FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Will the Real Man Please Stand Up? Dave & Ann Wilson

with Dave and Ann Wilson | January 16, 2023
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What's the difference between a boy and a man? Host Dave Wilson draws a line between choices and actions that keep guys immature and what makes a real man.

  • 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.

What’s the difference between a boy and a man? Host Dave Wilson draws a line between choices & actions that keep guys immature—& what makes a real man.

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Will the Real Man Please Stand Up? Dave & Ann Wilson

With Dave and Ann Wilson
January 16, 2023
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Dave: Rejecting passivity is a scary move. I think it takes a man to step into it, and it happens every single day. It isn’t [that] you reject passivity one time; it’s like every day there will be a situation in your family room/in your house/at work where you have to reject this passivity/“I’m not going to do anything or say anything,” and step into it.

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

Ann: And I’m Ann Wilson, and you can find us at or on the FamilyLife app.

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today!

Ann: You have been my pastor for 30 years. [Laughter]

Dave: That sounds weird to say I’m your pastor.

Ann: No, you are.

Dave: I’m your husband; I’m not your pastor.

Ann: —and my pastor. But I think about how many messages I have not only heard—

Dave: —you’ve had to endure.

Ann: —no—how many I’ve heard you give, but how many I have watched you write. I have watched you study for them.

Dave: Thirty years times probably thirty weeks a year or so; so almost a thousand messages. Man, oh man! I feel sorry for you.

Ann: I’m better because of you. I think one of my favorites is when you preach on “REAL Man.”

Dave: —“REAL Man”/”The Four Pillars of Manhood.”

Ann: It doesn’t even make sense that I would like that but maybe because I’ve had three sons, brothers. But when I hear it there’s something in me even as a woman, that gets excited for our men to hear this.

Dave: We’re going to talk about that today.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I get excited about it, obviously, because I don’t think men know what a man is. I don’t think boys know when they become a man.

Ann: I don’t think you did.

Dave: I didn’t know. I mean I grew up in a home, obviously you know this, without a dad in my life. But what my dad modeled for me was a man was all about—here, I’ll give you three w’s; I just thought of—WILSONS. A man is about wine, because he was sort of addicted to alcohol. It’s about women; he had girlfriends besides my mom. And your wallet; it was all about cash.

It’s like, if you’re a real man, you have those things going on in your life. I think a lot of boys and men today still think that’s what defines being a man.

Ann: That’s interesting because when we first started dating, I asked you— you were a senior in college, and I asked you, “What do you think you are going to do with your life. You said, “I don’t know. Something that I make a lot of money.”

Dave: That’s all I thought.

Ann: Then you go into the ministry.

Dave: Yes, I did the opposite. But my perspective growing up was that’s what a man did, and he provided for his family. Then I came to Christ my junior [year] in college. It was the first time I ever asked the question, “What does God say a real man is?” and started walking through Scripture and found out it’s a lot different than my dad modeled for me.

I read a book when we were early married 35 years ago by Robert Lewis called Raising a Modern Day Knight.

Ann: You loved that book.

Dave: It was awesome because it not only described “This is what a godly man looks like from Scripture,” but it also gave you a journey, a rite of passage, for boys to become men. It was like the guidebook for me with our three sons to say, “What’s the rite of passage going to look like for CJ, Austin and Cody as they grow up and become men?”

Ann: If you’re a woman listening right now; you’re thinking, “Okay, I’m checking out because this is a man talk,” don’t check out. Because as a woman, you can listen to these, and you can see maybe when your husband is maybe doing something right and you can notice it/you can say something/you can commend him for it.

If you have sons, these are the things that we can start pouring into and even complementing our sons when we see them doing it and even kind of teaching them, “This is what it could look like.” I’m thinking a lot of moms are single moms. Maybe you don’t have a husband in the house, but you can teach these. Dave, you will also talk about finding other men to be pouring into their boys.

Dave: Let’s start here. Whenever I bring up this topic—hopefully someday I’ll write on this—I try to describe the difference between a boy and a man. Because manhood has very little to do with age. You can be a teenager and be a man; you can be a 50-year-old man and be a boy. It is really characteristics of how you are living and it is character.

It isn’t age or whether you have a beard or not. It is character.

I love to walk through something I’ve listened to other men talk about, I’ve read about and then I just sort of put it into my own words; like, “Here’s what a boy is; here’s what a man is.” I call it “The Difference between Boys and Men.”

It starts here: “Boys take; men give.”

Boys ask, “Does it feel good?” 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 all about self-indulgence. Men are all 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 they provide.

Boys consume. Men produce.

Boys are born. Men are made.

Boys cheat. Men honor their promises.

Boys don’t control their lust. Men choose to control their temptations.

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.

Ann: I want stand up and cheer; like, “Yes, this is so good.”

Dave: Anyone of those we could talk about—

Ann: —for a day.

Dave: I think those are all found in “The Four Pillars of Manhood.” When you think about “What pillars define what a man is?” This is where Robert Lewis’s material really helped me. He didn’t call them pillars. He just had four attributes. I took his four attributes; I put them into an acrostic: “REAL.” Because every guy I know wants to be a real man, but we don’t know what a real man is. So I thought if we could define it by R-E-A-L.

The first one is “A real man Rejects passivity.”

Ann: That’s good. What does that mean and where did you get that?

Dave: It really comes from the first man in the Bible, Adam. If you want a study of a boy compared to a man, all you need to do is study Adam. He was a boy the way he lived. Jesus lives out the four pillars; he was man. If you want a picture of what this looks like, Adam represented a boy who was passive in the garden. Jesus was active.

Ann: I was going to say, “What do you mean?” Because Adam was perfect, he was sinless, at first. So, when did he become passive?

Dave: He sat there and he got the revelation from God not to eat of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge. When Satan through the snake tempted Eve, what did Adam do? Nothing; he sat there.

Ann: He was with her.

Dave: Adam, I mean he should have rejected passivity and stepped in and said, “No, that’s not what God said. We’re not going to eat this fruit. Get out of here, Satan,” and he just literally did nothing.

Yet, I’ve been passive. Every guy I know has been passive. There’s a streak in us of passivity. One of the first pillars is “You’ve got reject that when you feel that.”

Ann: Do you think that’s a sin bent? If we have a bent toward something, do you think that would be it in men?

Dave: Yes, I think it is a sin bent in us men that we inherited from Adam. Again, the reason it’s “reject,” and by the way every word of the real man is an action verb.
Reject”—you have to act, and you’ve got to reject it.

It’s not going to be your natural bent, “I’ve got to push this away; I’ve got to step in and do the right thing.”

It’s interesting, often when I teach this to men, I use the story of David and Goliath. In that story, David is a teen-aged boy and he’s the only man that shows up. You’ve got all these men in their probably 20’s and 30’s. They’re trained warriors.

Ann: —and King Saul.

Dave: You’ve got a king and they’re battling a giant from the Philistines. One man against one man. None of these trained warrior men will go out and fight him because passivity leads to fear. It says in 1 Samuel 17 [that] they were filled with fear and dismay and they actually ran away. [1 Samuel 17:11, Paraphrased]

David shows up. He’s only there because his dad sent him to take bread to his brothers who are there. He sees what’s going on and he sees “This is wrong/this Philistine challenging, not just Israel, but the armies…” he says “…of the living God.” [1 Samuel 17:1, Paraphrased] He says, “This can’t happen.” He makes a manhood move.

A 13 or 14-year-old boy goes to the king and says, “This is wrong. If nobody’s going to go fight him, I’ll fight him.” That’s rejecting passivity. That’s stepping in to do what a man should do.

Ann: I love that story, too, because he wasn’t confident in his own skills, and he probably was skilled seeing that he killed a lion and a bear, but he was more confident in the God that he served. Even that alone shows so much about David’s character.

Dave: Yes, we’re going to find out that part of the story later, what he says when he faces Goliath.

Ann: But you did answer my question because I was thinking, “Why are men passive?” Because I was talking to wives and friends; like, “Why won’t my husband step in or step up?” You’re saying is it because of fear?

Dave: I think fear is a big one. “We don’t know what to do. We haven’t been trained.” It was easy for me not having a dad in my house not to know what to do as a dad.

Ann: You feel like a failure.

Dave: You can just be passive and let your wife do it or let someone else do it. It’s fearful. It is like, “What if I do it wrong? What if I don’t do it right? What if people don’t follow me?”

Rejecting passivity is a scary move. I think it happens every single day. It isn’t [that] you reject passivity one time; it’s like every day there will be a situation in your family room/in your house/at work where you have to reject this passivity: “I’m not going to do anything or say anything,” and step into it.

I remember a time I went over to our oldest son’s school at lunch time just to be there and hang out. They sort of encouraged us a parents sometimes to show up. Long story short, I end up at lunch time. I’m out on the playground with all the boys. I split them up into two teams. I have a football and we start playing a little touch football.

It’s a fun little deal and I’m quarterbacking CJ’s team. I’m trying to get the ball to every kid on the team because that was my goal: get everybody involved, just to have fun. I throw a ball to one of CJ’s buddies and he’s not super athletic. As I throw him the ball, he drops it because he just couldn’t catch the ball.

The best athlete on the other team makes fun of him, calls him out, says he’s a loser,  says, “Mr. Wilson, don’t ever throw the ball to him. He’s pathetic. He can’t catch it.”

I look at this kid and I said, “We’re not going to talk like that. You don’t make fun of somebody on the playground.”

He just waved his hand at me. We kept playing, and later I try to throw the ball to this guy again because I want to get him involved, and he dropped it again. This other athlete on the other team just goes off; like, “He’s pathetic. He’s a loser. I told you not to throw him the ball. Never throw him the ball. He’s the worst kid in the school.”

At his moment, I’m like, “I’m done with this kid. This is wrong. He’s making fun of a kid.” You can see that it’s affecting him. I can also tell [that] this has been said to him a lot.

In a gentle but firm way, I go over and grab this kid who’s making fun of him just by his shoulder.

Ann: You just guide him.

Dave: Just sort of guided him over to this teacher who was standing by the door to go back in the school. I’ll never forget it. I just walked him over and I say, “He needs to go in. He shouldn’t be out on the playground anymore.”

She looks at me and says, “And you are who?” It’s like she’s never seen me. I’m like, “Oh, I’m CJ Wilson’s dad. I’m just here playing with the kids at lunch.”

She goes, “So you think you have the authority to remove a kid from the playground?”

I’m like, “Well, he’s been rude and making fun of this kid. It’s just wrong. He needs to go in.”

She’s like, “Well, I haven’t seen it so he’s good to go.”

I’m like, “Oh, my goodness, she’s not going to even do anything.”

This kid turns to me and says, “See I told you, you were being a jerk. You shouldn’t have grabbed me and brought me in here.”

She looks at him and says, “Okay, you’re going in.” She saw it and she took him in. That was the end of the day.

I rejected passivity and I removed a kid from the situation.

Ann: I hadn’t thought of this before, but I’m thinking of CJ our son. I love that you defended this boy, that CJ got to see that, because it was really this boy was being a bully.

Dave: Yes, he was definitely being a bully, and somebody needed to do something. I was that guy. I thought that was the end of the story until later that week, there was a parent-teacher conference. I was in one of the rooms talking to a teacher. I turn to walk out of the room, and this mom walks up to me and says, “Are you CJ Wilson’s dad?”

I thought, “Oh no, this is the mom of that bully.” I go, “Yes.”

She goes, “You’re Dave Wilson?”

I go, “Yes.” She starts to cry. I said, “Do I know you?”

She [said], “I’m Tommy’s mom.” She [said], “Tommy came home this week and told me that you stood up for him on the playground and you stood up against the bully who’s been bullying him his whole grade school years. I just want to say, ‘Thank you’ because my son came home with an identity he’s never had.”

I remember standing there—I’m tearing up right now just remembering that moment—just thinking, “That’s what happens when a man rejects passivity.” I didn’t think anything happened that day. I had no idea that moment was a moment his mom and probably Tommy will never forget.

That’s what happens when a man steps up and does what a man is called to do. That’s just one of the four pillars. That’s a big one though.

Ann: I am still teary thinking about this Tommy boy. That’s huge. The fact that you saw it and you did something about it because it would be really easy just to say, “Oh well, this happens all the time.”

I know that when you step into our family situation or you initiate things, I love it, because you don’t do it in a domineering way. You do it in like, “I want to serve you and love you and I want to step into this situation with you.” That to me communicates so much love.

Dave: I think “reject passivity” comes out of the “E.” I say the “E” is “A real man Engages with God.” I always think of a kickoff team.

When a kickoff team kicks off that football and the guys run down the field to tackle the ball carrier, they are given an assignment: “Stay in your lane and go through anything and everything to get to the ball.” If there’s a wall in front of you, you crash through the wall.

Those guys are nuts; they just put their helmet down and they go after that ball carrier with all that they’ve got. I thought, “That’s the image men should have to pursue God. He’s not running away from you. He’s running to you. But it’s like, “I’m not going to just passively show up at church one hour a week and that’s it. No, no, no, I’m going to know God. I’m going to pursue Him; I’m going to open His Word. I’m going to engage with God.”

Out of that engagement with God/that relationship with God, that strength comes from Christ to us to give us the power to reject passivity. You can’t reject passivity in your own strength. But if you have a real walk with God where you are engaging with Him daily, hourly, maybe at times every five minutes; you are just locked in with Jesus in a real relationship that gives you strength to be a man.

We live in a culture where men say, “Men that need God/men that need Jesus, they’re wimps. They are weak. Real men are strong. They don’t need help.” No, the opposite is true. The strongest moment in a man’s life is when we are on our knees praying for strength. That’s strength, that’s a real man.

I have no qualms admitting, “I am a weak person that needs God’s strength to be the man that you deserve as a husband/my boys deserve as a dad.” That doesn’t happen in our own strength. You have to engage with God for that to happen.

Ann: I think every woman listening is thinking, “Yes, I long for my husband to do that.” Because so many of us feel like we are the ones that are initiating spiritually; like, “Guys, we should go to church,” and sometimes the husband just tags along.

For the dad, for the husband to be the initiator or just being the one to say, “Yes, this is what we need to do.” I feel like it takes the weight off of us as women because we carry that/we’re thinking about that a lot. So why don’t men do that?

Dave: I think we think we can do it in our own strength. Then we get to the end of our strength and then we fall on our knees. I think you’ve got to start on your knees; don’t end on your knees. Start today,start every hour saying, God, I need Your strength.”

It’s interesting, you go back to the David and Goliath story, and when David goes to King Saul and says, “I’ll go fight him,” Saul is like, “You’re not going to go fight him. You’re a boy. You’re not a trained warrior.” [I Samuel 17:33, Paraphrased]

What does David say? David tells the story about when I was a sheepherder, when I’m with the sheep, God delivers me to kill a bear or a lion to protect the sheep.” [1 Samuel 17: 34-35, Paraphrased] What he’s saying is “I know God. When nobody’s looking and I’m in private, God and I have a relationship; I’m engaging with God. I’m seeing the power of God, the same God that delivered me from the lion and the bear is going to deliver me from Goliath.” [1 Samuel 17:36-37]

He’s saying to Saul, “I know Almighty God, and that God is going to bring victory today.” All I know is King Saul said, “Okay, and let the Lord be with you.” That was David engaging with God.

What you do in private will one day become public. Everything we do is men is determined by what we do in private. What I’m saying to guys is “You want to be a real man? Engage with God.”

In fact, the “E” is where it all starts. I would challenge a man listening today, don’t start with the “R”; start with the “E.” Start meeting with God, open the Word of God, discipline your life around time with God. You do it for your body. “I want to get my body in shape.”

You’ve set up a workout plan. Do the same thing with the Word of God. Say, “God, I don’t know you/Jesus, I don’t know you like I want to know you.” Pursue Him with everything that you’ve got and watch Him meet you and give you strength. Out of that strength you can go to the “R” which is “reject passivity” and then tomorrow let’s talk about the other two.

Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson on FamilyLife Today.

Ann’s got some super practical advice for women whose husband probably isn’t going to hear today’s conversation. For the guys, feel free to eavesdrop. That’s in just a minute.

But you know a great step a husband or a wife can take to initiate growing closer in marriage is to talk together about going to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.

I don’t know about you but after the holidays, I’m just tired. I’m tired of all the commotion, tired of the hosting, and really just tired of using my emotional energy on pretty much anything; which often leads me to not being the very best for my wife.

What if this year, instead of allowing January to be a post burn out from the holidays, it could be a time to focus on refreshing your marriage? You’ve probably heard of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We can genuinely say there is nothing more important you can do for your marriage than taking time away with your spouse to reset and refresh your relationship.

Here’s the great news. Right now all getaways are half off. Right now through Monday, January 23rd, everything’s going to be 50 percent off. You can head over to, click on the Weekend to Remember link and register today for half off.

Okay, here’s Ann with some encouragement for women who wish their husband would listen to today’s conversation even though he might not.

Ann: Let me just address the women that are listening. I think you could hear this and get discouraged; like, “My husband doesn’t do this, and I want him to do this. I’m just going to send him the podcast and have him listen.”

Here’s what I would say. Instead of nagging him or even relaying your disappointment, the best thing we can do to encourage our guys is to catch them when they’re doing something right.

Let’s take the “R,” to reject passivity.” If you find your husband doing anything that maybe he’s just stepping out of his comfort zone and doing something; whether it be he said something to someone at work and he relayed that when he got home. For you to say, “Wow honey, that was impressive that you had the guts to say that.” That means so much to your husband. It’s weighty. The words that we say are weighty so catch him in that.

Then the “E.” You might be thinking, “My husband, he doesn’t do anything with God. He doesn’t have a quiet time.” But just watch him. Watch the ways that you see that maybe he’s not doing it now, but maybe you see something that he does that you just feel like, “Wow, that was good.” Maybe if he prayed one time, you could say, “Thank you for praying,” even at dinner. It could be a rote prayer, but “Thanks for doing that. When I see you praying or stepping out, I love that, and it makes me want to follow you. You’re good at that.”

Let’s catch them. It’s easy just to complain when we’re seeing the things they’re not doing. But let’s start seeing the things that they’re doing right and calling it out because you’ll be amazed. And you’re not doing it as a form of manipulation, but it’s a form of encouragement to our men.

Shelby: Guys, let’s face it. Comparisons and certain situations might make you wonder, “Do I have what it takes to lead, to be a dad, to be a husband?” Tomorrow on FamilyLife Today with Dave and Ann Wilson, they’re going to tell you “You do have what it takes to be the man God wants you to be.” That’s tomorrow.

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

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