Do Only Men of Faith Achieve Greatness?

 I was raised in an alcoholic home with all the disadvantages that environment brings with it. I was raised to believe that religion was a crutch for weak people and that all Christians were hypocrites. By the age of forty, after attaining all that the world says should make you happy and successful, I found myself yearning for more. Something was missing. I had a hole in my soul that could not be filled by success, achievement, or materialistic acquisition. That chasm in my soul was literally destroying me.
In a desperate attempt to find inner satisfaction and peace, I studied a number of religions and belief systems. At the time (like many men) I did not have any real friends or other men I looked up to for advice, so I decided to look at the lives of men throughout history whom I admired to see what they had that made their lives significant. Interestingly, the only common denominator I discovered between all these great and admirable men was the fact that they were all Christians—men of great faith.
That epiphany was a mighty blow to the worldview I had been raised with. I personally had always been a bit contemptuous of Christianity. At the very least it just seemed inconsequential or insignificant in the bigger picture of things. I wasn’t necessarily hostile toward it; I just thought it was a misguided philosophy designed and developed by perhaps earnest but intellectually weak or even ignorant men thousands of years ago to keep uneducated and ambitionless people content with their lot in life. Sort of along the lines of Karl Marx’s quote, “Religion is the opium of the people.”

However, upon making this discovery, I began to investigate the history and doctrinal foundations of Christianity. I set out upon a yearlong study of anthropologic, geologic, and historical components of Scripture in order to disprove the validity of the Gospels. After that year I came to the conclusion that not only could I notdisprove the truth of the Gospels, but that they were in fact true. After accepting Christ as my Savior, I felt a huge sense of peace, satisfaction, contentment, and most of all forgiveness that cannot be described or proven by any scientific method I’m aware of. I just knew in my soul that this was truth in its purest form. I felt fulfilled and whole. This then propelled me into the work I do today, which has allowed me to lead a much more fulfilling life than I ever thought possible.
The study of great men throughout history was what initially led me to be interested in pursuing salvation. Was it coincidence that every historically significant man I happened to study was a Christian? Probably not. But as I have investigated and researched further, it appears to be extremely difficult to find any men throughout history who have made a positive and significant difference in the world who were not Christians or at least men of great faith. (For example, someone such as Mahatma Gandhi could probably be considered a man who made a significant, positive difference in the world and, though not a Christian, had a deep religious and moral faith.)
 “I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently.”
–C.S. Lewis
With that in mind I use great men throughout history and the character traits they were most famous for to illustrate the foundations we need to instill in young men in order to develop healthy and truly life-giving masculinity. Were these men perfect? No. They were ordinary human beings like you and me—flawed, imperfect, and prone to making mistakes. But they did not allow those imperfections to keep them from changing the world for the better.
Too many men in our culture today either use the power of their masculinity to do harm or they neglect and waste it. If we are to teach boys and young men to wisely use the power God has endowed them with by virtue of their gender, we must be intentional. If we are to teach them to use that power to bless the lives of others, we must proactively develop and implement a plan, not just hope and pray for a positive outcome.

In the early nineteenth century, an idea called the Great Man Theory was developed to describe how “great men”—through their personal attributes, such as charisma, intelligence, wisdom, or political skill—used their power to significantly influence history.
For purposes of my newest book, I chose a number of men of faith whose lives were significant and who impacted the lives of many others. All of these men led exemplary lives on some level—not perfect, but significant. Each chapter contains a short bio on the man and how he exhibited the character trait he was known for, a section on why that specific trait is important to teach your son, and finally some practical ways to intentionally instill that character trait into your son’s life. These character traits are not in any particular order of importance, although I did try to put similar traits together in the chapter order.
These traits are not the only traits our boys need to learn, but they are a good starting point to begin to intentionally develop a plan to proactively teach our sons to become leaders and good men.
We need to have the courage to raise men of great faith and character. Our culture is at a crossroads—we are seeing the effects of poor male leadership over the past several decades. We need great men to once again lead and shape our culture through strong character and divine inspiration. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that only a few of the men that I referred to in this book have been alive in the last forty years or so. We create great men by intentionally growing them from boys. As you go through this book, keep your eye on the ultimate goal—to create men who will change history. Without those great men. . . may God help us all.
QUESTION – Can you think of any men throughout history who accomplished great things who were not men of faith?

Excerpted from Rick’s newest book, A Man in the Making: Strategies to Help Your Son Succeed in Life.  Find out more at 

An Open Letter to Dads of Teen Daughters

Better Dads will host their 2nd Annual Father-Daughter Conference on Saturday, September 27, 2014, at Clark College in Vancouver, WA.  This powerful event is for fathers and daughters 12 and older.  You can register for the event here:


Below is an open letter from one of the dads who attended last year.


When I attended the father/daughter conference in the fall of 2013, I needed help. On the heels of several years of what felt like non-stop challenges facing my family, my relationship with my daughter had suffered greatly. To be honest, I had no clue to what extent it had suffered. But it did. 


So when my wife approached me about attending this event, I was more than ready and quite frankly desperate for an opportunity to not only spend more intentional time with my daughter, but time spent in really getting to know my daughter. 


Boy, I am sure glad I did. I thought I knew my daughter, but there was so much more to learn. And since then, as I have tried to apply all that I learned from that conference, my relationship with my daughter has blossomed into something so much more far reaching than I could have ever imagined.


My daughter and I are both excited to attend this year’s event. Building off of what we both learned about each other last year, we can’t wait to see how far our relationship grows this next year.


No matter what state your relationship is in with your daughter or even how old your daughter is, it is NEVER too late to spend time together working on it. Thanks to Rick and Better Dads, it has provided me with the tools and inspiration to keep working on it.


As a brother and fellow dad, I want to not only just invite you to attend this upcoming conference, I urge you too, as well. For me, not only did my daughter thank me for it… guess what? My wife did too.


Please join us.


Gunnar Simonsen

Husband and Dad



Hugs and Slugs

For the next several months a group of writers focused on the issues of boys and men are collaborating through the writing and sharing of blog posts in order to bring greater awareness to the unique challenges boys and men face in the 21st Century.  Twice a month these writers will be posting the same posts on their various media formats to spread the word and to introduce their audiences to the great work of their peers.  Today’s post features Janet Allison, founder of Boys Alive! and a Gurian Certified Trainer (


Hugs and Slugs – If Boys Could Speak

 Janet Allison



Recently, I watched as a 6-year-old boy and his mom greeted grandma at the airport gate.  Grandma was eager to give her grandson a hug.  He readily complied, however, his arms were by his side, his body held tightly erect.  As soon as Grandma released her grandson, with exclamations of joy from her and a smile from him, he turned — and slugged his mom’s leg with his fist.  


Translation: I’m excited beyond words!


Two kindergarten boys do the ‘wrist-burn,’ one squeezing and twisting the other’s wrist as hard as he can – each smiling from ear to ear. 

Translation: You are my best friend!


Two 4th grade boys grab each other by the shoulders – shaking each other, fake-wrestling, and giggling.

Translation:  Will you play with me at recess?


Parents and teachers generally respond to situations like these with, “Use your words.”  We can be uncomfortable with these physical expressions of connection, especially in a school setting.  They may include more physical doing – using hands and bodies and less direct eye-contact and words. 


In his book, Boys and Girls Learn Differently, Michael Gurian explains that these interactions are typical male ways of interacting, calling them aggression-nurturance.   Females, on the other hand, typically relate more with empathy-nurturance, which includes many more words. 



There are two tasks at hand for us:

1.      Understanding and becoming comfortable with the idea of aggression-nurturance and recognizing that there is as much value in this expression of connection as there is in empathy-nurturance.


2.      Continuing to help boys and girls grow in their use of language – especially understanding and using words that explain feelings, thus developing empathyskills.


Empathy is developed by:

·         Identifying our feelings.

·         Giving them words.

·         Expressing them to another – appropriately or inappropriately .


The boy at the airport had a big feeling – but didn’t know how to express it.


How do we help him Feel, Acknowledge, and Express?


FEELINGS:  We think in pictures and so it is helpful to give children images to describe their feelings.  This will also help them understand the many nuances of feelings that occur.  Do you feel like a rumbling volcano?  Do you feel like hot lava rolling down the sides of a volcano?  Or do you feel like a volcano shooting fire into the air?  Children are brilliant, and with some guidance, will give you images of their own.  Using animals for imagery is often helpful, too. 


The boy at the airport may have been “feeling all bubbly inside.”


WORDS:  Boys typically develop their vocabulary later than girls and use less words than girls.  It is helpful to give boys a ‘smorgasboard’ of  feeling words.  We can prepare them ahead, role-play, or follow-up after the emotions of a situation have calmed down.  In all cases, giving them suggested words to put with emotions helps them expand their emotional vocabulary.


The boy at the airport could be given words such as, “excited, ecstatic, nervous.”


EXPRESSING:  Boys and girls (and men and women) have very different styles of communicating.  Many boys and men prefer to communicate shoulder-to-shoulder while doing something, rather than focusing intently with eye-to-eye contact.  Allow him to play with something in his hands, move his body, or be looking away and know that he is more comfortable (and therefore the words may come more readily) and that you’re creating a safe way for him to connect with you.


The boy at the airport could be talking with mom as he is watching people in the security line, and she stands shoulder-to-shoulder beside him.


Rather than shutting down aggression-nurturance and making it wrong, we can welcome it and add some empathy-nurturance, too.  As parents and teachers recognize these differences, we can bring balance to the communication styles of both boys and girls.


Recommended Further Study:

Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best! By Janet Allison

Boys and Girls Learn Differently by Michael Gurian

Boy Talk – How you can help your son express his emotions by Mary Polce-Lynch


For Professional Development on Gender-Friendly Strategies:  The Gurian Institute

Janet Allison is an author, educator, and Family Coach.  She is the Founder of Boys Alive! and a Gurian Certified Trainer.   She holds a master’s certification in Neuro-Linguistics incorporating these communication skills into her unique parenting curriculum.   She has recently launched the Boys Alive! Certification Program specifically for parenting coaches and counselors.  For more information, visit

The Heart of Masculinity: A Man in the Making

All boys want to know how a man is supposed to act.  Our model of that role is what teaches our sons what it means to be a man.  But for those of us who were not blessed to be raised by a good role model, what does this look like?  Below are some thoughts on authentic masculinity.


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).

            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.



Signs Your Son Is Using too Much Tech (And What To Do About It)

For the next several months a group of writers focused on the issues of boys and men are collaborating through the writing and sharing of blog posts in order to bring greater awareness to the unique challenges boys and men face in the 21stCentury.  Twice a month these writers will be posting the same posts on their various media formats to spread the word and to introduce their audiences to the great work of their peers.  Today’s post features Dr. Gregory Janzt,, founder of The Center, and co-author, with Michael Gurian, of Raising Boys By Design: What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs To Thrive
Signs Your Son Is Using too Much Tech (And What To Do About It)

Boys have a hard enough time concentrating, contemplating, and reflecting — all executive functions centered in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area where teenage males are naturally not as fast to mature as we may like. So the last thing we need is for our sons to spend too much time with technology that inherently encourages surface-level, multi-tasked, short-term thinking.

Signs He’s Using Too Much Tech
Would he rather spend time with technology than people?
Is he choosing technology over physical activity and time outdoors?
Does he use tech devices during mealtimes?
Is most of the time he spends with friends on tech devices (i.e., texting, playing video games, watching television)?
Is tech usage distracting from time he should be spending on homework?
Does his greatest sense of joy or accomplishment seem to come from tech usage?
Does he seem fatigued and/or irritable, particularly after long periods of tech usage?
Does he have a hard time concentrating, particularly after long periods of tech usage?
Does he get anxious if he is away from his tech devices for too long?
If you answered yes to any one of these questions, your son may be using too much technology, and it’s probably a good idea to consider new (or revised) rules for his tech use.

Introducing New Tech Rules

1) Talk to your family about tech pros and cons.
While he will likely be resistant to a conversation that suggests limiting his tech usage, you are best served bringing it up within the context of your tech usage as a family. Explain to him that as grateful as you are for all the ways technology helps improve your lives, you want to look closely at your tech usage to be sure there is a healthy balance of things.
As a family, brainstorm a list of pros and cons. All the ways technology helps improve your lives — like providing information, connecting you with friends, and providing services of convenience. And all the ways it can threaten your quality of life — like distracting from homework, making you tired, taking time away from family and friends.
Note, going forward, make it a point of performing the same tech assessments, and subsequent (applicable) limitations, on all members of your family. After all, the vast majority of us would be better off spending less time with technology. Plus, this way your son won’t feel singled out.

2) Assess your son’s tech usage.
Even if you already believe your son is too dependent on technology, consider the fact that he’s probably using it even more than you know. Spend a week paying attention to how your son is using technology, including computers, smartphones, video games, and television. Keep a journal, making note of what he’s using and for how long.
Think beyond the boundaries of your own home. Reach out to his childcare provider, teachers, and parents of his friends. Ask them what technology he is exposed to when he’s with them, and for how long. And if your son currently is allowed technology in his bedroom, don’t forget to include in your calculation of a guesstimate of how much time he’s on tech devices in the privacy of his room.
Note, it is helpful if you can perform this tech usage assessment on all members of your family so that your son doesn’t feel as though he is being singled out.

3) Limit tech time.
Once you have a good idea of just how much time your son is spending with tech devices, talk to him about limiting the amount of time he will be allowed to use technology going forward. The more control you can give him over his new tech schedule, the more he will welcome the change. For instance, if you want to cut down his overall technology use by 10 hours a week, let him choose the how much time he would like to eliminate from tech device. That said, make sure there is an even distribution of things. For instance, the last thing you want is him eliminating time on his computer and smartphone just so he can spend all his tech time playing video games.

4) Keep tech out of the bedroom.
If you haven’t already, prohibit the use of technology in his bedroom. This means no TV, no computer, and no smartphone. He won’t be happy about this, but explain to him that this will give him an opportunity to use his bedroom as it’s intended — to rest and recharge.

5) Monitor his tech activity.
Play his video games. Watch his television programs. Visit the websites he frequents. Read his texts, emails, and posts to his social media pages. This need not be done in secret. Let your son know that the privilege of using the tech devices you provide him with is your right to monitor his activities. The more accustomed he already is to his tech independence, the harder he’ll fight you on this. Don’t give in. It is your right, as a parent, to do this. And there are plenty of computer monitoring programs and apps to help you do just that.

6) Hold off on a cell phone.
The sooner you allow your son a constant tech companion, the sooner you introduce the possibility of technology dependence. Try and protect your son from the tether of tech addiction as long as you possibly can, at least until he starts middle school.

7) Say no to new tech toys.
Parents invariably feel the pressure to give our kids the latest and greatest of everything, particularly the newest tech devices. Resist at all cost! Your son does not need a new smartphone every time a new version comes out. (None of us do.) An upgrade is perfectly fine now and then — in a smartphone, computer, or television, for that matter — but wait until the waning performance of the existing device actually warrants a new purchase. In this manner, you can teach your son how to appreciate what he has, how to wait patiently for what he wants, and how to be a responsible consumer who doesn’t perpetuate society’s increasingly “throw-away” mentality.

8) Set up consequences for violations of tech rules.
Your son is going to make mistakes, like sneaking extra tech time or using inappropriate language in texts, emails, or social media posts. So before you initiate tech limitations, set up a clear set of consequences should these rules be violated. The most effective consequences are those in which you confiscate the device for a specified period of time.

9) Revisit the rules now and then.
Finding just the right amount of tech usage requires a learning curve. You may find your initial rules don’t do enough, or maybe they do too much. Plus, as your son grows and changes, so do his habits, interests, and needs. For this reason, it’s a good idea to revisit your tech rules now and then. Maybe once a month for the first six months, then very three months thereafter. And if you happen to forget, congratulations, as what you’re doing is probably working.

Find more insights into raising boys in today’s tech-intensive world in Raising Boys By Design: What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs To Thrive by A Place Of Hope founder, Dr. Gregory Jantz, and Michael Gurian.

Sex and Depression: A Gender-Specific Approach to Healing

For the next several months a group of writers focused on the issues of boys and men are collaborating through the writing and sharing of blog posts in order to bring greater awareness to the unique challenges boys and men face in the 21stCentury.  Twice a month these writers will be posting the same posts on their various media formats to spread the word and to introduce their audiences to the great work of their peers.  Today’s post features Jed Diamond, whose latest book is entitled: Stress Relief For Men: How To Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well.
Sex and Depression:  A Gender-Specific Approach to Healing
By Jed Diamond, Ph.D.
Depression runs in my family.  I became aware of that fact when my father took an overdose of sleeping pills when I was five years old.  Growing up I had little understanding of what had happened or why he was hospitalized and disappeared from our lives.  But I did grow up with a hunger to understand depression and a terror that I would become depressed myself and face my own suicidal demons. 
            When I was 40 and going through my own bouts of depression, I found a journal he had written in the year before he was hospitalized and I got a better understanding of his suffering and my own.  Here are a few of the entries:
June 4th: 
          Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work,  Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.
 August 15th:
             Faster, faster, faster, I walk.  I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family.  I try, try, try, try, try.  I always try and never stop.
 November 8th:
             A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education.
Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.
                Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to end his life.  Though he survived physically, emotionally he was never again the same.  For nearly 40 years I’ve treated more and more men who are facing similar stresses to those my father experienced.  The economic conditions and social dislocations that contributed to his feelings of shame and hopelessness continue to weigh heavily on men today. 
            During that period my mother also became depressed, but it was quite different than my father’s experience.  Where he was often irritable and angry, she was more often sad and weepy.  While he pushed people away who wanted to help him, she drew close to her friends and neighbors.  In working with men and women over the years I’ve found other differences in the ways males and females deal with their pain and suffering.  Here’s a chart that summarizes my experience. 
            Males are more likely to act out their inner pain and turmoil, while women are more likely to turn their feelings inward.  Certainly there are depressed men who fall on the female side and vice versa, but generally I’ve found these differences to hold true for most depressed men and women I’ve worked with over the years.   

Female depression
Male depression
Blame themselves
Feel others are to blame
Feel sad, apathetic, and worthless
Feel angry, irritable, and ego inflated
Feel anxious and scared
Feel suspicious and guarded
Avoids conflicts at all costs
Creates conflicts
Tries to be nice
Overtly or covertly hostile
Withdraws when feeling hurt
Attacks when feeling hurt
Has trouble respecting self
Demands respect from other
Feels they were born to fail
Feels the world is set them up to fail them
Slowed down and nervous
Restless and agitated
Chronic procrastinator
Compulsive time keeper
Sleeps too much
Sleeps too little
Trouble setting boundaries
Rigid boundaries and need for control
Feels guilty for what they do
Feels ashamed for who they are
Uncomfortable receiving praise
Frustrated if not praised enough
Finds it easy to talk about weaknesses and doubts
Terrified to talk about weaknesses and doubts
Strong fear of success
Strong fear of failure
Needs to “blend in” to feel safe
Needs to be “top dog” to feel safe
Uses food, friends, and “love” to self-medicate
Uses alcohol, TV, sports, and sex to self- medicate
Believe their problems could be solved if only  they could be a better (spouse, co-worker, parent, friend)
Believe their problems could be solved if only  their (spouse, co-worker, parent, friend) would treat them better
Constantly wonder, “Am I loveable enough?”
Constantly wonder, “Am I being loved enough?”
         Chart found in my books, Male Menopause, The Irritable Male Syndrome, and The Whole Man Program.

Gender-Specific Medicine Saves Lives
            For too long, we’ve assumed that sex and gender differences are not important in health care.  But a new field of gender-specific medicine is emerging that can save lives.  We now know that there are differences in everything from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer’s.  For instance, it was once thought that symptoms of an impending heart attack were the same for women and men.  Now we know that women often have different symptoms than menand millions of women are getting proper treatment as a result.
            Likewise, understanding the difference ways that men experience depression can save millions of men’s lives who might otherwise be lost.  We know that the suicide rate for males in the U.S. is 3 to 18 times higher than it is for females.  Many men die and suffer from undiagnosed and untreated depression because we haven’t understood the ways in which male depression manifests. 
            I have made it my life quest to help men, and the women who love them, to live well at all stages of their lives.  At MenAlive our team brings together people and resources from all over the world to help people realize their dreams of a fulfilling life.  I hope you’ll join us

Jed Diamond, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., is Founder and Director of MenAlive, a health program that helps men, and the people who love them, to live well throughout their lives.  He is a pioneer in the field of male-gender medicine. Since its inception in 1992, Jed has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network.  He is also a member of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP), the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male and serves as a member of the International Scientific Board of the World Congress on Gender and Men’s Health.  He is the only male columnist writing for the National Association of Baby Boomer Women.  He also blogs for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Scribd, Menstuff, ThirdAge, and other venues.
He is the author of 11 books, including international best-sellers, Surviving Male Menopause and The Irritable Male Syndrome:  Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression.  His new book Stress Relief for Men:  How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well will be available in April, 2014. 

from the founder of The War on Men

from the founder of The War on Men: Guys, we need to stop being ashamed of being men. Virtually every behavior that is natural to a man is now being criticized and we are made…

The Worm in the Apple of Eden

Suzanne and I recently returned from an incredible week-long speaking tour of the US Virgin Islands. With a very high fatherless rate, the Virgin Islands are experiencing problems with gangs and young men killing each other nightly. I was brought to the islands to do a series of workshops on Why Men Matter, The Importance of Fathers, and Raising Boys to Become Good Men. In preparation of our trip I did a weeks worth of radio interviews as well as several newspaper article interviews beforehand. Since the people of the Virgin Islands are steeped in a “radio culture” it was decided to broadcast all of the workshops over the airwaves. Apparently, everybody listens to talk radio all the time. This allowed tremendous coverage over all three islands producing a saturation of my message to a huge percentage of the population (one radio show had a caller from the British Virgin Islands wanting us to come there as well—alas our schedule did not permit). The radio waves covered as far away as parts of Puerto Rico. Numerous people came up and excitedly told us they had heard me on the radio. In fact, at the airport while we were leaving, the Customs agent asked what our business was on the islands. When I told her I had been doing a series of Better Dads workshops she said, “Oh, you’re that guy! I heard you—thank you, we needed that very much!” As our visionary and most wonderful host, Stephanie Scott-Williams said, “Rick Johnson and Better Dads are now household names in the territories.” Stephanie is a former senator and very influential throughout the islands—she worked incredibly hard to make this trip a success. She is a 62 year old grandmother who saw my Better Dads Stronger Sons book in the Atlanta airport last year. She started reading it and was so taken with it that she bought 10 copies and gave them to 10 men, telling them to read it and meet with her three weeks later. They decided at that meeting to have Stephanie contact me and find out my availability and cost to come to the islands.

I was initially concerned about potential racial, cultural, or communication barriers, but God’s hand was clearly in place (thanks to many people’s prayers). None of those barriers impeded transmission of the message one bit. If anything, people all appeared very, very grateful for my presence. The following is a brief day–by-day outline of our journey and adventures:

Day 1 – After traveling all night we arrived in St. Thomas at noon the next day. We were taken to our hotel on Emerald Bay and immediately jumped into the ocean. Every hotel we stayed at had gorgeous views of the ocean from our balconies. We then attended a welcome dinner with all of the members of the team who had been instrumental in bringing us to the islands. One lady shared with us that her husband had not gotten along with his father his entire life. One day he was eves dropping while she was listening to my audio CD about the importance of reconciling with your father. She said he disappeared and returned later that evening. She asked where he had been and he said he felt like visiting his father—they had talked all day long. She said he had never done that before.

Day 2 – Morning was a 3-hour seminar broadcast over the radio. The “discussion” format allowed listeners to call in and the phone lines were jammed. People were even calling the station manager on her cell phone asking her to get them through so they could talk to us. The young man (Ash) who was the engineer and producer was raised by a single mom and was very excited about the conversation. Lunch was at Gladys Café (a famous local restaurant) and then a private, personal tour of the island. We then swam in Magen’s Bay, one of the top 10 beaches in the world (our personal guide stayed and watched over our stuff while we swam and snorkeled). That evening was a three-hour workshop broadcast over three radio stations.

Day 3 – Morning I spoke to young men at the correctional facilities on St. Thomas. The young men were like dry sponges soaking up my message. They commented, “When are you coming back? We have never heard this before. How come no one ever told us this stuff before?” Volunteers told me that the next morning, the one young man who I thought was the hardest case, showed up early, very eager for whatever programs he could get in to turn his life around. They were amazed at his transformation! We then took a boat to the beautiful island of St. John. We had a private tour of the island with lunch at a mountaintop cafe and swam in Trunk Bay—the most beautiful beach I have ever seen! Pure white sandy beaches, verdant green vegetation, bright blue skies, and crystal clear cerulean water of varying shades ranging from cornflower light blue to Dodger blue to deep velvet azure blue. That evening we did a live workshop at the Julius Sprauve School that was simulcast over three separate radio stations (no commercials on any of the radio broadcasts). The seminar was well attended by educators, social service agencies, parents, a newspaper reporter, and men from many venues and was universally well received. In particular the people who I was most concerned about were the most enthusiastic (seeing a pattern here?). We took the ferry back late that night.

Day 4 – Book signing in morning at local bookstore—well attended and met many people who had heard me on radio. Three hours of shopping then a 2-hour radio workshop on a popular young persons station with several other contributors including hosts Tony T, Dr. Walker, and several teenage boys. It was more of a discussion then a seminar but was very well received by a younger audience. Another young man (Malik) who was an engineer at the station kept running in at the breaks all excited saying, “We never talk about this kind of stuff here!” That night we went to the Bolongo Beach Caribbean Night party. We had a buffet of authentic Caribbean food and planters punch, watched Moko Jumbies (dancers in costumes with masks on stilts), fire dancers, broken glass walkers, and limbo dancing! Great time!

Day 5 – Took seaplane to island of St. Croix. Interviewed with popular radio host and former senator Holland Redfield. Lunch with team of people who were responsible for bringing me to the island. Afternoon was a two-hour talk to 50-60 inmates at the penitentiary. Most men there are incarcerated for 25 years to life. I was concerned as these men are hardened criminals and have nothing to look forward to. They were also all black with a few Latinos. However, they were, to a man, exceptionally respectful, enthusiastic and grateful for my message. My host said race was never an issue even from the start. Many men came up afterwards and thanked me. One young man (very articulate, handsome, polite, and educated) asked me my advice on writing. I asked him how long until he was released. He told me, “57 and ½ years.” It broke my heart—what leads a young man with so much going for him to end up in a circumstance where he spends his entire life behind bars? Interestingly, everywhere we went, the men who were most supportive of my words were the Rastafarians. I apparently struck a cord with them, ya mon.

Afterwards we jumped into the surf at our beautiful ocean front hotel, the Sand Castles, in Fredrickstedt and watched a stunning sunset. Our host then took us to eat dinner at a restaurant straight out of a movie setting. We walked down an alleyway into a courtyard. Beautiful outdoor dining with linen table clothes and sparkling lights under the stars. We had steak and lobster—the medium-sized lobster was bigger than my head! The steak was like butter and the pina coladas were flowing freely (rum is cheap and they don’t skimp). We had a live, six-piece jazz/calypso band of elderly men playing just for us and two other couples. Suzanne and I took our turn dancing under the starlit sky—very romantic, even for a guy.

Day 6 – Early the next morning I watched an old man walk his horse way out into the ocean and swim together for miles. Stephanie told us it is a common way to exercise horses there. Fredrickstedt was very old and rural—no tourists. Farmers sell fresh fruits and fresh fish in stands along the roadway. We loved it best and will go back for a vacation to this city if God blesses us again. It is cheaper and more laid back. We then gave another live/simulcast radio workshop at the Career and Technical Education Center. Another newspaper reporter attended along with many educators, students, social service agencies, parents, and men and women from the community. We then spent several hours shopping in Christianstedt before taking the seaplane back to St. Thomas (if I ever had another dream job it would be a seaplane pilot flying between the Virgin Islands). We swam that evening for the final time in Emerald Bay and left the next morning very early.

Besides being paid to speak in paradise, we paid for virtually nothing—including tips–on this trip. I was also given several wonderful gifts. The prison honored me with a beautiful hand-painted ceramic tile of an old sugar cane mill. Additionally, the VI Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Council gave me a desk plaque handcrafted by the world famous sculptor Jan R. Mitchell. Mitchell’s work is in the Smithsonian and the Thompson Museum in Kentucky. Additionally, she has statues outside the US Courthouse and in several parks.

In conclusion—I am exhausted (worked hard and put away wet) but marvelously blessed by how much God used us to touch the lives of the people of the Virgin Islands. Spiritual warfare was taking place around us so often that Suzanne, Stephanie and I eventually had to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I have already forwarded several emails from people who responded to our visit. The Virgin Islands are stunningly gorgeous—beyond description. Everyday we saw something more beautiful than the previous. I found the people of the territories to be beautiful, friendly, loving, and very eager for information. Even their language is lilting and pleasant, ya mon. We were treated like royalty our entire visit and met people who will be our lifelong friends. As I told one man who emailed, Suzanne and I were blessed far beyond any blessing we may have brought to the islands. Just one more example of God’s grace to those who risk stepping out in faith to do His will. I am truly a blessed man. Thanks again for your prayers. I will try and post photos later.

Father-Daughter Summit Brings Tears and Reconciliation

My 21-year-old daughter, Kelsey, and I had the privilege of speaking together at the Third Annual Seattle Father-Daughter Summit this past weekend. It was a powerful event that was attended by about 60 pairs of fathers and daughters with ages ranging from 11-25 years old. The Summit was an all day event sponsored by several fathering and family ministries. The program consisted of seven sessions working with fathers and daughters together, fathers alone, and daughters alone by age group. Each session was designed to build upon the previous ones and included letter writing, trust building exercises, and father-daughter dialogues. But at least one girl was changed more than she bargained for.

Fathers have an incredible influence (positive or negative) on nearly every aspect of their daughter’s lives. Fathers set a huge role model for their daughters regarding the qualities she looks for in men and the standards she maintains. He is the first man in her life and models how a man should treat a woman, how a man should act, and how a man shows healthy love and affection to a woman. He also sets the standard for how a daughter feels she deserves to be treated by men. He even determines how a girl feels about herself. If her father shows his daughter love, respect, and appreciation for who she is, she will believe that about herself as a woman, no matter what anyone else thinks. Girls deprived of this father love and affection make poor choices in an effort to fill that void.

The goal of the weekend was to help the fathers understand how important they are in the lives of their daughters, and how to foster a healthy connection with their daughters as they become young women. We also wanted to help the daughters recognize their need for a healthy relationship with their fathers and the consequences in their lives when that doesn’t happen. Lastly, we wanted to help facilitate reconciliation between fathers and daughters who were struggling or had past wounds.

As the teenage girls arrived their body language suggested that they did not want to be there and many of them were actually cold and distant toward their fathers. The dads of course appeared a bit anxious and nervous. As the day progressed and the speakers and workshops broke down those barriers we began to see fathers and daughters talking, sitting closer to one another, and even laughing and hugging each other.

The event culminated in a “father blessing” of the daughters. I knelt in front of my daughter on stage and prayerfully offered my blessing to her publically, stating that I loved her, I was proud of her, and asking God to bestow his blessings upon her (yes, it was difficult to keep from blubbering). Kelsey then tearfully accepted my blessing and responded with gratitude and thankfulness for me being her father (stupid eyes wouldn’t stop watering). To then watch the fathers kneel and bless each of their daughters was a powerful and emotional experience. One sullen young girl threw her arms around her father, buried her face in his chest and sobbed, “Oh Daddy, I love you so much!” Many fathers and daughters were in tearful embraces as we concluded the day’s activities.

Here was just a sampling of quotes from the day:

“The best thing about today was getting closer and more excited about me and my dad! I’m glad I came today because he made me feel wonderful and more loved.”

“I got to see that my Dad isn’t that bad. I’m glad I came because he let the communication be open.”

“The most helpful insight I received was realizing that me and my dad can do anything if we take one step at a time.”

The father-daughter bond is a special one that impacts a young woman for her entire life. We strived to grow and repair some of those bonds this weekend. The reactions of the young women confirmed to me the importance of a father in a girl’s life. Dads–your girl needs you, more than she can ever tell you. Take the time to nurture that relationship and you’ll both be blessed.

To find out more about bringing a father-daughter event to your area contact

Promise Keepers Canada is Awesome!

The Promise Keepers Game Day 2009 in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada was perhaps the most powerful and impactful men’s event I have ever participated in. Like in Regina, SK several weeks ago, about 625 men and boys attended this amazing event—many driving from hours and hours away. The community was so excited that PK was in town they had 50 volunteers show up! Paul Downer (son of Phil Downer) spoke first Friday evening with a powerful talk about his broken relationship with his father and how they had healed. I then again gave the closing session on the main stage Friday night with the topic of “healing our father wounds.” Much like in Regina, many, many men came down in tears to the front for the alter call to be prayed over for healing and forgiveness. I witnessed other men in their seats all over the sanctuary praying over the men next to them in tears of pain and relief. I observed elderly men come down to have life long wounds healed. I saw men praying with and then hugging for the longest time young men whose father’s had abandoned them, both in tears. Many tears were shed that night (including mine). Know that when men open up and allow their vulnerable insides to be exposed like this it is not an insignificant event.

Again the prayer team played a huge role in the conference. I went downstairs Friday evening into the bowels of the building for about 30 minutes where the prayer team was stationed for the entire weekend. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so abundant that the hairs on my arms were standing on end. I don’t think I have ever heard so many people (20-30 prayer intercessors) pray so powerfully.

The next morning I was blessed to be approached at the hotel restaurant and asked to have breakfast with a grandfather, father, and two teenage sons who were attending the conference together—three generations of men growing together. While the workshops given by me and the other speakers were very impactful (I had many men tell me how much mine had helped them), the final session of the conference was an incredible time of men’s hearts breaking. Rick Verkerk of Promise Keepers closed with an unbelievably powerful account of living with a sin in his life for 12 years that every man in the building could strongly relate to. During the closing alter call many men rushed down front and fell to their knees to be prayed for and receive forgiveness. It shook all of us deeply. I personally have never heard men sob so loud and hard. As the band began to pound out a powerful song of praise, men continued to stay on their knees with faces to the ground while those in their seats sang at the top of their lungs, rocking the building’s foundation. On and on the band played while men prayed, danced, and sang with abandon. The speakers joined Rick V. on stage to lead the men in wild worship. I was holding myself together pretty well until I looked over on stage and saw tears streaming down the drummer’s face as he pounded out the beat—then I had to find the Kleenex box. The evening ended on a boisterous note with men cheering and clapping for the longest time, reluctant to leave and lingering long into the night to bask in the presence of the Holy Spirit even after the music ended.

So many men approached me during the weekend that it is again difficult to remember any specific conversations. Some that stand out was the man that was a recovering homosexual who was touched deeply by my session on father wounds. One of the prayer intercessors somewhat timidly approached me with a message of prophesy for me from God (He said, “Who am I to tell a speaker what God says?” Frankly I was stunned that he would be that hesitant and seemingly give more importance to my supposed “status” than to the word of God and encouraged him accordingly). He said that God had told him many things (that I will not repeat here) but that were very encouraging to me and the Better Dads ministry. Interestingly, they were very similar to things that have been prophesized to me several times in the past by others. Another man approached me to pray with him so that he could reconcile and share his faith with his father who he has not spoken to in over nine years. As he called his wife to share that news on Friday night she exclaimed tearfully, “Finally–thank God!” He was originally only going to attend Saturday’s sessions because he was unemployed and didn’t have money for a hotel. But as he read about Friday’s topic of healing the father wound he knew he had to come and God made it happen.

I will remember this event for as long as I live, using it as a standard to compare other conferences I speak at. Many kudos to the local men who helped set this event up—they did an awesome job. I only regret that I am woefully inadequate to accurately describe the amazing miracles that happened this weekend. However, one final blessing was given me as I flew home today. As I was preparing to board the plane in Calgary to come home I found myself with a bad attitude (coming down from the “high” of an event like this is hard, plus going through customs and waiting around the hot airport didn’t help). I prayed to God to help me get a good attitude so that I wouldn’t negatively influence someone. I asked God to put me in someone’s path that would help me and that I could help. Now understand that in all the years I have been traveling and speaking I have never run into anyone I knew, much less been assigned to sit next to them. As I boarded the plane the man who sat down next to me was Paul Young, author of The Shack. Paul and I know each other but have not crossed paths for a couple of years. Paul was returning from being on the road since Sept. 13th. We had a great time catching up and encouraging each other. What are the odds that Paul and I would have the same flight, same plane, seats next to each other in Canada on the same day? What a great gift and answer to prayer. What a mighty God we serve! Thank you all for your prayers,