Family Leadership

Reshaping Manhood: Strength

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Strength is one of the main biological differences between males and females and throughout history, strength has defined great men. Strength obviously differentiates men and women but strength also differentiates among men. Historically, men who were physically stronger often did better in battle, agriculture, and were seen as more desirable by women and there is no known culture in which weaker men were considered more valuable than stronger men.

Strength is the ability to exert force in accordance with ones will and while history favored physical strength, modern society also leans towards mental strength. Based on the same definition, mental strength could be seen as the ability to carry out tasks or goals based on ones will power and self-discipline. Being a good husband, father, leader, and Christian all requires mental strength, will power, and self-discipline. We all know men who lack these traits and have made their marriages, families, careers, or walks with Christ a train wreck because they lacked the mental strength, will power, or self-discipline required in these areas.

Mental strength, just like physical strength, is an aptitude that can be developed and increased through practice. Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, studies achievement. She tracked 2,441 West Point cadets spread across two entering classes. She recorded their high school grades, SAT scores, leadership potential scores, physical aptitude and a number of other variables to determine what develops a great leader. She discovered that it wasn’t grades, IQ, or leadership potential that accurately predicted whether a cadet would be successful. Instead, it was mental grit, perseverance, and self-determination to achieve long–term goals that made the difference.

5 Traits for Mental Strength

Set Goals to Improve. Step one is seeing that you need improvement in whatever area in your life you are lacking. Compare yourself to the best not the mediocre and set achievable goals to improve. According to neuroscientists studying Nay SEAL trainees, they found that trainees who were able to pass the most rigorous tests are the ones who set many goals. Not just any goals but very specific goals with short, mid, and long-term milestones.

Segmentation. Segmentation is the process of blocking out distractions and focusing on accomplishing one task at a time to accomplish something. First, you slowly divide tasks, goals, or objectives in small parts then take on your challenge one small step at a time. You focus on the next immediate objective and accomplish that objective without letting your mind worry about the other tasks or the entire magnitude of your goal.

Visualization and Self-Talk – Performance coaches have long used visualization techniques with Olympic athletes and top performers. One study showed that subjects simply visualizing the successfully completion of a task had almost as much success as those who practiced actually doing the physical task. The process involves vividly visualizing yourself successfully completing a goal, task, or a habit that you want to obtain. Each day, you visualize incorporating all the five senses, what it would be like when you accomplish your goals. Another aspect of visualization is positive self-talk. Top performers “talk” to themselves with positive words to keep their spirits up. They are actively aware of negative or self-defeating thoughts and constantly remind themselves that no matter how tough the situation is…it will always end.

Consistency – Mentally tough athletes, performers, and leaders are also more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts, they don’t miss assignments, and they always have their teammates back. They don’t let short–term distractions, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing their actions towards their goal or vision. In addition, they make a habit of building up the people around them repeatedly and sharing in victories rather than touting their own contributions and wins or claiming sole responsibility.

Emotional Control - Controlling your mental state is another very crucial skill in mental strength. Most people commonly have erratic or knee-jerk reactions to stressful situations or circumstances. They react out of emotion or the fight or flight response rather than in a calm, methodical manner. The other common reaction people have is the opposite, indecision or freezing up, they cannot make timely decisions and therefore do not act at all. These responses are not unique to high stress situations but even to everyday decision-making. Some people react emotionally or cannot make a decision and fall into “analysis paralysis” but we have more control over our reactions than we think. We often can’t control people or what happens in our outside world, but we can control our interpretation of it and our decision making process in light of it. In high stress situations, top performers breathe deeply and make decisive actions based on logic rather than emotion.

Mental strength isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage from an event; this is why retreats and resolutions usually fall short. Mental Strength is more about building daily habits that allow you to stick to a routine, control your emotions, and overcome challenges and distractions on a consistent basis. This could be with your family, your career, or in your spiritual life.

Throughout the Bible, we find numerous stories of men with mental strength. Many did not start out with mental strength but through the course of their lives and with a trust and faith in God, they developed many of the traits for mental strength. Not only did God use these men to build his kingdom but they also now serve as examples for us to emulate.  If mental strength is about building daily habits and consistency, I challenge you to apply these five traits each day this next week while also reading some of your favorite stories of men in the Bible who exhibit these traits or simply repeat the following verse 10 times throughout each day.

[shareable cite="Philippians 4:13"]I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.[/shareable]

The next characteristic is Courage.

Reshaping Manhood: Intro

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Imagine you were called upon to travel to a foreign country, in a harsh climate, and lead the fight against ISIL/ISIS.  You had to pick a team of five men you know and these men would travel with you and help you accomplish this task.  What attributes would you use to evaluate the men you would choose?  What character traits would you value over others?  Which men would you eliminate from your pool because they lacked the strength, courage, mental fortitude, or trust needed to complete this task?

Masculinity is the opposite of femininity yet over the past 30 years; certain segments of our culture to include academia, media, and the social sciences have implied and tried to get men to think and act more feminine.  Masculinity is also not chauvinism, dominance, sexism, or denigrating femininity.  In a Biblical context, men and women are equal but have separate and distinct roles in relationships, the family, and society.  Even in a non-Biblical context, such as same-sex relationships, each partner assumes one role or the other almost as a basic human relational instinct.

However, as previously stated, over the past 30 years there has been confusion and mixed messages over the role of men and often when I have witnessed anger, resentment, passivity, or unhealthy traits in men and marriages, it often stems from these mixed messages or reversed roles in a marriage.

Manhood is a way to be, a path to follow, and a way to walk in life.  Humans are social creatures and prone to tribal/community living.  Therefore, who we are as men has a lot to do with how we see ourselves in relationship to other males.  If we begin viewing and shaping ourselves through the lens of our culture or through the lens of our wives or other women, this is where men can stray from our identities.  It is not that the culture or women are wrong but they often try to change or “improve” men based on what women or our culture wants from men rather than our unique and separate roles and identities.

Therefore, men should be centering our way to be, our path to follow, and our walk in life based on a Biblical context and from the reinforcement of other strong, Biblical men.  Until a hundred years ago, men banded together in small tribes and communities where their distinct roles were taught from a young age and then reinforced by other men throughout their lives.

Again, imagine you and a small group of men have brought your families to an isolated frontier outpost in the Western United States in the mid 1800’s.  Lurking beyond the perimeter of your outpost are predators, hostile and friendly natives, and other food sources.  Given that all you love is within your outpost, which men would you choose to stand beside you and protect your family?  Which men are willing to fight for what you believe in and hold sacred?  Which men can act decisively and remain calm under distress?  Which men will act selflessly and place the group’s wellbeing above his own?  Again, what character, mental, and emotional traits would you value over others?

While you might never be charged with leading other men in the fight against terrorists or living in a remote outpost in the 1800’s, God has charged every man to lead his family, serve in God’s church, and stand for righteousness and justice.  Over the course of these next few posts, I am going to highlight some distinct, universal characteristics of masculinity throughout history and their Biblical context in relation to God’s plan.  I challenge you to reflect on your own life and walk in relation to these characteristics and with the men you currently associate with on a daily basis.  Not only will you be able to decide which men to choose to stand with you but you will also see if you would be chosen by others to stand with them.

The first characteristic is Strength.

How to be a man, Part 1

This blog, www.legacydad.com,  talks a lot about manly things, dad things and building our relationship with God in order to be the man that he wants us to be.  Lance and Gary have talked in great length about their journeys (road maps) and right to passage for their kids/grandkids.  As the merchant in this group of three (one already home and two homeward bound) I have sat back and watched their progression and slowly ebbing and flowing what that will look like for my son.  I have a great dad.  A dad who taught me that a man needs to have his integrity and honor and to do what he says he is going to do.  He has taught me the value of being and living debt free.  I have not always heeded that advice, as you have read in several previous posts, but I can tell you the older that I get the more I treasure what he has instilled in me.  The world (Culture) tells us their definition of what it takes to be a man.  How to be a man and the pleasures that we can have by pursuing this manly stuff.  The wisest man in the world said that without God this is all vanity.  Lance had asked our readers some things that they wanted to hear from us and the question arose on how to be man.  An excellent question if I do say so myself.  There are three things that we need to concentrate on and I will address them all here shortly, but first, I want to match some things up with Scripture.  First off, turn to John 12:26, (ESV) “26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”  Jesus was asked by religious leaders of their time what was the greatest commandments.   Without missing a step he said the first is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, soul and strength.  And the second was to love your neighbor as yourself.  All other commandments hang on these two.  Did you catch it?  As a man we not only have to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we have to center our lives in him.  Secondly, we have to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Here is a list of traits that we think a godly man exudes: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship, Courage, Perseverance, Loyalty, Duty, Self Service, Honor, Integrity, Grace, Justice, Humility, Mercy and Discipline.  This is a life-long process and even the best men do not always get each of these cylinders going at the same time.  However, you will note that a godly man has a humility like no other.  A spiritual maturity that can only be explained by God’s redemptive love for us.  Some can argue that these traits are inherited while others say that they are taught and others say that they can be learned.  I like to think (and believe) that when we align ourselves with God and his will, then he gives to those who love him.  In the Book of James we are told to ask for wisdom.  If we don’t have an earthly father figure (or a father that was never around or let alone a good example) then we have confidence that we have a heavenly father that loves us so much that He sent HIS ONLY son to die for us.

Here is a self-examination to see where you are at on the road to how to be a man:

1)      Know that God has made each one of us our own way.  Each one of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.  For instance, Gary rightly coined us three:  The Cowboy, The Warrior and the Merchant.  We are all different but we share the same passions.  We love, we learn, we grow and we are comfortable in our own skin.  We have to know our self.  We have to be content with who we are and where God has put us.  That doesn’t mean that we cannot strive to be better, we just have to be content with each day God has given us.  We have to respect ourselves as men.

2)      We have to know right from wrong.  C.S. Lewis has excellent books on this (read them all to find out what I mean).   We, as humans, have this inherent code of right and wrong.  If you are fortunate enough to have kids you can see that as early as of two years of age the child knows right from wrong even if they don’t know how to convey the wrong – they know.  WE have to be able to admit when we are wrong (to our neighbor), we have to confess our sins and trespasses to our God the Father.  We have to admit to those we love when we are wrong.  We have to be able to expressly state that we were wrong, that we can say “I’m Sorry” and be able to express why we are sorry.

3)      What we put in is what we get out.  This is true in mind, body and spirit.  We have to make sure that we are in God’s word daily.  We have to pray continuously.  We have to repent from sin.  To repent means to turn away from and to avoid doing it again.  That being said, many of us think that we can serve two masters, that is, that we think we can have destructive sin in our lives and yet be in fellowship with a Holy God.  That is not possible.  We have to humble ourselves.  We have to breathe in the grace of God and walk out our salvation with fear in trembling.  Knowing that we can never earn our way to heaven, we then can confidently except this amazing gift of love and after accepting this incredible gift we can find that our faith is alive in both works and deeds to give thanks for this incredible gift of love. 

4)      Has True Grit –my dad always quotes Shakespeare to me, “not a lender or borrower thee be, pay thy debts or it dulls the edge of husbandry.”  To me, this was more than just about lending money.  With my dad it meant so much more:  Character, Integrity, and so on.  We have to be willing to be the stewards that God wants us to be.  The stewards of His Time, His Treasure and His Talent.  These are all things that God, the most high, has given us.   The best way to describe integrity to you is to say how we act when no one else is around and whether or not we make the right choice.  Job puts it best in chap 29 (Read Job 29 here).

5)      Memorize and lives Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.

6)      Have a Kingdom Purpose – It is not about us, it is about God.  The sooner that we learn that the freer we are to make a difference in the short time that God has given us.  To love our neighbor, our wives, our children and so on.  To give without expecting anything in return.  To serve as a servant leader.

7)      Know your purpose – why are we here.  What am I good at?  Where can I serve best?  What has God made me to do? 

8)      Walk with other men – no one should do this alone.  That is not God’s plan.  He wants us in community.  He is the Trinity:  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  He knows community and he knows what we need.

9)      Take care of your vessels (body) – eat healthy, sleep healthy and make the right physical choices (exercise, diet, healthy choices).

10)   When in doubt of how to be a man pray – more to follow

 

Psalm 112:1-10 (ESV) The Righteous Will Never Be Moved

112 [a] Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,     who greatly delights in his commandments! 2 His offspring will be mighty in the land;     the generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches are in his house,

    and his righteousness endures forever. 4 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;     he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. 5 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;     who conducts his affairs with justice.

6 For the righteous will never be moved;     he will be remembered forever. 7 He is not afraid of bad news;     his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. 8 His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,     until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

9 He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;     his righteousness endures forever;     his horn is exalted in honor. 10 The wicked man sees it and is angry;     he gnashes his teeth and melts away;     the desire of the wicked will perish!

In order for us to move from Part 1 to Part 2 – let’s take another self test (please read Psalms 139).

More to follow on this awesome question:  How to be a man.

Thanks for the challenge!

Please give me your thoughts,

Dante