What Happens to Children When They are Abandoned?

Not receiving the necessary psychological or physical protection a child deserves equates to abandonment. Being abandoned tells a child, “You are not important—you are not of value.” Abandoned children then develop a deep sense of toxic shame. They grow up to believe that the world is unsafe, people cannot be trusted, and they do not deserve love and care. Abandoned children often believe that they cannot live up to their parents’ expectations (which are often unrealistic), that they are held responsible for other people’s behavior, and that the parent’s disapproval is of the child’s personhood rather than their actions. Common beliefs include:

  • It’s not okay to make a mistake.
  • It’s not okay to show your feelings.
  • It’s not okay to have needs—everyone else’s needs are more important.
  • It’s not okay to have successes—accomplishments are not acknowledged or are discounted.[i]

My wife was abandoned by both her father (whom she only met briefly twice) and by her mother, who quit parenting her at ten years old (she subsequently left home at age thirteen). Hence she had great abandonment issues when we got married. She didn’t trust that I wouldn’t abandon her, and she jealously guarded her heart. Being abandoned again was her greatest fear. She even had a tendency to try to push me to the point where I would leave (probably an unconscious attempt to test my level of commitment). It has taken the better part of three decades of modeling commitment on my part for her to start trusting that I will not abandon her. My level of commitment has at best healed and at worst scarred over the jagged wound of abandonment in her heart.

Our ministry works with hundreds of boys and girls (and adults) who have been abandoned by their fathers. To a person, they struggle with issues like self-esteem, self-confidence, risk-taking, trying new things, fear of failure, and developing intimate relationships.

These problems manifest themselves in several ways. Like girls, who so ache for a father’s love, they willingly accede to the sexual advances of the predatory (and equally fatherless) boys who eagerly take their love before tossing them aside like used tissues. One of the effects of being fatherless is boys trying to feel like a man or cross the threshold of manhood through sexual conquest of girls. The effects of fatherlessness on girls is just as damaging, resulting in the longing and desperate search for affection through sexual encounters with boys. What a damaging collision of the effect of fatherlessness.

One woman said this about her childhood: “I think the biggest wound is abandonment from a father. Mine left when I was fourteen. This was especially devastating because our home was really a ‘happy one.’ We all got along, and there were no signs of problems. But then, midlife crisis hit my father. And he was gone. Everything fell apart.”

For this woman, abandonment has plagued her entire life: “Abandonment has been the greatest issue for me. Divorce and abuse plagued my life. Believing I am worthy and capable of a peaceful life has been a challenge. My core unhealthy belief I came to believe from my brokenness . . . I will never measure up to others expectations, therefore I’m not worthy of love.”

We even see children adopted into loving homes who still struggle with abandonment issues well into adulthood. Kids who are abandoned develop attachment disorders and fear close relationships. Sometimes even with God. If an earthly father (or mother) does not love you enough to stay, how devastating would it be for a heavenly Father to abandon you as well?

[i]Claudia Black, “Understanding the Pain of Abandonment,” Psychology Today, June 4, 2010, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-many-faces-addiction/201006/understanding-the-pain-abandonment.

 

Excerpted from Rick’s newest book, Ovecoming Toxic Parentimng: How to be a good parent when yours wasn’t, by Revell Publishing.

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Inside the Abusive Family

Our family constitutes our entire reality as a child. It teaches us who we are and how we are supposed to interact with the world. Good families give us the skills and encouragement to interact successfully with the world and other people. They teach us to lead a successful life. Toxic families teach us survival skills that may or may not translate into leading a successful life. Because of this, many abused people make self-defeating choices like believing they can’t trust anybody, that they aren’t worthy of being loved, or that they will never amount to anything. They are programmed to conform to the dysfunctional behaviors of the family. People from abusive families are taught that to be different is bad—they must conform and obey the rules of the family at all costs. To be different is to be a traitor—and being a traitor or turning on the family is high treason in abusive families.

Many families take on role-playing to perpetuate the family system. For instance, if Dad’s role was to drink, Mom’s role was to be codependent, and the children’s roles were then to be the parents in the home. Children from dysfunctional homes often take on specific roles in the family.

Here are some common roles (my three siblings and I fit into these roles pretty clearly):[i]

The Rebel gets into trouble and is known as the “bad boy” or “bad girl.” Their behavior often warrants attention, distracting everyone from the real issues at home. They are also known as the “scapegoat.” They are ashamed of their family life and often the first to get into “recovery.”

The Mascot/Clown uses comedy to ease tension and calm explosive situations. The humor helps a family in pain but is a temporary balm. This child is kind and goodhearted but never seems to grow up.

The Good Girl (or Boy) or Golden Child is dutiful and respectable. They get good grades, don’t make waves, and are often a confidante of a parent. They are fixers of the family but never get their needs met. They can be rigid, judgmental, and controlling. They are very self-sufficient and usually very successful in life but lack emotional intimacy.

The Lost Child becomes invisible. They stay out of the house by escaping into activities, friendships, or sports. They escape from reality but are generally very sad and angry, which they deny and avoid.

How Toxic Parents Cope

Toxic parents react to threats to their balance by acting out their fears and frustrations, with little thought for the consequences to their children. Here are some common coping mechanisms:

  • Denial—Denial that anything is wrong or that it will never happen again. Relabeling is also denial—an alcoholic becomes a “social drinker.”
  • Projection—Abusive parents frequently accuse their children of the very inadequacies they suffer from.
  • Sabotage—In dysfunctional homes, other family members assume the roles of rescuers and caretakers. If any family member begins to change or get healthy, it threatens the balance of the home, and the other members may unconsciously sabotage their chances of success so that things get back to normal.
  • Triangling—One toxic parent may enlist a child as a confidant or ally against the other parent. The child is pressured to choose sides and becomes an emotional dumping ground for their parent’s discomfort.
  • Keeping Secrets—This turns families into private clubs. Children who hide abuse by saying she “fell down the stairs” are protecting the club from outside interference.[ii]

Parents are godlike in their positions in the home. They provide sustenance and shelter, make rules, and dole out pain, whether it’s justified or not. Without parents, children instinctively know they would be unprotected, unfed, and unhoused. They would be in a constant state of terror, unable to survive alone.[iii]

Abusive homes tend to have common characteristics, including the appearance of normalcy, emotional isolation, secrecy, neediness, stress, and lack of respect.

All children have certain rights. They have the right to have basic needs met, such as being fed, clothed, sheltered, and protected. They also have the right to be nurtured emotionally, the right to make mistakes, and the right to be disciplined without being physically or emotionally abused. Unfortunately, these rights are seldom honored in abusive homes.

However, most people (especially abused ones who crave parental nurturing) still have a need to deify their parents—no matter how bad they were. Many victimized people still believe their parent’s behavior was justified: “I guess I probably deserved it” or “Sure I was beaten, but I turned out okay.” Abusive parents have a propensity to deny that any abuse happened or they justify it. Just because inadequate parents “didn’t mean it,” doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt and cause harm. Intentionality is not a prerequisite of abuse. We hear people excuse these parents by saying things like, “they didn’t mean to do any harm” or “they did the best they could.” Too often inadequate parents expect their children to somehow take care of them and meet their needs—tasks children are not capable of fulfilling. I truly didn’t believe that many of the behaviors my parents exhibited were abusive until enough counselors and friends pointed it out or asked if I would ever treat my children that way.

Since many of us either deny we were abused or justify our parent’s behavior, we will look at some specific types of abuse in upcoming posts. It’s hard to break a behavior (and heal a wound) if we are not aware of it or refuse to acknowledge it.

[i]Lisa A. Miles, “Early Wounding & Dysfunctional Family Roles,” World of Psychology, PsycheCentral, August 8, 2013, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/08/10/early-wounding-dysfunctional-family-roles/.

[ii] Forward with Buck, Toxic Parents, 169–70.

[iii]Ibid., 15.

 

Excerpted from Rick’s newest book, Overcoming Toxic Parenting: How to be a good parent when yours wasn’t, by Revell Publishing.  To find out more or to get a signed copy, click here.

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Why Males are Angry

Many boys and men in our culture today are angry.  They are angry for a variety of reasons; some justifiable and some not so good.  For instance boys raised without the benefit of a father to teach them how a man acts, thinks, solves problems, and relates to the world around him are at a distinct disadvantage in life and thus are understandably angry.  Other males are angry for reasons more related to how they internalize the world around them—lack of hope, childhood wounds, and a culture that seemingly tells them they are unnecessary or at least need to change to become some things that they were never meant to be.

Males generally are not very adept at understanding their emotions nor very comfortable dealing with them.  Emotions are powerful and often uncontrollable.  That’s why many males keep such a tight lid on their emotions–once released they are difficult to predict or control and often result in a situation ending in vulnerability.  The one emotion however that they are relatively comfortable with is that of anger.  Anger for many men is an old friend; one they call upon in a variety of circumstances.  Like all powerful emotions it can be used destructively or for good.  For instance anger can be terribly destructive in relationships.  All we need do is look at the devastation caused to women and children through a man’s uncontrolled wrath and anger.  Anger can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical abuse.

On the other hand anger can be channeled into productive pathways.  Anger can be used to motivate a man to achieve more than he might otherwise be able to accomplish.  It can be used as a mechanism to encourage perseverance under duress or in grueling circumstances.  Many a boy accomplished some difficult task all because they got angry when someone told them they couldn’t.  When teased many males use that anger to motivate themselves to “prove” their offenders wrong.  One method in coaching sports is to get young men angry in order to motivate them to perform beyond their self-imposed limitations.  In fact, many men propel themselves with anger and grit to succeed in life because a father-figure constantly told them they wouldn’t amount to anything.  Warriors often used anger towards their enemies as motivation to succeed in battle or even a school yard fight.

Anger produces a physiological arousal in males.  It creates a state of readiness and heightened awareness.  It creates energy that can be directed outward in the form of protection or even as a weapon.  Anger causes a fight or flight response designed to protect us.  It is frequently a powerful tool for boys and men to use to cover actual or perceived inadequacies.  Many young and even older males react with anger when they become overly frustrated or are hurt emotionally.

The surge of adrenaline and associated arousal can be addicting to some males.  Young males need to be taught how to deal with and control their anger.  In order to do that, they must learn to own their anger and identify the source of that anger.  Then they can learn to determine how to choose to respond to their anger.

Regardless of how it is used anger is the emotion most familiar to males.  Oftentimes anger in males is a secondary emotion used to cover underlying emotions such as fear, hurt, or frustration.   Anger is used by males to cover or mask other emotions.  For instance, certain emotions such as fear, anxiety, vulnerability, or distress often produce a feeling of humiliation in males.  Humiliation is considered a weakness by males.  Remember, for most males to show weakness is to be vulnerable and open to criticism.  To be vulnerable is an invitation to be attacked.  But anger is a defense against attack and may even be a weapon to attack others.  Very angry men and boys are seldom messed with, even by bullies.

Rather than feel humiliated by these “unmanly” emotions, many males instinctively and automatically use anger to cover those feelings.  Even pain (physical or psychological) can be covered by anger.  Notice how most males react when they hit their thumb with a hammer.  They’d get mad than cry.  Most men also get angry rather than depressed or hysterical when faced with an emotional crisis in a relationship.  Again, this is a protective mechanism for their fragile egos; egos that are often covering secretly ingrained feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.

Sometimes anger is even used consciously.  I was raised in an alcoholic and abusive home.  I can distinctly remember at about the age of 12 when I first discovered that if I just got angry I didn’t have to feel that humiliating emotion of being afraid.  In typical naive boyhood fashion I told myself, “This is great.  I’ll never be scared again for the rest of my life!”  However, this was foolish as I just spend a significant portion of my adult life being angry.  Angry because I was really afraid because I had never had a positive male role model show me how a man lives his life and faces his problems in a healthy manner.

Young men who are not taught (generally by positive male role models) how a man acts, what his roles in life are and how to fulfill them adequately and competently are very often angry.  They are angry at life and at the world.  They take this anger out on others, hoping to hurt them before they themselves are hurt; even if that hurt is just humiliation from their own ineptness.  When that happens men have a difficult time being the kind of loving, caring fathers and hubands that they want to be.

One solution?  Let’s provide boys (and men) with healthy male role models to teach them how a male processes his emotions.  We’ll explore that topic next week.

 

Excerpted from That’s My Teenage Son, by Rick Johnson, Revell Publishing.

Cody, Qualities of a Good Man

Today’s guest post is from Perri Zepeda.  It’s a wonderful tribute to the man she loves–one any man would be proud to read about himself.

 

The following description of my life partner, Cody, was written because I was so moved and prompted to write about him just after I finished reading the author Rick Johnson’s book, “The Man Whisperer,”—now re-published with a new title, “How to Talk so Your Husband will Listen and Listen so Your Husband will Talk.”

In the spirit of focusing on Cody’s strengths, I was highly selective and only listed those best qualities I know he lives most consciously by. I encourage others to do this same exercise. I also scanned other lists of character traits from other sources that reflect ethical values. There are dozens more qualities I did not list, and as I reflect on that notion—it certainly is clear to me that we all have our best character traits—as well as other traits that could be developed with increased awareness, love, and support.

I am reminded of my deep gratitude to have Cody in my life and for him being the person who I most wanted to write about—who immediately came to mind throughout reading Chapter Three, “Nine Qualities of Good Men” in Rick Johnson’s book. I was also grateful to see very little of him in Chapter Nine, “The Top Ten Things that Drive Women Crazy.” There always will be needed “whispering” or “gentling” for any of us—to create the safe and loving space that brings out more of our best. Why wouldn’t we want to be our “wise” self (and not self-sabotage)? I think of this journey of learning to be a better human being in our relationships—as an obligation to our soul—to our self dignity, first.

And, I truly thank Rick Johnson for his outstanding and vital work to support men and sons, and the women in their lives. Also, I am inspired to have written this as I, too, am interested in our growth as a human race and the positive character traits that impact our relationships and level of happiness.

                                                                        Perri Zepeda

January 2016

In Honor of you, Cody,

            I am inspired to write these qualities that I know you possess—the values that I see you live your life by—because these are many of the most important character traits I deeply admire and am attracted to in anyone. These are perhaps your greatest strengths as I see you. You are a genuinely decent man and human being. I feel deeply grateful and honored to know you as I do—as your closest friend, ally, and partner.  To know someone as I am able to know you is an enormous gift to my soul, my healing, and my peace. May we continue to grow together and bring out the best in each other. I love you, Cody.

Perri

 

Strong Work Ethic

            Cody is self-motivated with great determination and initiative; he is proactive and industrious. His work ethic is based on a higher purpose, finding personal meaning in his life and work. He whole-heartedly cares about himself, his life, his domain. He absolutely has a clear set of values that drive all his behavior and goals, and he holds himself true to those. Curiosity and learning are integral to his work. He appreciates the importance of discernment, problem-solving, and a job well done. He pushes himself to accomplish greatness in all important areas of his life.

Leadership Skills

            Cody enjoys teaching others and leading others in the direction of learning important knowledge and skills—based on clear values. His intentions are in setting standards of high quality and excellence for himself, and he encourages others to do the same. He values competence building and autonomy—and the blessings of all the players that bring work to fruition. He excels in his stewardship and stamina. Perhaps his greatest quality of leadership is his example.

Honesty, Integrity

            Cody and his life stand for honesty and integrity. I have never heard him lie or try to pull an unfair deal on anyone. In this light, he is courageous, truthful, and ethical. His word is his honor. His genuineness is—“what you see is what you get”—the real deal.

Vision

Cody thinks big—large—expansive. He not only thinks big in just one area of life, but in all areas of his life. What he is interested in and cares about he goes far and above most people in creating what he desires. He believes in divine guidance always helping him be his best. His vision is rooted in the aspirations of his youth, his faith in spiritual values, and the wisdom of the great unknown.

Accountable, Responsible

            I have never second-guessed Cody being responsible and being fully accountable. He is certainly his own critic for any oversight. He always cleans up after his own messes (of any kind or size) and does not expect anyone else to clean up after him. He has learned to be more open to accountability in how he communicates with me and others, to be more sensitive in how he says things in order to be heard and respected. He is consistently diligent and dependable.

Respect

            Cody cares what is best and healthiest for everyone, and for nature and the land. He is a respectful caretaker at heart. His respect is a daily practice of conscientiousness. He requires self-respect. His soul dictates to respect all of life. Respect is his soul nature.

Perseverance

He is always ready and taking the next step in whatever the need or concern is—to problem-solving, to taking care of business—inextricably a part of his vision and work ethic.

Loyalty

Cody is loyal to his values, and has always proved loyal to me. It is evident in the fact that he is always “there” for me. He has been my faithful support on many levels, and continues to strive to be more so. He is my rock.

Self-Discipline

I have watched how Cody takes care of himself and everything else he takes care of on a daily basis. He does not falter, and whatever is on the back burner, it is still in his sight to be taken care of, and will get taken care of.

Honor

            Cody lives his life with honor—that is, whatever he says and does, he knows he is responsible for, and cares that his name is tied to him and his dignity. He will humbly and respectfully make things right.

Sense of Humor

            Cody loves humor and to feel the lightness of laughter. Not a day goes by that he does not have a wise crack “line”—usually one I am familiar with—a “standard” saying that fits the situation. I most enjoy his spontaneous original wit that causes me to laugh out loud, or when he is able to humbly laugh at himself (or at least shrug and grin).

Creativity

            His creativity is an intrinsic part of his vision and goals, and an ever-present desire to create beauty as is revealed in his caring for the land, his home, and designing custom cars. His efforts in creativity are his way of honoring life and contributing the immense love in his soul, and hopefully impact others with joy and respect for life. Being open, resourceful, and practical enables his gifted ingenuity to shine.

Orderliness

            Cody says he was born orderly and has always cared for his belongings and his own affairs with great respect. Orderliness is distinctly tied to being responsible. He has taken order and organization to be not only respectful and responsible, but to be efficient and effective. He deeply values security and peace that come with orderliness. Caring this way reveals his personal dignity.

Friendship

            Cody is one to be a great friend if only the same virtues of healthy relationships are reciprocated. In respect for having a real friend, it may take years to prove their worthiness. In turn, he looks at the qualities in people and how they live their lives—with honesty and integrity a must. In all his relationships he is respectful and trustworthy, the foundation of a true friendship.

Peacefulness

            Cody has created a peaceful home and environment in the beautiful, natural surroundings of countryside; the opposite of drama and chaos. In this peaceful ambience, he knows his heart and soul can thrive in the powerful healing process, his highest purpose in co-creating his life. He regularly fulfills his desire for peace and meditation, and carries that spirit into all of his work and relationships. At High Serenity Ranch—where he has made his home—he feels abundant grace and deep gratitude.

 

Perri began to write children’s stories at age 13, beginning with A Pig’s Tale highlighting instincts and how a piglet might feel being separated from family and lost. At twenty-four, she wrote and self-published, Vilcabamba, in Ecuador, a realistic adventure story for “tweens”, and where she soon immersed herself in volunteer teaching children and experiencing many wonders along the Andean corridor. She explores creative writing in poetry, essays, short story, memoirs, and now the workbook. She has two books in progress, one on parenting, and a self-coaching life skills workbook, Jumpstart Your Life: Making Peace with Life Business, that accompanies a course she designed to support the passage into purposeful and responsible adulthood or a new chapter of life. Some of Perri’s poetry can be read and heard at www.oregonpoeticvoices.org. Other pieces of hers are published in the anthology “Ripples and Reflections from the Basin” sold on Amazon.

Talking to Boys–Simple is Better

Every year, our Better Dads ministry hosts an annual Single Mom’s Family Camp. We bring about 25 single mothers and their children to a free, three-day camp. During the camp our male volunteers play with the children during the day while myself and other speakers provide education, insight, and spiritual development during classes for the moms.

At our most recent single mom’s family camp, we had many more teenage boys attend than was usual in past years. One of our male mentor volunteers, Jon, was in charge of the teen boys group and related on a deep level with them. In fact, by the time camp was over they were hanging on every word he spoke, seeking to gain wisdom from a man on how to be a man. They listened enamored as he told them secrets from a lifetime of experience as a man. He taught them how to use a pocketknife, catch and clean a fish, and build a birdhouse with their own two hands.

Jon’s wife, Susan, also helped at camp. Susan (who with Jon has raised three lovely daughters) told a story of how the camp had impacted her. She told about seeing Jon at the river with the group of teen boys. As they started to leave, two of the teen boys said they did not want to go and weren’t leaving. Jon slowly drawled, “Well, that’s your choice. But it is against the rules of the camp for you to be here by yourself. If you choose to stay you and your mom will probably have to leave.”
With that Jon turned and calmly started walking up the trail away from the river with the rest of the group. The boys looked at one another, shrugged, and followed him up the trail.

Susan said what was stunning to her was that if a woman (a mom) had been in Jon’s situation she would have spent 20 minutes discussing the boys’ feelings as to why he didn’t want to leave and still would have never resolved the issue. She was shocked that Jon’s communication method worked so well with the boys.

Jon was so successful because he did two very important things when communicating with teenage boys. He kept his sentences short and to the point. And he gave them options. Teen boys need to feel like they have decision-making capabilities and some control over their life. If you back them in a corner with no choices they will likely rebel. If Jon had ordered them to leave they might have challenged him just to see what would happen. They might have eventually complied but would have been angry and resentful for the rest of the camp. Giving them the option to choose allowed them to feel like an adult and in control of their circumstances.

Now it is important to understand that the choices we give teenagers are all choices we want to happen. I noticed many times when my kids were teenagers that if I just gave them two or three choices in a situation, even if they were choices that favored my desired outcome, they were much more willing to acquiesce and settle for a solution that was positive. You’ll notice one of Jon’s choices for them was not to stay at the river with no consequences. He gave them choices which guaranteed to lead to a solution that he wanted to end up with, while still allowing them the final say.

Excerpted from Rick’s upcoming book, That’s My Teenage Son, due for release in Jan. 2011.

What is a “Real” Man–Part 2

Seek justice
Encourage the oppressed
Defend the cause of the fatherless
Plead the case of the widow
Isaiah 1:17 (NKJV)

In the first part of this article we looked at what authentic masculinity was not—now let’s look at what it is. I am optimistic that there is a new kind of masculinity taking hold in this country. Men want to lead more rewarding lives and are recognizing that living for others is the path to true satisfaction.

An authentically masculine man puts aside his needs, desires, wants–and sometimes even his dreams–for the benefit of others. He does this without fanfare and frequently without anyone even noticing. His life is not about his individual rights, achievements, or happiness; it’s about making life better for others. His sacrifices are part of his character and give his life significance. He meets these sacrifices with the stoic nobility that God granted all men by right of their birth gender.

A real man has honor. He stands tall as the fierce winds of adversity blow around him. He cherishes and protects women and children. He knows he has an obligation to mentor those who follow in his footsteps. He recognizes his sphere of influence and uses it for good. He understands that life does have fundamental truths and lives his life according to a firm set of principles. He uses his God-given warrior spirit to fight for justice and equality. He stands for something. Too many men today stand for nothing—they are directionless.

Men who exhibit authentic masculinity live lives of significance. They lift up others to help them achieve their potential. They make sacrifices in order to make a difference in the world–for everyone, not just their own family. They have passion and vision and are genuinely interested in giving of themselves for the betterment of others. And they probably don’t make a big production out of doing it either. Men like this are other-centered, not self-centered. They are other-focused instead of self-focused. Authentic men live to a higher standard in life.

In the movie, Kingdom of Heaven, a young widower blacksmith first meets his father as he travels to defend Jerusalem during the Crusades. His father introduces himself to his son for the first time and asks forgiveness for never having been a part of his life. With nothing to keep him in his village after the death of his wife and child, the young man follows his father and trains to become a knight. In the short period they are together before his father’s death, the young man flourishes under his father’s tutelage and follows in his footsteps, becoming a man of honor. Throughout the movie the young knight relies on his father’s instruction and example. In one powerful scene near the end of the movie while he is preparing the city of Jerusalem against attack by overwhelming forces, he endows knighthood upon the city’s commoners defending the city by quoting the same oath that his father did to him:

Be without fear in the face of your enemies,
Be brave and upright that God may love thee,
Speak the truth even if it leads to your death,
Safeguard the helpless.
That is your oath!

The local high priest admonishes him by saying, “Who do you think you are? Can you alter the world? Does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?”

As the knight looks him in the eye and boldly proclaims, “Yes!” you can see all the men who have been charged with the challenge to greatness swell with pride and determination. They do in fact know that the expectations and exhortations of greatness can make a man more than he would be without the knowledge of God’s vision for his and every man’s life.

Manhood as defined by the Bible requires men to put the needs and best interests of others before their own. It’s about living sacrificially. A man uses his strength and influence to help others and defend those who cannot defend themselves. Read how manly this verse sounds and how it speaks powerfully to a man’s heart:

“I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him…I made the widows heart sing…I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.” Job 29:12, 13, 15-17 (NIV).

God gives men a mandate throughout the bible to protect women and children and be His representative here on earth. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress” James 1:27 (NIV).

We believe that our Better Dads ministry has the anointing of Isaiah 61 over it, but especially the first verse, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners” Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV). We believe that by helping others we are making a difference in the world, and thus justify our existence on earth.

Authentic men are passionate, fierce, and noble—they care. In fact, they are a little dangerous, but it’s a good dangerous. You might not see this passion on the exterior, but it’s bubbling under pressure just beneath the surface, forcing its way into every area of his life. They have a spiritual longing for adventure, for a battle to fight that’s bigger than themselves, for significance in their lives. Like modern-day gladiators they stand in the ring facing the challenges of life with courage and passion.

When you see a man with a passion for something bigger and nobler than himself, you are looking authentic masculinity in the eye.

For more on this subject pick up a copy of Rick’s book, The Power of a Man: Using Your Influence as a Man of Character, at www.betterdads.net.

Tips For Moms Raising Sons

• Boys need clear, unambiguous boundaries

• Boys need to be held accountable for their actions and decisions

• Boys need to learn the correlation between taking risks and success in life

• Boys need to not acquire the habit of quitting early in life

• Boys need positive male role models in their lives

• Speak to your son in simple, short sound bite sentences

• If you need to discuss something in depth, take a walk or other physical activity with your son

• Women have much better communication skills than a boy. It is intimidating to sit across the table, eye to eye from someone so much more skilled in an area than he is

• Start discussing sexuality early in your son’s life—it will be easier later on

• Don’t be discouraged–millions of good men have been raised by just their mothers.

Find out more in Rick’s book, That’s My Son—How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character, by Revell Publishing. Go to www.betterdads.net for more information.

Are You a Man Whisperer?

The following are the Ten Keys to Successful Communication with Your Man. A woman, with her superior communication skills, can be a big help to her man (and her relationship) by helping and guiding him to learn to communicate better instead of being agitated by his lack of skills in this area. Remember men communicate differently than women. If you try to talk with your man like you do your girlfriend’s you will both probably be disappointed and frustrated. However, if you practice these ten tips on a consistent basis you will be well on your way to becoming…A Man Whisperer.

Whisper #1
GIVE HIM SPACE–One strategy that works well with men is to tell them something you want their feedback on and then ask them to think about it for a day before answering. It takes men time to process information—especially emotions.

Whisper #2
SIMPLIFY–Learn to simplify the conversation. If you talk to your man like you do your girlfriends he will just stop listening. Men have about a 30 second attention span. If you don’t get to the point by then their mind will start looking for other problems to solve.

Whisper #3
ONE TOPIC AT A TIME PLEASE–Stick to one topic at a time and let a man know when you’re changing topics. Letting a man know when you are changing topics allows him to shut off the problem solving mode and be open to the new topic.

Whisper #4
BE CONSISTENT–Consistency is very important when communicating with men. Men generally cannot process more than one thing at a time.

Whisper #5
LEARN HIS LANGUAGE–Men are much more literal in their conversations than women. When he asks you what is wrong and you say, “Nothing” he will likely take you at your word.

Whisper #6
GIVE HIM A PROBLEM TO SOLVE–Men love to problem-solve. Rather than nagging him about an issue that’s troubling you, say something like, “Honey, I have a problem that I’d really like to get your help with.”

Whisper #7
GET PHYSICAL–Since men are action-oriented, go for a walk or hiking, play a round of golf, or even drive on a deserted highway together (so he’s not distracted by traffic) when you want to talk with your man.

Whisper #8
TIMING IS EVERYTHING–If you bombard him with complaints the minute he walks in the door from a hard day at work, he’s not likely to be willing to listen. Oftentimes, giving him a half-hour to change clothes and decompress will do the trick.

Whisper #9
FIGHT FAIR–Men and women argue differently. You cannot take to heart much of what a man verbalizes when he is upset. He doesn’t think about what comes out of his mouth, especially in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately for men, women do.

Whisper #10
SPEAK PLAINLY–Remind him often that you just need to be heard, you are not looking for a solution. Tell him that at the beginning of the discussion so that he can switch off his “problem-solving” mode.

Genetic Influences

I’m not a particularly big proponent of promoting either the nurture or nature theory exclusively in human development. I think most of us are a combination of both our genetic makeup and the environment we were raised in.

Recently however, I have become more aware of the powerful influence our genetic code plays in our personal development. One rather humorous example of this is the similarities between my biological father and myself. I first met him when I was 24 years old, a fully developed adult human being. Besides looking alike and standing with the same posture, our wives delight in the fact that we also have a predisposition for the same clothing, foods, and sleeping style. Even our personal hygiene habits are eerily similar. Clearly, as I was never influenced by him as a child, these idiosyncrasies are the result of genetic coding that somehow determines my unconscious behavior, choices, and preferences in life.

But I have noticed even more destructive types of behaviors attributed to some form of genetic imprint. Most of us are aware of the generational cycles (or sins) that occur in families and are passed down from generation to generation. Oftentimes these occur from modeled behaviors but I’m convinced many are also derived (or at least influenced) from our genetic makeup. Modeled behaviors, especially from primary caretakers, are a hugely powerful indicator in our own behavioral outcomes. Because of modeled behaviors we often see generations of families where alcoholism, abandonment, or abusive behavior that was modeled by parents is emulated and passed down from one generation to the next. However, genetics also appears to play a significant role in our outcomes, especially if we are unaware of their influence.

I have observed this in many people we work with. For example, virtually every female in every generation of one young woman’s family—for as far back as anyone can remember—has been an unwed, teenage mother. Knowing this predilection, her mother and father were determined to break this “cycle” with their daughter. However, despite raising her in a relatively healthy two-parent environment, being aware of the challenges they faced, and talking with her about those challenges; it took all of their mightiest efforts to keep that genetic legacy from coming to fruition. It was almost as if she was predisposed to make choices and decisions that forced her to accomplish the genetic coding in her DNA. She was prone to make self-destructive decisions and choices (and have attitudes) that reflected those of the women in her heritage, despite not being exposed to that behavior modeled in her family of origin. Thankfully she is now 20 years old so will never be a teenage mother, and hopefully will never be an unwed mother either. But the challenges were and still are formidable in helping her break the cycle that was engrained in her DNA throughout generations of her lineage. This phenomenon is also observed in children that have been adopted who act out in behaviors similar to their birth parents even though never having met them.

Perhaps more often than we recognize we are pre-programmed to make choices that result in outcomes that have a basis in our generational heritage. Being conscious of these historical “tendencies” allows us to make intentional choices to break those generational influences instead of inadvertently falling into a preordained future.

Providing Hope

During our recent trip to Texas, my wife Suzanne and I visited a remarkable facility located in the urban, inner city area of Fort Worth. We were blessed to spend some time with Gary Randle and Noble Crawford the co-founders of H.O.P.E Farm. The acronym H.O.P.E. stands for Helping Other People Excel.

Both Randle and Crawford are former law enforcement officers who felt a calling to help young, fatherless, African-American boys become men. As they say, “All boys deserve a chance to become men.” The “farm” consists of several buildings that were formerly drug houses for local gangs. Randle, an imposing figure at 6’ 8” tall, is a former TCU college basketball player who believes that without positive male role models these boys are doomed to end up involved in drugs or in prison. Started in 1989, the farm develops boys into leaders—men who stand, men who stay, and men who lead. During our visit 35 boys were registered for their program which trains boys in a variety of traits including Christian values, work ethic, manners, and other valuable life skills. They strive to give at-risk boys a chance to know Jesus Christ and develop life skills consistent with biblical truths. This long-term leadership development program teaches what it means to be a Godly man who leads by respect, trust, generosity and love.

The boys in the program generally enter the program between 5-7 years of age and continue through high school. Several of their graduates are now enrolled in college. Those who attend public school come every weekday after school and stay through dinner time. Those who attend a nearby Catholic private school come two days a week all day, and three times a week after school. The boys do chores, working alongside men as well as attend classes on a variety of subjects. Each night, all of the boys are given a healthy and generous dinner cooked by “Granny.” As Randle says the boys are like wolves—they are constantly hungry and food plays a big part of the work they do. During meal times the boys are taught table manners and proper etiquette. Each meal also involves a debate of a controversial subject with some boys chosen to support one side of the issue and others chosen to support the opposing side. This teaches the boys the skills to discuss an emotional topic without resorting to guns or violence.

During our visit about 10 well groomed and well dressed boys from the ages of 5-10 years old arrived from school and were asked to come into Gary’s office. Seeing visitors–without being told–they marched in single file and very politely introduced themselves to me one at a time by looking me in the eyes, shaking my hand, and saying, “Hello, pleased to meet you. My name is _____.” They then took care to walk behind my chair so as not to disrespectfully walk in front of me, and introduced themselves to Suzanne in the same way. Afterwards they lined up to politely await a joyful hug and words of encouragement from Gary. All this was as natural and unrehearsed as a “normal” family–as it should because both Gary and Noble consider all these boys their sons. It was an unexpected and wonderful illustration of young boys learning important life skills that will help them succeed no matter what they choose to do in life.
The boys’ single mothers are also required to be a part of the program and must pass specific requirements for the boys to enroll in the program.

We were truly blessed to see this program and meet these “real” men. If you’d like more information on HOPE Farm or would like to support this remarkable and life-changing ministry (HOPE Farm’s funding all comes from individual donors, they receive no federal or state funding), call 817-926-9116, or go to their web site at www.hopefarminc.org. You will be blessed just to watch the video and see the lives of boys who probably had little hope changed before your eyes to one’s who have a chance to succeed in life. You won’t be sorry you did.