what it means to be a man in order to know how to respect, appropriately and well, young women.
This is something I know you’ve been passionate about—is helping raise sons to understand masculinity and manhood.
Dave: I mean, if there is anything in this culture—and you know, of course, I’m going to jump hard on this—but there are so many things you’ve got to teach your sons and daughters; but man, it’s a passion of my heart. I didn’t know what a man was, growing up. The image I had was alcohol in my home/adultery in my home. Never a conversation with my dad, one time, about what it meant to be a man—except I can remember, when I was in college—and my dad told me to go to the bar and pick up women; that’s what I had.
So, now, I’m a father. You know, I’ve got three little boys; I’m like: “I have to find out what a godly man is. I’ve got to live it. Then, I’ve got to pass that onto my sons,”—who are now grown men, with families, and the whole thing; but it is a passion of my heart. The culture is worse now than it was then; and people have no idea: “What is a real man?”
Bob: You were equally passionate and committed to raising boys to embrace masculinity.
Ann: Right; one of the things that Dave did that I loved is that he found men—
Dave: You love something I did?!
Ann: Honey, there are so many things I love that you did.
Dave: Alright; let’s hear it.
Ann: He went and found men, that were older than Dave—that he watched them, as fathers—and thought, “That’s what I’m looking for,”—you did that.
I think that the thing that we did, too, as parents, is we always tried to have this open conversation. I remember saying to our sons: “This is what a girl is looking for…” “This is what your wife will look for…”; so that we are training and teaching them all along the way.
I remember, when our son was 18, he was like, “I’m going to ask this girl out.” He went on this date and opened the door for her—because, even as little boys, we would go out, and I would say—“This is—you know, you need to respect this woman. You need to have a conversation. This is what it looks like…”
He comes home from this date—and this, by the way, is the woman he is now married to—I said: “How did it go? This was probably an amazing night.” He goes, “I think she thinks I’m really weird.” I said, “Why?” He said: “Because I opened the door; I had these conversations/I’m trying to ask her things; I’m trying to be real gentlemanly.” I think he was really discouraged because she thought, “I’ve never met a guy like this”; but she married him, [Laughter] so it must have been pretty good.
Bob: Something worked out there.
Ann: Yes; but I think in our culture, guys are saying, “I don’t know how to do this.” They are looking for dads and men—and moms, too—to help.
Bob: Dave Willis is joining us this week on FamilyLife Today. Dave, welcome.
Dave W.: Thank you for having me. I am—it’s really an honor to be here. I’ve been impacted/my family has been impacted by the ministry you guys are doing. Thank you for letting me be part of it.
Bob: Well, we’re thrilled to have you here. Dave is an author/a speaker. He and Ashley live in Texas. They are raising four boys there. They are involved in the ministry of MarriageToday®.
Dave has just written a book called Raising Boys Who Respect Girls. This is a critical subject in our culture today, and you would agree with what we’ve been talking about here. In fact, I’m thinking of Chapter 4 in your book: “For a boy to have the right framework for respecting girls, that boy needs to understand what it means for him to be a godly young man.”
Dave W.: Absolutely; like Dave and Ann were talking about, it really does come down to finding those right mentors. We, as parents, have to be—or should be—the primary mentor, even if you didn’t have that growing up/even if you didn’t have a mentor to look to in your family. We’ve got to find it outside the family and say, “That’s what I’m aiming for.” If we don’t know where the bullseye is, we are never going to hit it; so we’ve got to find guys who are doing it right.
Bob: You have listed, in the book, areas where you think modern men are missing the mark. Just touch on a few of those for us.
Dave W.: I think some of the ways that we are missing the mark is simply just selfishness. I think that selfishness, in a lot of ways, is the opposite of respect. That kind of sets the stage for this whole list I give, in the book, of Chapter 4; but young men—and young women, too, for that matter—are sort of being raised with this mindset that says, “You just get all that you can get out of life.” At that point, other people in our life become either competition or a conquest.
For young men, they are kind of being raised to look at other men as competition—not as friends but as competition—and look at women as conquests, not as souls to be cherished/people to be respected. We’ve got to train our young men to say: “No; we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and serve the way Christ did. Recognize that every person—man and woman—around us is someone created in the image of God with limitless and eternal worth. We need to look at the fellow men around us as brothers in Christ, who can sharpen us; and we can do the same for them. We need to look at the women around us with this complete purity and respect, where we’re trying to respect, and protect, and champion them in every aspect of their life as well.”
It means taking the focus off of ourselves long enough to do it. If we’ll just train our young boys—and train ourselves—to not think life is all about our pleasure and us getting ahead; but start looking at other people and loving them and serving them. That’s really the foundation for any respectful relationship.
Dave: One of the first areas you mention, where men miss it, is a real struggle for every man. I know it’s been a struggle for me; I’m guessing for Bob. Every man listening is thinking, “The struggle between career, and even hobbies, and my family is a tension.” You say, “Number one,”—one of the areas that men miss it—“we prioritize our career and our hobbies ahead of our family.”
I missed that! I almost lost my marriage because I was trying to start this church; and it was a real priority in my life, not realizing, “I’m sort of leaving my wife and my kids in the dust.” I would have never told you my career is more important than my family; but if you looked at my calendar, you would have said, “Dude, I don’t know if you are seeing this.” Then I finally heard it from my wife. I think a lot of men struggle with this. You’re saying, “It’s like an area where we miss it”; so talk about that.
Dave W.: And I struggle with it, too; so I’m not writing this in a way that’s trying to condemn or preach at other guys—saying, “Hey, be more like me.” I’m saying, like, “I struggle with this—living in this tension every day.”
I think part of it is coming back to our God-given wiring as men—but then getting off course with that wiring—because God did put inside of us this desire to build things, and this desire to achieve, and this desire to do some of those healthy things that can require hard work. But we, as men, in our insecurity, we base our manhood on the trophies of this life. We base our manhood on measurable results like: “If I make so many dollars, that means I’m a real man,” or “If I get so many trophies or promotions at work, that means I’m a real man,” or “If I can get this many people to show up to my church or my organization”—or whatever it is—“then I’ve really/I’ve made it as a man.”
Even our hobbies tend to be measurable things. If you look at the hobbies guys go to, it’s usually stuff like golf, where there is a real tangible score; or fantasy football, where there is a tangible score, and they are playing against other folks; or video games, where there is a real point system—you know who is winning and you know who is losing—and you know what it takes to win.
Then, at home, we don’t have metrics that are that clear. There is not a scoreboard up at the house that says how we are doing as a husband or a dad. There is not a trophy given to us, at the end of the day, that says: “Man, you really did it today. You won as a husband!” or “…as a dad!”
I think it’s insecurity inside of us that can drive us to those places that don’t matter nearly as much as the eternal, limitless value of investing in our home and in our family and being what no one else can be. No one else can be a husband to your wife/a father to your kids the way that you can. We pour our best energies out into the world, looking for feedback—and looking for points, and dollars, and trophies, and trinkets—that make us feel like: “Yes; now, I’ve finally made it as a man. Now, I’m worthy of my family’s love,” or “I’m worthy of love,” or however our minds are wrapping around it.
I’m just saying: “Let’s get back to realizing that our value isn’t based in all those temporary trinkets the world throws at us. It’s that we are limitlessly loved by God—that Jesus loved us some much He gave His life on a cross for us; and He calls us to just embrace His love, and live in the overflow of that, and show that love to the people in our life—that relationships are really what matter most.”
For guys, we think: “Oh, relationships—that’s touchy, feely. I want something that I can attach trophies and points to”; and God says: “If you want trophies that are going to matter for life, then let your treasure be where your heart is; and let your heart be at home with your wife/your kids. Make that your first and primary mission, and you’ll win—in light of eternity, you’ll win.”
Dave: Now, how do I know if I’m missing it? You know, if I’m a guy—
Dave W.: Yes.
Dave: —and I’m pushing hard, trying to do my thing, and I just—how do I know if I am missing something at home that’s really valuable?
Dave W.: I think, first and foremost, your wife is going to be—she’s going to be the gauge-bearer there.
Bob: She’s keeping score.
Dave W.: She knows.
Ann: That’s what I was going to say. [Laughter]
Dave W.: Yes.
Ann: Every wife already knows.
Dave W.: Every wife knows.
Ann: The question is: “How do we, as women, get our husbands—how do we encourage him without criticizing him?” I criticized Dave for years: “I wish I was as important as your job”; you know? I was sarcastic. How can we lovingly encourage our men—and I’m asking you guys this—in a way that would draw them to home rather than pushing them away?
Dave W.: As a wife, you’ve got to have the freedom to express to your husband exactly what you need—and you can’t be afraid to say: “I wish you were here more. I just love spending time with you,”—and to communicate without feeling like you’re walking on eggshells.
When you feel like things have really gotten out of balance, a husband and wife have to have that kind of communication; but when you let your primary mode/your primary mission be to encourage and not criticize—and this goes, not only from women to men, but from men to women—it will change everything.
What happens is—couples will start getting into this mindset, where they become experts in picking out what the other is doing wrong. The husband will be like, “I don’t want to be home”; because he’s focused on all the things that his wife is doing to make him feel like he’s not winning; and the wife is always frustrated with her husband, because she’s focused on all the things she feels like her husband is doing that aren’t right.
One little exercise that we do at our XO Marriage Conferences—that I actually stole from somebody else; but we do it, and it seems to connect—is we say: “Alright; we are going to give everybody five seconds to look around this room and look for every red item you can find in five seconds. We’ll see how many you can find/how perceptive you are.” We’ll say: “Go! Look for red exit signs, red purses, red shoes, red, red, red. Stop; close your eyes. Now, we’re going to score the test. Out loud, I want you to tell me everything you just saw that is the color blue.”
People laugh, and they don’t say anything. Then we’ll say, “Open your eyes.” You look around, and there is blue everywhere. That was there the whole time, but they didn’t see it. We said: “Well, we didn’t make the blue magically appear. You didn’t see it; why didn’t you see?—same reason we don’t see most things; we are looking for something else.” Jesus said, “Seek and you will find.” The actual verb tense He used was: “Whatever you continuously seek is what you will find”; so the opposite has to be true: “Whatever you’re not looking for, you’re not likely to see.”
As it relates to marriage, if you make it your mission to notice everything your spouse is doing wrong, it’s all you’ll see—but if you say, “Holy Spirit, change my perspective and help me to find something to praise, help me to find something to show gratitude for, help me to be their biggest encourager/their biggest cheerleader instead of their biggest critic,”—it might not instantly change your marriage; but it could instantly change your own perspective and your own attitude, whether you are the husband or the wife in the situation.
This isn’t a gender-specific issue. You alone—just by changing the way that you approach your spouse, and by the tone of your voice in the way you relate to them, and the tenderness, and the kindness, and the encouragement—it can actually be something drawing them in instead of pushing them away. Very often, we’re trying to pull somebody in, we do it in a way that repels them more than it pulls them in. That kindness and that encouragement goes a long way to set the right tone at home.
Dave: I would add for the guy—the dad/the husband—who is trying to see if he’s missed it—is: “Listen.”
Dave W.: Yes.
Dave: “Listen to what your wife is saying,”—whether she says it affirmative or life or death—“Listen,” and “Listen to what your kids are saying.”
We recently did a marriage conference in Brazil for 2,000 pastors. Crazy thing—one of the other pastors from San Diego made this comment; he was trying to teach on this to the pastors. He was trying to say, “It isn’t about fulfilling your potential; it’s about fulfilling your calling.” He used this example; I’ll never forget. He said, “When one of my sons was seven years old, I’m writing a book; and he says to me, ‘I hate it when you write books, because you’re never my dad during that time.’”
Dave W.: Wow.
Dave: He said, “I stopped right then, and I never wrote a book until that son was 22.” He said, “My potential is I could have written a lot more books.” He has written many books. He goes: “But for the next 15 years, I said, ‘I need to be a dad; I need to be a husband. The books can wait.’” He said, “When he hit college, I started writing some more books.” He’s written like 15 books; but he just heard his son, and he realized, “I’m missing something, because I’m trying to pursue something else.”
He goes: “You don’t have to reach your potential. Your calling is to be a husband/to be a dad in this window.” I’ve never forgotten that; it’s like, “Wow!”
Dave W.: Yes; that’s powerful.
Dave: That was really listening and not missing something God had called him to.
Bob: The hard part is there is no scoreboard there.
Bob: So, back to the point you were making earlier, guys like to keep score. Guys like to know: “Am I winning? Am I succeeding? Am I accomplishing something?” At work, score is kept for you. In video games/in golf, all of it is kept; but at home, when that dad says, “Okay; I’m not going to write a book,” there is nobody saying, “You’ve got some points today.”
Dave: Yes, yes.
Bob: So, you wind up, as a man, thinking, “Am I really winning here?” I think a lot of guys are insecure about “Am I winning at home?” Guys will gravitate to those areas, where they know they can win; they’ll go do that. If they are wondering, “Am I winning at home?” then they are going to go find somewhere, where it is a little more concrete.
To your point, Ann, I think that’s where a wife can say, “I can be shrewd here; because I can say, ‘Here’s where you’re winning…’” It’s what you did when Dave prayed with the boys and you said, “You are winning when you pray with those boys.”
Ann: I think that is a great point, Bob, that we, as women, need to be intentional in letting our husbands know when they are winning. I think, a lot of times, as women, we’re thinking, “I don’t know; is he winning?” But just that encouragement of pointing out—kind of refocusing on our colors: “I’m going to, now, notice the things he does right instead of the things he does wrong,” and “I’m going to compliment him and notice those things, so he feels like he’s winning.”
I think women need that as well—we need encouragement—but that is something very tangible we can do as women—of even, at the end of the day, in bed, saying, “Hey, I noticed that you did this...That was amazing; thank you.”
Dave: Every guy I know runs to encouragement.
Bob: “I’m winning?”
Dave W.: Yes.
Dave: So, that guy is going to—
Bob: “I’m winning here? I’ve got a good score? Yes; I’m going to go back and do that again.”
Dave: “I’m going to run home,”—
Dave: —rather than just to the workplace.
Bob: So, bring this, now, all back to—because here, we’re talking about how men need to prioritize home, and they need to be bringing energy there. How does all of this fit into helping our sons respect women as we raise them?
Dave W.: I think it comes back to the model that we share and the value system that we are teaching for them. What scoreboard are we teaching them, early on, that really matters in life for a win? If we are teaching them, early on, by what we’re praising them in—that it’s only about these outward: if it’s only about the grades they get, if it’s only about how many points they scored at the basketball game or whatever—not that there is anything wrong with cheering that stuff on, but it has to be put in its place.
I think, when they look at us and they see a value system that says: “I’m reframing my scoreboard. Instead of dollars and trophies, I want to measure moments at home. I want to measure my success by: “How many moments of laughter was I a part of at home?” “How many moments was I holding hands with my wife?” “How many times did I see my wife’s smile and know that I had something to do with that?” and make that the scoreboard that I’m going for, and model that for my kids, because they are going to want to be like you. They are going to want a value system that reflects your value system.
And to be intentional—not only as you act that out by your presence at home and the attitude you have while you are at home—but also in how you are teaching them to put things in the right place, like: “Yes; work hard. We have high expectations. God made you smart, so we expect you to do your best to make good grades,”/“God made you gifted in this area, so we want you to work hard and develop that God-given gift; but that is not who you are. That’s not your identity. If some injury happened, and you could never do that thing again or play that sport again, then that doesn’t change a bit about your soul and your eternal worth in God and you’re eternal worth in this family.”
We have to constantly remind them of who they are, the value that they have, and what God’s value system really is, which is not the superficial value system of the world. The more we can keep coming back to that, the more we’re giving them a foundation and a confidence to be able to go out into the world—in the workplace/in school—but also, eventually, as a husband and a dad at home, and do it the right way.
Bob: Let me just read—you list things you want to teach your son in the book. I just want to read through this list; because I think, if you raise young men, who are doing these things, respect for women will naturally flow out of this kind of character. You say:
I want to raise sons, who have the courage to fight for what is right. I want to raise sons, who seek responsibility instead of running from it. I want to raise sons, who work hard at whatever they do; and when they have a family, they work hard to provide for them. I want to raise sons, who show patience and restraint, who are not ruled by their temper or their temptation.
I want to raise sons who, when they engage with a woman, they respect her by keeping both of them away from sexual sin; and then, when they are married, they respect their wives by being faithful, and respectful, and loving in all circumstances.
I want to raise sons, who keep their word and honor their commitments; and I want to raise sons, who trust God and let His Word reshape the roadmap of their lives.
You look at that list of seven things—that’s pretty powerful.
Dave W.: It definitely sounds more profound when you read it than when I read it; because I was listening, and I’m like, “I’ve never said anything that profound!” [Laughter]
Bob: It’s right there in your book. To the point: if you’ve got sons, who are courageous and fight for what’s right, and who seek responsibility, and who work hard and show respect, and control their passions, and who trust God’s Word, they’re going to respect women, naturally, because of the character that is developed that is a godly character. Respect for women is going to flow out of that.
Dave: I think, you know, as we all know, our sons/our daughters are going to follow our walk more than our talk.
Dave W.: Yes.
Dave: So, when they see these values lived out in mom and dad—when I lived these out, as a dad, “Is it going to be caught?” I can say whatever I want; I live it.
I do remember—30 years ago, we started our church; and my marriage was in trouble. Steve Andrews’s marriage was in trouble; we’re the two guys starting this church. We both said to each other: “We need to be home. We need to be putting our little kids to bed at night with our wives. How are we going to do this?”—because there are meetings and all this stuff.
I’ll never forget this; we stood up in front of our church together—year one—and said: “Listen, here is what we’re telling you. If you want to meet with us, we’ll meet you at four in the morning, five in the morning, six in the morning. The evenings—we’re not taking appointments. We need to be home, putting our little kids to bed with our wives. That’s what they’ve [wives] said: ‘If I could pick, I need you home at night more than the morning’; so we’ll meet you in the morning. We’re just saying this—we’ve made a commitment; we’re going to be home, at least, four nights a week.”
That was one more than half; right?—that was our deal. And we actually thought: “This would be cool. We’re going to tell the church; they are going to applaud.” We told the church—I’ll never forget it—they were like, “Wait a minute!” It’s a small church at this time. They were like: “You’re our pastors. What do you mean?! We work; we need to meet with you at night. You can’t be home.” We’re like, “Oh my goodness!” We thought they would applaud it.
Here is what I can say, 30 years later: “Best decision I ever made,”—
Dave W.: Yes.
Dave: —lying in bed with my little boys: five, six, seven, eight years old—praying with them, reading Bible stories with them; now, looking at grandkids—one of the best decisions we ever made. That was, then, caught more than what I taught to my kids. I’m just telling you—make the hard calls; it’s going to be worth it.
Bob: I’m thinking there are a lot of moms and dads, who are going, “We need a copy of that list.” Okay; it’s in Chapter 4 of Dave Willis’s book, Raising Boys Who Respect Girls. You can order a copy of the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Go to our website and order online; or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. Again, the book is called Raising Boys Who Respect Girls: Upending Locker Room Mentality, Blind Spots, and Unintended Sexism by Dave Willis. Order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I need to say a quick word of thanks to the folks, who have made today’s conversation possible for all of us—that’s those of you, who are regular listeners to FamilyLife Today, who have donated or, especially, those of you who are Legacy Partners and who are donating each month—thank you for enabling these kinds of conversations. Thank you for helping us, together, help others in your community and all around the world. When you donate to FamilyLife Today, you are facilitating the spread of practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families. You’re making this possible for others. On behalf of those who are benefitting from these kinds of conversations, thank you for your support.
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Let us know after you’ve been away with your son or daughter—let us know how it went and what kind of conversations you had. We’d love to get the feedback.
And we hope you can be with us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk with Dave Willis about one of the reasons why young men are objectifying young women in our culture today; and that’s the issue of pornography. What do we do about that as we raise our sons? We’ll have that conversation tomorrow. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. 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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