Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Sticks & Stones

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never break me." How many men have heard this phrase and how many more have spoken them? We use it as a metaphor to defend ourselves against verbal assaults or words that we don't take on as descriptive of us. Have we stopped to consider how this little harmless saying plays out in our lives? In all honesty, most every guy I have had the pleasure of working with, sooner or later share how certain words or phrases impacted their development. There were those that had a happy home life growing up and never really heard harsh words directed at them. Then there are those that as far back as they can remember were battered with disturbing and hurtful words. Words that left them with scars so deep that only God can heal them. With this in mind, I direct us back to the "sticks and stones" phrase and ask you again if you really and truly believe words don't impact an individual? Are you aware that we were designed to feel emotional pain and hurt as well? That's correct, emotional pain can feel as deep and as raw as physical pain and in some cases, even more than that. And the root of the emotional hurt? Words! Words that cut deep and imbed scars for ages. Words in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing and the wrong can bring down a nation. If they can do that, how do we even get to imagine we are stronger than that? Now, if I may I would like to return to my opening statement and bring this more in line with how you feel about it. Maybe you were one of the fortunate ones that had a great and happy growing up life or perhaps you weren't as fortunate but either way, the words we choose to represent what we feel inside does not care which you were, your skin color, your language, or even if you're male or female. No sir, words do not separate us by these things but do display a lot about what's going on inside of us. 

A famous King David once wrote these words, "The power of life and death are in the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”. Did you catch that? Do you sense the impact of this statement? In my opinion, it is divided into two parts, the first is that the tongue has the power of life and death. The second, but is more personal as it stipulates that those that love their tongues or rather what comes out of it, will eat of its fruit. Another way to describe this is that all the words we speak are representative of what resides inside of each of us. With this being said, we all at times say things that we really don't mean only to turn around later and have to apologize, which is correct, but it is not easy. It isn't easy especially when we see the hurt our words have just caused someone. It takes great humility to retract such a statement, and when we verbalize something that is damaging it’s hard to later apologize and mend the wound we have caused.  Here's  a thought, the damage is primarily caused to us first, although we don't immediately recognize it, then we see the external damage we've caused. This is a double whammy on us and the irony is it came from our own lips. 

I believe it would be in our own best interest to take on Anthony Liccione's quote, “A fool is made more of a fool, when their mouth is more open than their mind ”. Don't let what and how you speak take over your identity because you are not what you speak during the times of unfettered tirades. The words you choose can bring you down or lift you up, and the power of the tongue can be tamed if you think first and allow yourself to be and stay in control. Remember, nothing or no one has any power over you unless you hand it to them. Once at this point, you may as well begin to prepare your apologies.

I close this with a quote from Kari Kampakis, "Whatever they did, make a pledge. Promise yourself that you'll never treat anyone the way they treated you. This is how you become a kinder and more compassionate person. This is how you learn from their mistakes."

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Mansplaining...What the Heck??

 

Yep, I said it, “we guys have to get a handle on the one thing we are good at and that is “mansplaining”. What is mansplaining one may ask? Well, as my wife defines it, “the process by which a male attempts to explain what a woman is trying to say to someone else” or literally a total communication failure. That’s “mansplaining” and it goes to show that the reason men grunt and point, is because of this very unique inability to verbally express others thoughts and opinions and sometimes not even their own.

The mere reasons men don’t understand how women think and speak is because we were made to think without a mental pause button. That’s right, unlike our DVR gadget that allows to pause a show so we can get a sandwich or visit the library for a bit,  we do not have the same benefit as we listen to our wives or girlfriends to be able to pause them for a second. A button that would enable us to take information, process correctly, and then disseminate appropriately, and then hit play. Oh no no no, this would have been too much for a man as it takes too long to wait for all the words, and, had we been able to pause between sentences, we wouldn’t be so apt to crash and burn when we are “mansplaining” to a bud. This is why we finish stories we are being told and fast forward to the end making up our own endings. Does this sound familiar? Of course it does! Men do this all the time all the while believing that we are operating at maximum capacity. All of this because we are “mansplainers” and we “mansplain” well.

Here's the deal, it is widely known and possibly accepted that men over talk ladies because of the natural tendency to fix or correct a situation. If they listen to the whole story, you can bet money they are mentally formulating a solution to a perceived problem. It’s what we do! What we don’t realize very well is the fact that when spoken to by our wives or girlfriends, we skip right over the natural intent of them sharing to determine and achieve connection. That’s called being in a relationship. On a recent fishing trip one of our reels was not functioning properly and the two guys I was with quickly started to offer thoughts on why it didn’t work and what to do about it. That’s a good thing except there were three differing solutions. So now what? By logical progression, we try the first and if it doesn’t work we move on to the next option. Sounds easy right? Well yes in this case, but attempting to fix a fishing reel is no where close to fixing a relationship. That’s why we are always on the chopping block because of vision. Seriously…I mean men don’t have the upfront vision that once they approach their wives or girlfriends with the same process as fixing a fishing reel, well you see how that doesn’t float very well?

My challenge to myself and my buds is this…let’s try to remember that when we are being spoken to by anyone, try to maintain a true focal point of listening. Acknowledge that we are hearing them 100%, and not offer any solutions unless we are asked to. Sound good? I can assure you, that it won’t be easy, and it will cost something. However, if we are willing to give our “mansplaining” an upgrade, we can connect in new ways with our gals. Just like at the beginning of every episode of Star Trek, we can follow that lead:

 Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise(me and you).  Its five year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.

To boldly go where no man has gone before!


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

At The Edge Of Identity

It's 2 AM, my phone begins to vibrate and of course the first thing I think is that something has happened or someone has died. It's an awful gut feeling that almost always happens when one gets awakened suddenly by a phone so early in the morning. 

The voice on the other end of the line says, "I'm sorry to wake you but I'm afraid...I don't know if I can continue with this". It's one of the young men that I have taken on as a mentee and is having a relapse in believing the lies he's been told all his life. My heart starts beating hard and I know this moment is crucial in helping him regain his foundational truth. This is one of many hurdles men will deal with in their journey.

"What are you afraid of" I ask and he responds, "I'm afraid that I don't measure up to what God is asking of me. I feel like I should be punished for all my sins and things I've done wrong in my life. I feel like such a hypocrite even to think that God would accept me the way I am."  In all honesty, I can totally understand how he's feeling but it's a lie. In the fraction of a second, my mind took me back to those times I kept running from God because I knew I was too messed up for His approval. Too filthy for His love and knew there was no hope for me to ever become a child of His. And yet here I am taking a stake in this man's life and doing all I can to assure him God loves him even though he is in a rough mental place right now. 

In that very moment it felt like the anointing of the Spirit just took over and I am speaking words that are just flowing sweetly and lovingly from my lips. Words that hug, words that warm a heart, and more that anything else, assures him that no matter what, Jesus will always be with him regardless of how he feels. Oh I totally understand this deeply as I've been rescued from that edge on more than one occasion.

You see, up until some years ago I struggled with who I was and where I was going and let me say that when a man finds himself in this position, options are not so readily available even from our most trusted sources. Being able to recognize and have a significant understanding of who a man is lays a foundation for who he will be the rest of his life. I was raised primarily by a stay at home mom while my dad worked out of town all week. As much as I learned about personal care from my mom, I didn't get the much needed guidance from dad on what it meant to be a man. In other words, I had to get my definition of manhood from my mom. Down the road I realized how messed up this was and although appreciative of my mom, I honestly didn't have the manly disposition. So what happens with a scenario like this? Well, I began to look for male role models around me and when I thought I found some, they really weren't so healthy for me, as much as a destruction of me. The results? I realized that if I was going to find myself, then the only person that could help me was me.

I share a little of my story because so many young men have and are growing up without a dad in their lives. This is only one example, but when you think about the world as a whole, there are many reasons  that men find themselves alone and have to learn life by themselves. Identity is lost in culture, in small towns and large cities; everywhere we look we see our young men longing for some love and guidance. They need someone to hold them when they're scared and afraid that their world is falling apart and it appears like no one is there to help them.  So what do they do?  They turn to people and things that only push them further into a world of chaos.  Fight is the first reaction because they feel there is no one, shoulder to shoulder with them, fighting the so unfamiliar giants,

I have not and will not lose hope for our young ones, the cost is too high! This is why the early morning calls or the late night calls for help with always go answered. I understand that it could be this one moment in time that will change the direction of a life.  Oh, what a gift-wrapped blessing it is to speak to a man about how God wants to have a relationship with him. God desires to walk alongside, be there when trouble comes, all the while revealing this man's true identity. Once this happens and he understands what has happened, he will discard his old life and all of the lies, and replace it with a new life. A life where he knows who he is, one with clear purpose and one where he realizes he has the greatest Father in the world! His world will still have difficulties, but the difference is he now knows he doesn't have to handle them alone. 


   

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother

I have a few guys that I guide and mentor and we meet individually throughout the week and then as a group once per month. I have to say that some of my greatest insights have come from them as they share their life and struggles. I have to confess the guys are still, shall we say, somewhat unabashed in their honesty and at times enough to make even a grown man blush. I have found that it is during these times, when they know they can be themselves, know there is no judgement or criticism, but also know that the love of God through Christ, has restored and refreshed the way they do life.

I preface my point with all of this only to impress the fact that I have noticed a trend in our conversations that qualify something I believe in and practice as often as I can. That is that when men come together, regardless of age, we see other men by the many things that separate us. In other words, those things that make us different, those things that can be traced back to each individual alone. We tend to first see and act on those traits or behaviors that are different from us. I used to be the same way but I learned along the way that what I see first sets up the stage for all the things I am going to believe about life and about someone else. So if this is what I choose to believe, then I will      live out of this belief. 

What if we were to see instead those things that unite us and make us more similar than we really know? What if we saw someone else with an understanding that like me, they are flawed too  but certainly endowed with many of the same things that bring health and wellbeing to the table. Wouldn't that be a better way to view and have relationships with each other. In addition, this would set life up for a more enjoyable co-existence filled with respect, honor, and understanding. Just this vantage point would knock our togetherness out of the park. We are always going to see people in certain ways and how they treat us will determine so much about how we respond to them. The one thing I can say is that thanks to a loving God, that saw me for who I could be and not for who I was, I have a new life, purpose, and thoughts about all my next steps. I would want that for the men that have trusted me with their spiritual and emotional wellbeing and certainly for you dear reader.

I'm not naïve enough to believe that even this perspective will eliminate some fears, preconceived ideas, or profiling but the one thing I do know without a doubt is that a company of many men, having the same goals can conquer any obstacle and get this, they don't all have to be made from the same cloth. They just need to be unified in their effort for a greater good.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Leadership Begins at the Top



  
This morning I read an article about Mavericks owner Mark Cuban being quoted as saying, "Leadership starts with caring-but not in the way you think. As a leader, you can talk about targets. About goals. About missions and visions. You can communicate and connect and engage in an effort to inspire and motivate, but in most cases, your employees will simply smile and nod and go back to doing their jobs the way they always have. No one starts caring about the business they work for until they know the business cares about them." I believe that this fundamental truth is what people are all about. This truth alone has grown a people to reach their goals and dreams, but the lack of it has wiped out the visions and hope for many. The reality is that this attribute is a choice...a choice to be someone or be no one. I don't know Mr. Cuban personally but I could not stand up and applaud more than to his practical belief in the way he leads others.

A goal I set up for myself as it relates to people that cross my path is this quote but unfortunately I do not know who said it, "people will not remember many words you spoke to them, but they will always remember how you treated them." I mentor many men, young and old, in addition, I have mentors myself. I have them so that I know and can speak to how it feels for someone to love and support me. This way I can experience and provide a similar care to my mentees. There is no greater feeling than to hear and feel a genuine kind of love and and know that in anything I may face, I will never be alone. I tell my guys that the giants we all face are at times so much bigger and stronger that anyone of us, but together, we can cut down the odds of being defeated just by being a team. I also must always share that our greatest warrior lives within each of us. Now the odds of defeat are impossible when Jesus is our general during any battle. It is impossible for us to lose a battle without or within regardless if the outcome is what we think it should be or if it is the total opposite. As long as the Lord has it, rest assured that you've won.

There will be times when we feel down and out, with no vision or no goal, and it seems like life has taken on a black and white tint with no color anywhere. There will be times when our emotions are left wounded and bleeding, our hope and inspiration have dissipated like a vapor. As long as we see things through our eyes, our flawed perspective, you're correct, it will look bleak, dark, and impenetrable with no form of light within. But when it seems its darkest, there is another way, there is another perspective that each of us can simply get, can simply receive, and all it takes is a heartfelt confession that my way is not the way, but His way is the way...and if you recall, also the truth and the life. He just wants to have an intimate, side by side, and high five hand on hand with you and with me...or any other man that extends out his hand to receive.

Mr. Cuban is on to one of the best kept secrets ever. The secret really isn't all that secret because it's all of us seeing what the need is and acting on it. This is a spiritual insight that is greater than us but it keeps us grounded on loving and serving others as we would want someone to do for us. That gentleman, is leadership.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack...


 Men have something built in them that somehow pushes them to believe that we are strongest when we are an army of one, that we can conquer kingdoms all by ourselves and that to ask another guy for assistance is a sign of weakness. Truth be told, a man has a hard time going to the grocery store alone and bringing home all the items wifey mentioned. Ask any wife and see if the statement isn't generally true.

In my specific line of work I've come across many "alpha" men who have a very personalized way of doing life...not that it's wrong or right, it's just so indicative of that guy's personality or character. We all have this and function out of it, from it, or towards it at any given time. The fact is that many people try to correct this behavior by using some sort of modification technique.

I feel like when we do this it's almost like trying to take the man out of how God created him and make him into a template of how God made me. I believe that if I accept a guy based on his behaviors then I will have reason to disrupt our communication. On the other side of the coin, what if I accept this person based on the potential within him. What if together, we decide to allow him to be himself and at the same time we work towards allowing God to mold him the way He sees fit, and become more like Christ? As structured and churchy as that may seem, it really isn't but it does present an opportunity for a mans individuality all the while being transformed. I have worked with some men that together we built a bridge between his attribute, strengths, and powers and his individualized inherent traits to be used for the glory of God and His work in this imperfect person. And man let me tell you... they make a beautiful melody together. A different sort of sculpture chiseled away by authenticity, unmerited love, and coupled with an intimate hug that says, "God loves you the way your are and so do I".

Bottom line is that, like the wolf who feels that his strength is in himself, a mindset adaptation and adjustment promotes the realization that I am accepted, loved, and supported by the pack that surrounds me. Isn't this what happens when we lead off with the love of Christ, and when we push aside our own sideline ticket? Yup...together men can conquer anything, but left alone will tire and fizzle out. Alone is not a good walk.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Someone said it was a "New Norm"

 September 27, 2020

There haven't been many years, if any, that compare to 2020 in the unexpected occurrences all around us. We have walked through so many things that we have never experienced before and for those of you that may be similar to me in likes and dislikes, then your world hasn't changed much at least on the inside. Hopefully the next year will be the total opposite of this year in being a more in control world, but as we all know, chances are just chances and change is always evolving. 

However, one thing that doesn't really change is the make-up of a man. We have unique traits, characteristics, and an incredible personality developed thru the years and it has given birth to the black hat me and the white hat me. And you too my friend wear a white hat at times, and on occasion, the black hat. 

This is what is truly "me" when you gaze in the mirror, and you do...but what do you see? Do you see a beautiful you (and you don't have to be female to be beautiful) or do you see a person you're not so fond of? As we move forward we will shape our thinking to recognize, deal with, and appreciate who we are as an individual more so than that someone you truly don't care to be around if you had a choice. 

Let's begin with a simple task. When you wake in the morning do you feel like it's Monday everyday? Or perhaps, ready to jump all in like it's a Friday? Hate to say it, but I think you know that if you wake up to Monday or to Friday depends totally on you. Your point of view, your vantage point, or any other way that molds what the rest of the day will be like. Yep...you know it and I know it. Understand, I am not minimizing the hard ups and downs in life nor do I want to portray a Polly Anna viewpoint either. Oh wait, for you young guys, Polly Anna was a young girl who never saw anything in life as hard, or something to panic about. She merely went thru life with a smile, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in one had, and chocolate chips in the other. What a life! 

Ok getting back to our task. I would love to challenge you with this seemingly simple task and that is to remind yourself every morning that you will not allow any negative feelings to dominate your thoughts and your mind. The most important part here is that you remind yourself because if you can do this then you will have a clear prompting as to how you are going to allow your day to flow. The secret here is that you have to keep this reminder well in the forefront of your mind, otherwise you will not succeed and something else will take over the helm on your wonderful ship.