The Real Men's Club - Vol. 1, Week 2

The Real Men's Club, Volume 1

Many hurts and bad habits among adult men can be the result of growing up with an absent or abusive father. Todd talks about how to deal with the effects of the "father wound" and how men can break the cycle and avoid perpetuating parenting mistakes.

Todd WagnerOct 7, 2004

Welcome to week two of the Real Men's Club. As we dive in this week and talk about what it means to be a real man, we want to let everybody know the recording you're going to hear today is not the actual one we did on week two of this little five-week series we did, talking about what it means to act like men.

That's because the recording from that day failed. It looked like it was laying down through all the technology available to us, but we only came back later to find out the CD was, in fact, blank. You may not have some of the benefit of the pacing, the audience response, the laughter, and the other things that went with it, but the heart of the content is right here in what we're going to dive in and cover today.

We've kind of used, as our basis for all this conversation, 1 Corinthians 16:13, which says, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." Last week, we spent some time talking about why that is more and more difficult for men to do today. To act like a man is hard when men don't know what it means to act like a man. There's a lot of interest on this whole men's movement that's been out there.

We have seen the illustration over the last decade plus of Promise Keepers, the Million Man March, and the success of some of Eldredge's work with Wild at Heart, and before that Morley's work, The Man in the Mirror. This idea of being a man has been a popular conversation in the public square for some time, but there's still a large sense of confusion.

We talked about why society has something to do with that. For a long time, there were things set in stone in the way they were and what society's expectations and moldings of men were, and how that has changed. We talked about, last week, the reason men are in a state of confusion can be attributed to society. We detailed that out.

Some of it has to do with alack of vision, that there are not role models who are out there. There is not clear teaching. The church has been largely silent on this. Men have been emasculated in many ways. There are really two extremes of men. We said last week, not to be crass, but there are some kinds of men who are weak, indecisive, and they lack confidence. They are life-preserving, not life-giving men. They don't want to be a bad boy. Then there are other men on the other extreme who want to show everybody they're a badass, as we said.

Not just to say that for crassness's sake, but that's the other extreme that's inappropriate, this macho man. "I want you to know how tough I am and not let you see I'm a frightened, insecure man." They walk, they talk, they cuss, they drink, they have sex illicitly, to show they're real men. That's very, very obviously destructive and not the picture of what a man should be. So, society and lack of vision.

Then we talked last week about how a lot of it has to do with good ol' dad. That's what we're going to focus on today. Today's content really has to deal with the role of an absent or abusive father in making it difficult for us as men to be the men God wanted us to be. Arianna Huffington, you may know from some of her appearances on TV, is a political and social commentator. She is the one who said, "Not only is it harder to be a man; it is also harder to become one." That is because of the lack of role models, and specifically the lack of dad filling the role he was called to fulfill.

We realize there are scores of men who are out there, who are here today, who are gentlemen who haven't had a dad who was there to build into them, or if the dad was there physically, he was absent emotionally and not pouring into you in the way he was intended to. Or if he was there, he was there in an abusive way. Verbally, and all too often, physically. We have guys who have responded to this in extreme ways that we're going to talk about today and try and explain some of this. We're going to establish the problems. Men today are in a state of confusion. We're going to focus today on good ol' Dad and his role.

We said the Enemy wants to steal your joy. He wants to kill your hope and destroy your opportunity to live a life of faithfulness, fullness, adventure, greatness, strength, love, and purpose. That's what the Enemy wants to do. He's come to steal, kill, and destroy, and real men won't let him. They will act like men, and they will reclaim the ground they have lost through societies, through a lack of role models, and even with an absent or abusive dad. We're trying to lay down the foundation to help you do just that. Here we go.

The reality of life in this world is we all have been disappointed or wounded in ways that challenge our ability to live strong, healthy, and productive lives. It's important to say we are challenged but not necessarily controlled by this. There are unresolved issues. There's lack of closure that hinders the quality of our life right now. One of those wounds, one of those unresolved issues a lot of us men have, is our absent or our abusive daddy, or the fact that our role with our fathers is not what we hoped it to be or what it really should have been in that case.

I have a friend who is involved in a recovery ministry we do here at Watermark, and she was sharing. It's a woman's group in this particular instance. She was sharing that of the eight women she is shepherding through the recovery from addictions, from habits, and from practices and dependencies they have, there is not a single woman in her group who had a loving, present father. That is consistently what we're going to find out throughout the day is the cause of many people's dysfunction.

I want to say again that it doesn't have to be, but it is certainly indicative. It is not something that predetermines what you will be, but it certainly, in many ways, increases the likelihood, increases the predisposition toward those kinds of things. We want to address that, and we're going to tell you today the solution to that. We're going to let you know what every son wants and needs from his father, and how to address that wound created by an absent or abusive daddy in your life. Let's set this up a little bit more.

We talked last week about how the way to overcome this problem of confusion and this wandering that is out there, trying to figure out what it is we should be, is toregain the ability to live confident lives as men, as God intended, that we would become men who are accountable, leaders, responsible, alert, strong, secure. Real men. Loving men. Firm and yet gentle in the way they guide other folks.

A confident man is not a man who is full of himself. He's not self-reliant or cocksure. We say the solution to men being insecure and living in a state of confusion is that we develop confident lives. A confident man is not a man who is full of himself, cocksure, self-reliant, but he's full of faith and lives in truth.

A confident man, we'll say, is a man who addresses the realities of his past and also the responsibilities of his present. What we want to say by that is the word confident in its purest form is really a compound of two Latin words. One meaning with, the con, and the fidelis, where we get the fident part of confident. It means with faith, so a man who lives with faith and lives by the moldings and understandings of who God intended him to be is the man who can live the kind of life God intended for him. It will be a life that others can respect.

We talked about how God wants us to be in his image. To bear the image of God means we're going to pursue justice, to exemplify good, to live without regard to self, to be glorious, to exhibit kindness, to extend grace, to offer forgiveness, to remain reliable, to establish security in others, to embody strength, to provide protection, to define integrity, to show mercy, to lead with love, to have a sense of worth and presence, discipline, steadfastness.

Who wouldn't want to be around a leader like that, a man like that? Who wouldn't want to be mentored by a guy like that? Fathered by a guy like that? Married to and date a man like that? Let's continue here by looking at what has to happen for this to happen. It's going to take some courage to face the wounds of our past and confidence to believe we can heal them.

It takes nothing, men, to use the wounds of our past as excuses. We ought to just lay out that bad parents are a fact not an excuse. There is really only one perfect Father who was out there, and he's not on earth. None of us have had a perfect father. My kids don't have a perfect father. The reality of it is those fathers who aren't perfect are not an excuse for us. Even the fathers who weren't there. That doesn't become an excuse for us to bail out of what God created us and called us to be.

It might predispose us to some things. In fact, I'm going to make a case that it absolutely does, but it doesn't predetermine we'll be that. The way you can overcome your predisposition to certain things is by having the courage to face this wound that is real in your life and to believe there can be healing that can take place, to not use them as an excuse.

One of my favorite cartoons is of a couple of guys who were drawn to be sitting up against the side of the wall of a building with obviously disheveled appearances and worn-out clothes. They were holding a brown paper bag, each of them. One bum, if you will, was saying to the other one, basically this. He looked at the other guy, and they were both drinking away their sorrows.

He said, "So, enough about me. Tell me. Where did your parents screw up? Where did your dad go wrong?" It was their way of saying, "Let me tell you why I'm here. It's not my fault. It's no choice I'm making. I had to be this way because of my daddy. If you knew my dad, you'd be proud of me that I'm not more depraved and destructive than I am."

I want to make a case today that there is no other wound that is out there… We know society has created some problems and made it hard for us to be like men or to become men, but ultimately the greatest threat to us being the men God intends us to be is the fact that Daddy hasn't done his job.

We'll just be honest about this. If there is no wound as dangerous for or deep in a man as the wound brought about by an absent or abusive father… Invisible dads are toxic to their sons. The psychological, the social, the spiritual deficit that is created by that kind of daddy is immense. I want to share that with you and show that to you.

In fact, the Scriptures predict that. In Exodus, chapter 34, verses 6 and 7, it says, "Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…'" Watch this. "…visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."

A lot of folks, when they read this the first time, understand it as some sort of generational curse, that it is predetermined if your daddy or granddaddy was something, you're going to be it. Now, that's not what that Scripture is saying at all. God says every man will be judged according to his deeds, and each of us has to make a decision about who we're going to be before him. What he's saying there, and what the Scriptures are revealing, is he's acknowledging what is the obvious.

That is, when you have certain men who model certain things for you or who tell you, "This is how you treat women. This is how you view money. This is how you hide your pain. This is how you intimidate others through anger. This is how you view other races," when you see that for 18 solid years modeled in your home, it is going to be something that affects your life. There has to be a re-learning, if you will, a re-fathering, a re-parenting that takes place for you not to continue that cycle of destructiveness and sin.

What really is going on here is God is saying that in his mercy he limits the impact of one man on generations. Grandpa gets to directly spread his poison, if you will, on your daddy and you, and maybe even to the fourth generation. After that, he's gone. He is removed from the earth. That doesn't mean, though, that some of what grandpa did isn't still going to affect others. His disciples, your daddy and you to your kids, can continue the destruction for years.

We're going to talk today about how to break that cycle of pain absent and abusive men create. Let's be honest. Daddies, granddads, men in your life who have modeled for you anything less than what God intends for men to be, are a huge hurdle to get over. They are a toxin injected into our systems that has to be cleansed through truth and through the faith that God says, "I'm going to re-father you, re-parent you."

I love what it says in Psalm 68. It says God is, "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." God wants to come alongside of those of us who have not had a daddy who has modeled for us the way God intended for our dads to model for us life and truth, to be that himself through his Word, through mentors, through godly men in the community and in the body of faith. God wants that. In Proverbs 6, verse 20, it says:

"My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life."

In other words, if a dad and mom do their job, then it's going to bless you if you cling to them, but some of you have been given commandments and modeling by a daddy who is anything but a light and a lamp unto your path. Like I said, they've taught you to hate other races. They've taught you to see women as objects for your sexual satisfaction and that they're there just to serve you. You don't know how to treat a woman, too many times, other than the way you saw your daddy treat your mom.

The way you expect women to respond to anger and intimidation is the way your mom did. If you learn to live in those cycles, you have a rude awakening ahead of you when you find some woman who is going to say, "No. I'm going to complete you as a man and help you to be who you should be," and not just respond in the passive, non-completing way maybe you saw your mother do in the presence of your abusive or absent father.

This is what a wise man said one time. "Kids may fail to do what we say, but they rarely fail to do what we do." This ties again into the idea of the force and the presence of the modeling of dads who have brought destructive practices, habits, and modeling into our lives. Proverbs 17:6 says, "Grandchildren are the crown of old men…" In other words, grandchildren are what make grandpas feel like a king.

Then that verse continues, and it says, "…and the glory of sons is their fathers." The substance, if you will, the weight, the beauty, the boasting, sons get is from their daddy. That's why you see a lot of boys on the playground, and they're not arguing about, "My mama can cook better than your mama."

No. They're arguing about whose daddy is greater, stronger, faster, and more to be loved and admired, because the same way grandchildren make old men feel, that is the way a father makes a son feel. There is something innate that is built into sons, and to daughters, but to sons specifically today in our conversation, that really defines our sense of worth.

I'm going to read you a little story here about a man who built some good things into his son. The son watched this dad for a long time and, frankly, was a little bit ashamed of his dad. You'll see that in the story. At the end of the day, what that father did for his son is what built into that son some good things. It's called, "What My Father Wore." It was written by a man who lived out in the western part of west and southwest Texas. It says this:

"What my father wore embarrassed me as a young man. I wanted him to dress like a doctor or lawyer, but on those muggy mornings when he rose before dawn to fry eggs for my mother and me, he always dressed like my father. We lived in south Texas, and my father wore tattered jeans with the imprint of his pocketknife on the seat. He liked shirts that snapped more than those that buttoned, and kept his pencils, cigars, glasses, wrenches and screwdrivers in his breast pocket.

My father's boots were government-issues with steel toes that made them difficult to pull off his feet, which I sometimes did when he returned from repairing air conditioners, his job that also shamed me. But, as a child, I'd crept into his closet and modeled his wardrobe in front of the mirror. My imagination transformed his shirts into the robes of kings and his belts into soldiers' holsters. I slept in his undershirts and relied on the scent of his collars to calm my fear of the dark.

Within a few years, though, I started wishing my father would trade his denim for khaki and retire his boots for loafers. I stopped sleeping in his clothes and eventually began dreaming of another father. I blamed the way he dressed for my social failures. When boys bullied me, I thought they'd seen my father wearing his cowboy hat but no shirt while walking our dog. I felt that girls snickered at me because they'd glimpsed him mowing the grass in cut-offs and black boots. The girls' families paid men (and I believed better-dressed ones) to landscape their lawns, while their fathers yachted in the bay wearing lemon-yellow sweaters and expensive sandals.

My father only bought two suits in his life. He preferred clothes that allowed him the freedom to shimmy under cars and squeeze behind broken Maytags, where he felt most content. But the day before my parents' twentieth anniversary, he and I went to Sears, and he tried on suits all afternoon. With each one, he stepped to the mirror, smiled and nodded, then asked about the price and reached for another. He probably tried ten suits before we drove to a discount store and bought one without so much as approaching a fitting room. That night my mother said she'd never seen a more handsome man.

Later, though, he donned the same suit for my eighth-grade awards banquet, and I wished he'd stayed home. After the ceremony (I'd been voted Mr. Citizenship, of all things), he lauded my award and my character while changing into a faded red sweatsuit. He was stepping into the garage to wash a load of laundry when I asked what even at age fourteen struck me as cruel and wrong. 'Why,' I asked, 'don't you dress "nice," like my friends' fathers?'

He held me with his sad, shocked eyes and searched for an answer. Then before he disappeared into the garage and closed the door between us, my father said, 'I like my clothes.' An hour later my mother stormed into my room, slapped me hard across the face and called me an 'ungrateful little twerp,' a phrase that echoed in my head until they resumed speaking to me.

In time they forgave me, and as I matured I realized that girls avoided me not because of my father but because of his son. I realized that my mother had slapped me because my father could not, and it soon became clear that what he had really said that night was that there are things more important than clothes. He'd said he couldn't spend a nickel on himself because there were things I wanted. That night, without another word, my father had said, 'You're my son, and I sacrifice so your life will be better than mine.'

For my high-school graduation, my father arrived in a suit he and my mother had purchased earlier that day. Somehow he seemed taller, more handsome and imposing, and when he passed the other fathers they stepped out of his way. It wasn't the suit, of course, but the man. The doctors and lawyers recognized the confidence in his swagger, the pride in his eyes, and when they approached him, they did so with courtesy and respect.

After we returned home, my father replaced the suit in the flimsy Sears garment bag, and I didn't see it again until his funeral. I don't know what he was wearing when he died, but he was working, so he was in clothes he liked, and that comforts me. My mother thought of burying him in the suit from Sears, but I convinced her otherwise and soon delivered a pair of old jeans, a flannel shirt and his boots to the funeral home.

On the morning of the services, I used his pocketknife to carve another hole in his belt so it wouldn't droop around my waist. Then I took the suit from Sears out of his closet and changed into it. Eventually, I mustered the courage to study myself in his mirror where, with the exception of the suit, I appeared small and insignificant.

Again, as in childhood, the clothes draped over my scrawny frame. My father's scent wafted up and caressed my face, but it failed to console me. I was uncertain: not about my father's stature—I'd stopped being an ungrateful little twerp years before. No, I was uncertain about myself, my own stature. And I stood there for some time, facing myself in my father's mirror, weeping and trying to imagine—as I will for the rest of my life—the day I'll grow into my father's clothes."

That story right there talks about how a young man grows to find a lot of his worth and dignity, and his character is formed, by the life of his father. As a young man, this guy wanted his daddy to be more in terms of what the world would perceive him to be, but this guy didn't have an absent or an abusive daddy. He had a hard-working, in this case a blue-collar, father. But that blue-collar daddy loved his son, sacrificed for his son, and modeled for his son what a man is.

You may not have a dad like that. When you think of your dad, it's a good exercise to write down what are the three words or phrases that come to mind first. What are the things, when you write down, "My dad is this, this, and this," that shoot to your mind? For me, the very first thing that comes to mind when I think of my dad is the word loving.

My dad would write me letters if I was away at a camp or if I was away doing some things. I can remember him folding up some sports pages and firing them off to me. My dad would write me letters and encourage me. The other word I think of my dad is temperamental. He would have fits, at times, of anger, and I had to be aware of that. The third thing I think about with my dad is he was faithful. He was reliable. He was very present and sacrificial for me. I knew my dad would fight for me. He modeled that. He was present in my life and was for me.

I was very blessed to have a dad like that, but you have three different words. I'd love for you to write them down. Stop, pause this audio here, and reflect. What are the three words or phrases that first come to your mind that describe who your daddy was? We'll talk about this, and this is significant, because if your dad was absent or abusive in any way, it creates some things in your life. Let me spell these out for you.

First, an absent or abusive daddy invites lostness and lack of direction. It's been said, and I agree with it, that no man is a man until a father tells him he is. If you have a young man who doesn't have a daddy who is there, you will find a guy who is lost. He'll either be destructive in behavior or obsessed with success. He'll be without direction. He won't have something he's trying to conform himself into the image of. He'll be a young man who is well on his way to trying to find his own way, which means he won't have a clear vision and path set out before him.

I think I mentioned last week that Thomas Carlyle, a British and Scottish historian, said, "Show me the man you honor, and I will show you what kind of man you are, for it shows me what your ideal of manhood is, and what kind of man you long to be." If you didn't have a daddy there and you don't know what kind of man to model, to long for or to go after, you're going to be lost. You have a lack of direction. You won't even know what kind of man there should be. Absent or abusive fathers invite that.

Tom Watson is a man who had a lot of success in the world's eyes in the area of golf. He won four different Byron Nelsons (the tournament that is played right here in Dallas), thirty-nine different PGA titles, eight PGA majors, six senior titles, and four senior majors. Yet, Tom Watson talks about how he can speak to the power of a father.

When he talks about all this great success he had and when he is asked what the most defining moment in his golf career is, the greatest moment in his golfing life, he says, "The greatest moment in my golfing life was when, as a teenager, my dad invited me to join him on his regular Saturday game. When my dad said, 'Son, you're ready to join us. Come out here and play.'"

Despite all the success he ever had after that, he said, "I want to tell you something. That was the greatest day for me in golf, when my dad let me in with his peers." Indeed, it says in the Scriptures, "…the glory of sons is their fathers." When that daddy isn't there, there is a lostness that is toxic to a young man.

Secondly, absent or abusive fathers also invite anger and pain. The Scripture says in Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 4, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." When you have a daddy who doesn't provide for you what God said he should, it produces a lot of anger in your life, insecurity, frustration, and pain.

There is a sense of, "Do I have what it takes? Is there going to be anybody who is going to come along and affirm me? Who will tell me that I can fight through and be a man who should be looked to and trusted in the way I wanted to be?" We could go on with this, but suffice it to say that it is a fact too many of you know in first person that an absent or abusive daddy brings about a great deal of anger and pain in your life.

Thirdly, an absent or abusive father also is going to create and cause, invite into somebody's life, a tendency toward homosexuality and extreme behavior: addictions and passivity, either self-destructive or self-obsessive behaviors. An absent or abusive daddy invites homosexuality and extreme behavior.

There is a gentleman by the name of Gregory Dickson who wrote a thesis on this and presented it before a group of peers of other sociologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. He talks about how the relationship between childhood, paternal bonding, and development of adult male homosexuality has been documented in research literature for the last four decades.

He writes that since 1962 he's interviewed about 1,000 male homosexuals personally. He says he has never interviewed a single male homosexual who had a constructive, loving father. He says a son who has a loving father who respects him does not become a homosexual. He has concluded that there is a specific causal relationship between parental influence and sexual choice.

Let me say this. If you are out there, and you've had this kind of daddy, this is not your permission to go and live this kind of destructive lifestyle, whether it's homosexually or heterosexually defined. The point here is that it does create… We can observe this in behavioral sciences. We can observe that men who have this kind of dad are more predisposed toward that type of behavior than other men are, but it is not predeterminate.

In other words, you don't have to go there. That's what we're going to talk about today in giving you something to put your arms around and go, "Okay. What am I going to do so I don't become lost and lacking direction, angry, and somebody who is imprisoned by pain, who is forced to live in some expression of extreme behavior?"

Here are some statistics for you. Let me let you know that sixty-three percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. Eighty-five percent of all children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes, according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Eighty percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes, according to Criminal Justice and Behavior.

Seventy-one percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes, according to the National Association of Secondary School Principals report on the state of high schools. Seventy percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes, according to the United States Department of Justice. Eighty-five percent of all of youths sitting in prisons grew up in fatherless homes, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

In other words, let me say it this way. Kids who have absent or abusive daddies are five times more likely to commit suicide, thirty-two times more likely to run away, twenty times more likely to have behavioral disorders, fourteen times more likely to commit rape, nine times more likely to drop out of school, ten times more likely to abuse chemical substances, nine times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution, and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. The results of having an absent or abusive daddy in terms of what it predicts can happen in your life are overwhelming.

We wonder why today men can't act like men. It's because there is an increasing absence of loving, supportive, encouraging, present, caring, gentle, firm, directing, godly, modeling fathers. Now that doesn't mean we have an excuse. It means we have to deal with this wound in a responsible way. We cannot let this unresolved issue in our lives not have closure, because it will hinder the quality of life in us on this day.

There is a little piece a guy named Edgar Guest put together called "My Job as a Father." In light of the statistics he knew, he wrote this: "I've known a number of wealthy men who were not successes as fathers. They made money rapidly; their factories were marvels of organization; their money investments were sound and made with excellent judgment, and their contributions to public service were useful and willingly made. All of this took time and thought.

At the finish there was a fortune on one hand—and a worthless and dissolute son on the other. Why? Too much time spent in making-money implies too little time spent with the boy. Had someone, when the child was a youngster romping on the floor, come to any one of those fathers and offered him a million dollars for the lad, he would have spurned the offer and kicked the proposer out of his office.

Had someone offered him ten million dollars in cash for the privilege of making a drunkard out of his son, the answer would have been the same. Had someone offered to buy from him for a fortune the privilege of playing with the boy, of going on picnics and fishing trips and outings, and being with him a part of every day, he would have refused the proposition without a second thought.

Yet that is exactly the bargain those men made, and which many men are still making. They are coining their lives into fortunes and automobile factories and great industries, but their boys are growing up as they may. These men probably will succeed in business; but they will be failures as fathers. To me it seems that a little less industry and a little more comradeship with the boy is more desirable. Not so much of me in the bank, and more of me and of my best in the lad, is what I should like to have to show at the end of my career."

I will tell you that too many kids have dads who agree philosophically with Edgar Guest, but practically never pursue and experience that kind of relationship. You cannot say you love your son and not be a present father. If you have a dad who told you that he loves you and was absent, you know those words were empty.

I want to talk for a second about what every son wants and needs from his father, so you can be honest. "Yeah. No wonder I'm hurting. No wonder I'm insecure. No wonder I'm wounded. Because I didn't get these things." Or, so you as a father can go, "Look. I'm going to make sure my boy gets that." Here we go.

First of all, every son needs time. You ask kids how they spell love, and they will spell it t-i-m-e. You make memories. You fish. You golf. You take Saturday morning runs for doughnuts. You share chores with them. You write them notes that you stick in their lunch. You make breakfast with them. You let them get out there and grill with you.

You create memories you and your boys can enjoy together. Every son wants and needs from his father time. Don't buy this lie of quality time over quantity time. Your son needs you. Nothing will ever substitute for your practical presence on a regular basis where your son sees you say, "You are a priority, and I'm going to be there for you."

Secondly, every son needs leadership he can respect. In other words, you have to ask yourself, "Are you the man you want him to be?" I said earlier today, and it's worth repeating, that kids may fail to do what we say, but they will never fail to do what we do. Are what you say and do in sync? Does your son, do others around you, did you in your daddy, see leadership you could respect, or did your dad say, "Don't do what I do. Do what I say"? You know the lack of respect that generated.

Thirdly, every son wants from his father direction and solid answers explaining why. What I mean by that is there has to be a moral why that comes alongside the moral what. In other words, you don't just tell your boy, "Hey, son, this is the law and get it done." There's a time to give that kind of direction, to be firm as a father, but if you are young man, as you begin to grow and as you mature, you're going to want to know your daddy is going to take some time and say, "Son, let me explain to you why I am asking you to do this."

It wasn't but just this week my little girl came up to me and said, "Dad, do you ever make rules just to ruin our fun?" which I thought was a pretty honest question. I had to share with her. I said, "No, I don't. I don't ever make a rule to in any way squander your fun. I'm not a killjoy to your life any more than God is not a cosmic killjoy in my life, but there are rules and principles of wisdom God has given me to protect me from pain, error, and foolishness."

Kids want to know, "Hey, Dad, tell me what the boundaries are and tell me why." You need to be a dad who loves and shepherds his son and explains things to him. In Proverbs 6, it says in verses 27 and 28, "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?"

You need to take some time to explain to your son…even if they can't understand it, begin to model for them…that there is a method to your madness, that there is a moral why to your moral what. "I don't want your bosom to be burned. I don't want your feet to be scorched. Let me tell you a story. Let me share with you pain others have experienced, and all will experience if they make these choices." Sons want direction and solid answers explaining why.

Fourthly, sons want their daddy's heart. They want love, affirmation, and blessing. Every kid wants that. Every kid needs that from his father. They want to know they have what it takes. If their son hears that from everybody but never from their dad, if their dad communicates that they're a loser, that they're no good, that they're a disgrace to his name, I'll tell you what. That is a wound that is difficult to get over. Boys need to know Daddy says they have what it takes. They want to know they are loved, affirmed, and a part of what their dad can be proud of.

I'll tell you, there's only one perfect Father, and he doesn't live on earth. The Father who lives in heaven. He knew this about that for his own Son. That's why, in Matthew, chapter 3, verse 17, when Jesus is going public with his ministry, you find the clouds parting, a dove coming down, and a voice from heaven says, "And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'"

You see that Jesus understands his Father loves him, that his Father is affirming him and blessing him and saying, "This is a man. You act like him. You listen to him. You follow him." It's been modeled for us in the Scripture. The eternal, perfect Father did that for his Son, and it's something we all know innately that we need.

I'll tell you. Children rarely question their parents' expectations. Instead they always question their personal adequacy. If you tell them, "You're not worth anything unless you do this, perform this way in the athletic field, unless you look this way or achieve this," they're not going to question whether or not you have wrong priorities or wrong values. They're going to question whether or not they're adequate.

Dads, you need to let your kids know that you affirm them, that you love them, that you bless them. You boys who are out there, you men who are out there who know your daddy didn't give you this, you have to stop trying to do these things in an obsessive way in order to get your daddy's approval. He may never give it to you, because he may not know how to give it to you, but you have to start to do the things your perfect Father in heaven will affirm and let him bless you, value you, and communicate his love to you. We'll get to that in just a second.

It breaks my heart when I'm out there coaching my son in sports, when I see what he innately does. If there's a ball hit to him, he can make seven good plays in a row at shortstop, but man, one ball is hit to him, he bobbles it, it goes flying over his shoulder, or he makes an error, makes a bad throw, the very first place he looks is right over to me. "Hey, am I still okay? Do you love me? Am I a complete failure? Am I lost?"

I want to be the guy who looks at him and says, "Coop, I love you. I'm not going to base your value and worth on how you play shortstop, what was the latest throw you made, or whether you won or lost the game. I want to affirm you." But boy, isn't it natural that the very first place a son's eyes look, "Did I do well? Am I okay? Am I a man?" is toward their daddy?

There are some of you out there who are working yourselves to death, leaving your own family and wife, still trying to become enough of a success so your dad would look at the house you live in, the cars you drive, the title next to your name, so your dad would, from a distance, say, "Boy, what a good boy and good son you were." Meanwhile, you're passing on a legacy of destruction.

Boys need that from their daddies. Too many boys who grew up to be daddies themselves are still trying to earn it, if you didn't get it. How do you address this wound, then, created by an absent or abusive daddy? How can you wisely and responsibly deal with this unresolved issue in your life? Let me rip through this for you.

First, you have to acknowledge it is there, and you have to refuse to be defined by it. Don't make it your excuse to check out or continue the cycle of abuse yourself. You have to say, "Hey, the reality is my daddy wasn't there the way I wanted him to be. My daddy was abusive to me verbally. He was abusive to me physically. It's there. It's real. I don't have to pretend it didn't happen. I have to acknowledge it's there. I have to acknowledge how it could predispose me to act, but I will not let it be controlling in my life.

Secondly, you have to choose to believe in God's justice. The reality is, some of us, some of you, had truly evil fathers. You have to let go of your anger and vengeance. Let me tell you a verse. There are a couple of them. One where God says, "…VENGEANCE IS MINE…" In other words, "You let me execute justice, and I will."

This is what it says in 1 Timothy 5:8, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Now, when you think about the awful way the Scriptures talk about how there are going to be eternal consequences for unbelievers, you can make it pretty certain in your mind's eye that God is going to have a strong word for fathers who did not love those who were given to them.

Some of you all are living in anger and trying to strike out in vengeance against your fathers, sometimes by ruining yourself and by hurting the family name to show your dad you're going to get back at him. That is a self-destructive and unwise way to get back and to deal with this wound. What God is saying is, "Look. You have to learn to move back toward your father in grace, love, and forgiveness. You can trust me with severe justice."

Thirdly, you have to be the man who, out of compassion, begins to go to your father and provide him a means through which he can deal with his injustice toward you, so he can escape the justice God says is coming his way if he never owns it. You have to choose to forgive your dad as your heavenly Father has offered forgiveness to you.

Hebrew 12:10 says, " [Fathers have] disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them…" There is only one perfect Father in this world, and he's not on earth. Admit your dad made mistakes. Some of you all, the mistake your dad made is he left you and your mama. Some of you, the mistake your dad made is he stayed there and was abusive.

Those are huge mistakes, incredible mistakes, but you have to realize there is probably a story in your dad's life, there's probably a pattern of modeling in your dad's life, that led him toward this. That doesn't make it right. Your dad could have broken the chain, and he didn't, but you have to choose to believe God will be just in dealing with him. Meanwhile, you have to begin to offer forgiveness for your dad's imperfections in the way your perfect heavenly Father has offered forgiveness for your own imperfections. Therefore:

Fourthly, you choose to reconcile with your dad. What does that mean? It means you are going to pursue him. It means you're going to go tell your dad, if you never have. Not through nonverbals by being abusive or by being obsessive. You have to go to your dad and say, "Dad, I have to have a conversation with you. We've never looked eye-to-eye as men, but I'm going to ask for an audience with you. I'm going to tell you how you hurt me.

I'm going to let you know there are some wounds in my life you brought about that no other man could have brought but you. I'm going to tell you exactly how you did it. Then I'm going to offer you a chance to restore our relationship. I'm going to tell you I'm willing to forgive you. You have to ask for that forgiveness for that to be executed, but I'm going to stop acting toward you with anger, vengeance, and hate as motivators." You're going to say, "Dad, let's reconcile. This is how you've hurt me. I want to be a son who loves and has a relationship with his daddy."

Fifthly, you have to risk asking for your father's love. You have to say, "Dad, I want you to love me. I want to know you love me. I'm not here to punish you for what you did, but I am here to tell you how you hurt me. I want to, again, forgive you, and I want to tell you I want to have a relationship with you that we have not had."

Sixthly, you have to accept the love your heavenly Father has been wanting to give you. You have to look at the fact that there is a Father to the fatherless who is out there. You have to get re-fathered, re-parented. You have to find men here who are around you who will love you, shepherd you, come alongside of you, and model for you things that weren't modeled for you in your home.

It has to start with the Father to the fatherless, God himself, being a Daddy to you. You have to restore your relationship with him, because that Father hasn't let you down, but you have let him down. You have to ask his forgiveness for the paths you have chosen, for the decisions you have made.

You have to say, "Hey, I want to accept the fact that you have been pursuing me, God, all these years. When my earthly father wasn't, you were there. When I was destructive in my practices thinking I was entitled to those destructive behaviors, you kept saying, 'You're not entitled to them. You will be held accountable for what you choose, but I want to forgive you for your choices. I want you to find love, acceptance, and forgiveness in the sacrifice of my Son for you.'"

Lastly, you have to break that chain of abuse and abandonment. You have to courageously reclaim the relationship you missed and relentlessly provide the presence for your child that he or she needs. That can only happen when you are re-parented, re-fathered. When you understand what it means to be loved, when you understand what it means to have authority who is present, authority who gives you leadership you can respect, who gives you his heart, who affirms and blesses you, that's when you start to have the ability to date your daughter, encourage your son, and be a father to your boy like you've never been before.

You have to address that wound created by an absent or abusive daddy courageously, and you have to address it confidently, full of faith that God wants to restore the years the locusts have eaten in your life as you've dealt with this wound irresponsibly and not wisely. Begin to heal the relationship with your daddy. Be a man toward him. Offer him forgiveness in the way you want your heavenly Father to offer it to you. Begin to be a man who says, "I'm going to break this chain. I will not have a son who had an absent or abusive daddy. I will be a man." Be strong in the faith.

Lord, I pray for the men who are listening to this time together today, that they would increasingly grow in their confidence as to what it means to act like men, to be strong, to be alert, to stand firm in the faith, and that all they do is done in love. I pray there is an increasing number of men in our community as a result of times like this who do pursue justice and exemplify good, who show mercy, who lead with love, define integrity, and provide protection.

I pray there is an increasing number of men here who can face the wounds responsibly that their absent or abusive daddy introduced to them, that they can come to you and find grace and forgiveness for choices they have made, find love and acceptance they've never seen before, and as a result of that, Lord, they can then become individuals who will serve others with their time and presence, leadership and direction, that they can give their hearts away as you have given so much to us.

Lord, thank you for a chance to consider these things. We see the destructiveness of fatherlessness in this world, and we don't want to be a part of it. We are grateful you didn't leave us as orphans, but you pursued us as your sons and made us loved, accepted, and part of your household. Father, I pray this would increase in the lives of every man who listens to this. For your glory and their good, amen.

About 'The Real Men's Club, Volume 1'

(Fall 2004) There is a different Men's Club in town - a place where men of strength and integrity are willing to face the truth even if it involves pain from present or past troubled relationships or circumstances. At this club there are men who are willing to live their lives with honor. Men who are responding to a noble call. A call to live for a something greater than their own pleasure, prominence or gain.