A Man’s Legacy
About the Guest
Men have been given a unique assignment. Trouble is, many men don't know what that task is. Author Stephen Mansfield talks to Dennis Rainey about the unique attributes of manhood. Mansfield reflects on his own childhood with a military father, and takes us deeper into the lives of great men of history, like Winston Churchill and George Patton.
Stephen MansfieldStephen Mansfield is a New York Times best-selling author of “Lincoln’s Battle with God”, “The Faith of Barack Obama”, “The Search for God and Guinness” and many other books. He is a popular speaker and a commentator, regularly appearing on several major news networks. Mansfield lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. with his wife, Beverly.
Men have been given a unique assignment. Trouble is, many men don’t know what that task is. Author Stephen Mansfield talks to Dennis Rainey about the unique attributes of manhood.
A Man’s Legacy
Bob: What is it that makes a man a man? Author Stephen Mansfield says there are too many guys chasing after masculine idols and finding life is empty on the other side.
Stephen: I’m telling you—men need to realize that the thing they are trying to solve—in the brothel, at the bottom of the bottle of whiskey, in the constant addiction to sports, whatever it is—they’re trying to answer something that can’t be answered with any of those things. It’s a need for God; but once they’ve got God there, everything else becomes inflamed—everything else becomes more exciting and thrilling. I think that’s the missing piece, of course.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 30th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What is the connection between walking with God and understanding masculinity? We’re going to explore that subject today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. And I guess you just decided we’re going to just continue to be politically-incorrect this week; right?
Dennis: You mean talking about men and the unique assignments that men have?
Bob: You know—we live in a culture where people are going to say: “Aren’t women supposed to be courageous? Aren’t women supposed to be taking care of responsibilities, too?”
Dennis: Of course, they are! Of course, they are. But men have been given unique assignments. In fact, I was thinking of something that happened this morning with Barbara. You and I had a conversation with a young lady who was a feminist, and I was telling Barbara—
Bob: Used to be a feminist—was a feminist; right? Yes.
Bob: I just want to make sure that our listeners understand where this story is going. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes, exactly. Well, anyway, I was telling Barbara about this young lady—and how this young man, who was going to Oxford with her—how he was witnessing to her and really trying to help her understand what a true faith in Christ looked like. And one of the things he did that irritated her was he would walk between the traffic and her.
I told this story to Barbara. She said, “I’ll bet that won her heart.” She said, “It may have made her mad, initially; but after a while, it had to call something out of her, as a woman, to be honored by a man because he was saying, ‘I give my life for yours,’—a common courtesy.”
Well, we’ve got a friend in the studio today who, I think, would agree that common courtesies need to be revived, along with the discussion of calling men to be manly men. Stephen Mansfield joins us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Stephen: Great to be with you guys.
Dennis: He’s written a book called Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men. He’s a New York Times® bestselling author, speaker—lives in Nashville and D.C. I’m not sure how that works, but—
Stephen: I go to one to go crazy and to the other to get normal. That’s how that works.
Dennis: We won’t ask you which one. [Laughter]
Bob: You knew when you wrote this book that there’d be some heat in the marketplace from people who go, “This manhood stuff—it’s all macho stuff.”
Stephen: Sure. Sure, I’ve had people say, “Is this more Duck Commander stuff? Is this more barefoot/pregnant in the kitchen?” You know, in our generation, just to say that there’s a difference between men and women is a big thing.
Stephen: And I do a lot on campuses; so, I’ve already caught it.
Dennis: You mentioned, this week, that one of the things that make a man a man is that he reflects the glory of God. That means he’s got to have a relationship with God. We kind of scooted by this. I want to know: “How did you meet God? How did He transform your life? Did you grow up in a Christian home, learning about God and the gospel?
Stephen: No, I did not. My—I grew up in a military family. We went to military chapels—some chaplains were good and shared the gospel; some didn’t. I actually first began to have a real, serious sense of being born again in a FCA meeting when I was a football player in high school; but even then, I didn’t really—that wasn’t really where it happened. Over the summer, before I was supposed to go play college football—I was recruited to play at Iowa—
I had a big moral failing. I said to God, “If you’ll get me out of this, I’ll do whatever you want.” Then, the next day, an acceptance letter came from a Christian college. My mother had applied for me. I went. I got saved the third day on the campus of that Christian school—so, a very unusual kind of background.
Dennis: But how? How did you meet Christ on the campus?
Stephen: Well, they knew they had a lot of non-Christian kids showing up on this Christian campus. The President just evangelized. He just said: “Listen. If you are here, it’s got to be because you belong radically to Jesus Christ. You’ve repented of your sins. He’s taken up residence in your soul. You are born again. If that’s not the case, let’s fix that now.” And I said, “Okay, let’s get to it.”
Stephen: Prayed that God would forgive me of my sins. Prayed for Jesus to take up residence in my life and had a radical experience, right there on my knees.
Dennis: But to the man or the woman who is listening to us right now, who doesn’t have that relationship, it can be really summarized in one word—surrender.
Dennis: Surrender to Jesus Christ—who He is—He’s alive from the dead. He defeated death. He died on the cross for your sins. He paid the price with God—
that you could never pay on your own. That’s how you become born again. That’s how you get forgiven. That’s how you, ultimately, take up residence in the family of God and you can be the man that God made—or the woman.
Bob: Well, I wonder, “Do you think a guy can be manly and be agnostic or be an atheist?”
Stephen: I think he can be partially-manly; but I’m—my own understanding is I can’t be fully the man I’m made to be unless Jesus Christ is inside of me. He’s the ultimate man. So, I want to take on His form—His likeness—can’t do it unless He’s living in me and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Bob: One of the reasons I ask is because you point to a lot of people in your book—you tell a lot of stories in Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men about manly men. You talk about Winston Churchill—
Bob: —as a guy who represented the idea of legacy. Yet, as far as I can tell from Churchill’s life, there wasn’t a whole of Jesus in him.
Stephen: The thing that I love about Churchill—and the lesson of manhood that I learned from him—
is that his father hated him—spoke ill of him constantly, would visit an official office two doors down from where Winston was going to school and wouldn’t even visit his son, despite the fact his son was sending pleading letters home, all the time. When the man died, Winston said: “Well, I am choosing not to surrender to the bitterness I could feel because I see what happens to my friends as they are bitter and angry about their fathers. I’m going to pick up the sort of fallen gauntlet of my father’s political career—the values he gave himself to—and I’m going to carry on with them.”
I thought, “Man, that’s something like”—my father wasn’t the best father in the world—a military man, could be very harsh/cutting; but you know what? I choose not to surrender in bitterness—not to sit around, at 60, thinking about the fact he didn’t play catch with me or whatever. I choose to continue his legacy.
Dennis: I love that story because you really illustrate how Churchill refused to be a victim—
Dennis: —and defined by really the evil and abuse of his father.
Instead, left a legacy of goodness and of leadership for a nation and the world that—well, I think you refer to it, in your book, “He hoped his good would outstrip the curses of his father.”
Stephen: Yes. And I want to say, too, that Churchill, nevertheless, suffered real depressions from the stuff that his father said to him. Even when he was prime minister, he wouldn’t stay in a room with a balcony on it because he was afraid a depression might hit him and he might throw himself off. And still, he’d get up the next morning and say, “I’m going to march on with the legacy of my father.” So, you can choose “to pull the diamonds from the dung hill,” as we often say.
Dennis: And I think the illustration of this is a great charge to every man listening to us today: “Leave a legacy of goodness to the next generation.” There’s a tremendous need today, Stephen, for men to be caught up in this generational relay race of passing on goodness to future generations.
Stephen: There’s just no question. As a former pastor, I’ve done a lot of funerals. I’ve seen children stand there, at their father’s grave, and just have—
“What? He’s gone? I have nothing. I don’t have a kind word. I don’t have a legacy. I don’t have any words spoken over my life or an example.”
Then, I’ve seen fathers die earlier and tragically; but they had poured into their children: “This is what you are meant to be. This is what we, Smiths,” or, “we, Joneses, are about throughout the generations. This is what God’s called us to do.” And those kids are weeping over the loss of their father, but they live something valiant and powerful from that moment forward. It’s a transforming experience. I think we’ve got to reclaim that art.
Bob: And your book points out that every man has feet of clay. Churchill had feet of clay. We can pick up attributes from men with the realization that no man is perfect. You talk about George Patton in the book—one of the guys that you say was a man who evidenced blessing. He blessed other men. And yet, we also know that he boxed a few men upside the head, too; right? [Laughter]
Stephen: Now, there’s a flawed man for you.
Stephen: Yes, George Patton had affairs. George Patton wasn’t appropriate with the use of his authority during World War II, but he knew a principle.
He knew it from Scripture. He knew it from the classical literature. He knew it from his own family—that there is a power in blessing. So, before he went off to command troops in World War II, he went and found General Pershing, who had been the lead general of World War I—found him in the hospital in Washington, DC, knelt before him and said, “Bless me.”
General Pershing—I don’t know where General Pershing was, spiritually. I’m not sure anybody’s really sure—put his hand on his head and said, “I bless you, Georgie. Go forth and”—
Dennis: Hold it! Hold it! Hold it! He called him, “Georgie?!”
Stephen: He called him, “Georgie.” That’s right because when you’re General Pershing, you can do that. [Laughter] The rest of us needed to just be quiet. And said, “Go forth and be victorious.” Well, of course, he was. None of that made anybody perfect. They both are flawed men, but that’s the whole art.
And a lot of men, I think, are sort of bound up in a perfectionism—you know—if we’re not perfect men, we can’t be great men. I study a lot of history. Sometimes, we had this statue-version of history—with perfect, fell-from-the-womb perfect, flawless. Everybody’s crazy. Everybody’s a little cracked. Sin has made us all a little nuts.
And the greatest people, usually, are people who have overcome their flaws, not just somehow escaped them. So, I think it’s a powerful lesson for men to hear today.
Dennis: I think that’s a good word picture for us to grab hold of here—that God takes broken pots/broken clay vessels—and He allows His glory to shine out through the cracks—
Dennis: —and impact those that he has a chance to influence—regardless of where you’ve come from, regardless of the mistakes you’ve made with your kids.
I’m thinking of a 62-year-old dad who went through the Stepping Up™: Call to Courageous Manhood series that we have. He was about to go through it a second time. As he went through it a second time, he said, “This time, I’m going to take a young man with me who I know.” He said: “When I was a dad, I didn’t do any of this stuff with my boys; but I’ve gone to a single-parent mom in our church. I’ve asked if I can take her son through this material”—
Stephen: How wonderful.
Dennis: —“with me.” Now, there’s a guy who didn’t let the flaws, and the cracks, and his mistakes and errors paralyze him and shrink into depression or shrink back from the battle. Instead, he used it in a purposeful way to make a difference in a young man who probably needed an older man to believe in him.
Bob: We’ve got a lot of guys who, this Saturday, are going to be going through the Stepping Up one-day event for men that we’ve put together in churches all around the country. They’re going to be huddling up the day before the Super Bowl®—going to be getting together to talk about manhood and what that means.
If you’d like more information about where these events are being hosted—if you’d like to attend one—go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for Stepping Up. Find out more about the event that’s taking place this Saturday—again, in cities all across the country—the Stepping Up one-day event for men—where a lot of what we’re talking about here is going to be reinforced/talked about. Guys are going to get a chance to chew on it a little bit.
Dennis: And one of the things we talk about in the Stepping Up video series is how men need to step up and be facing up to what God’s got for them—the vision—the call of their lives. You grabbed a hold of this same concept, Stephen, in your book. You talk about the need for men to be on a quest. Explain what you mean by that.
Stephen: Men are made to be pursuing something large, and epic, and lifelong. Men are made to be about something beyond just the immediate. When they are only concerned or tethered to the immediate, that’s when they get into porn and start creating adventures in affairs and everything. Men need to have a quest—a purpose. I think that one of the things a certain scholar has told us is that when America lost its Christian moorings, men began to lose a divine vision for their lives. That’s when they began to get into a lot of moral trouble.
So, what does that look like? Well, it’s a matter of your calling. When you give your life, radically, to Jesus; and He begins to tell you what He’s made you for—indicate that—you begin to live for that purpose. You begin to live for a family purpose.
I come from a long line of military leaders. Well, now, I speak at the Pentagon. I lecture at the Naval Academy. I feel like I’m fulfilling that, even though I’ve never worn the uniform.
So, there is a bunch of sources for this; but I’m telling you: “Man is not meant just to live for the job, and go home, and watch TV. That will kill him and get him in trouble.”
Dennis: I’m so glad you just said that because, earlier this morning, I sent an email to my entire family. We had a meeting that started, here at FamilyLife, early. Someone asked the question: “Do you yearn for God?” So, I sent it out to my family—just the question. My son wrote me back. He said, “It’s not ‘if’ you yearn for God, but ‘where’ you are yearning for God.” He quoted G.K. Chesterton who said “that every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is knocking for God. The sad, yet, hopeful reality is that I usually find out about my yearnings—
“through my failures and/or my attempts at control.”
Bob: You’re exactly right. It’s not, “Do you yearn for God?” It’s, “Which god do you yearn for?” Because we’re all in pursuit of something; aren’t we?
Stephen: Well, Saint Augustine said it well. He said “Lord, our hearts were formed for You. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” Men need to realize that the thing they are trying to solve—in the brothel, at the bottom of the bottle of whiskey, in the constant addiction to sports, whatever it is—they’re trying to answer something that can’t be answered with any of those things. It’s a need for God; but once they’ve got God there, everything else becomes inflamed—everything else becomes more exciting and thrilling. I think that’s the missing piece, of course.
Bob: There is the idea in the culture that manhood means your emotions never leak out. Nobody ever sees them. You talk about that in the book. What’s your take on that?
Stephen: I believe in an emotional life. I believe in having fully-whole emotions. The problem is that men are often made—are urged to feel first before they act.
A lot of what’s been in men’s ministries—and no criticism. I’m thankful for all of it—has been: “Let’s get them feeling things. Then, they’ll do things.” I think men just need to do what they’re supposed to do and give their lives radically to Jesus.
And one of the great promises in the 23rd Psalm is that He will restore our souls. And sure, we know we come from a generation or two, back, where everybody was shut down—wouldn’t talk about anything. It was kind of seen as feminine. Well, we don’t want that, but we also don’t want to turn the whole thing around where a man’s got to have a feeling before he does something.
So, there’s a balance here. I usually just leave men alone with their emotions. I’m not talking to you, emotionally. I’m talking about the things you do. God will deal with your emotions and bring them into balance as time goes along.
Dennis: What you are talking about is life being an adventure.
Stephen: You bet.
Dennis: A man needs an adventure. I’m going to tell you something—I have—not flawlessly—but I’ve attempted, over the last 43/44 years, to follow Jesus Christ on an adventure that I cannot imagine where I would be today—
at this point in my life, if I’d followed the wrong god. He got my attention, and I followed the God.
And you tell a story about Jedidiah Smith. What do we owe to him about what he learned from his adventure?
Stephen: Jedidiah Smith was a man who pretty much almost single-handedly opened up the West. He found more of the trails—more of the paths—more of the roads out West. I mean he’s, virtually, the father of California.
Bob: Lewis and Clark combined?
Stephen: Oh, very much.
Stephen: Very much. And to read the stories—just a little bit of it, I put in the book. He had a bear bite his scalp off, and he sewed it back himself. I mean, listen, all of us listening need to shut up because we are no man that compared to this guy. But he was a man who rode along on his horse—singing psalms, and knew the Lord, and loved the Lord, and believed that God had made him a man. He sang songs praising God for manhood. But he lived that grand adventure.
I’ve got to tell you—when I read his story, I felt convicted. I said so in the book—
that I’m living very much an airplane-sedan- airport kind of life because of what I do. I’m going to breakthrough and do some things. I’ll tell you who is helping me with that, by the way, is General Jerry Boykin. Now, I’m thankful to have him as a mentor because when you’ve got the commander of Delta Force saying, “Get off your backside, Mansfield; and come moose hunting with us.” I mean—testosterone surges in your body!
Dennis: [Tough-sounding voice] Yeah! We’re going to get Bob out there. We’ve got to get Bob on the moose run! [Laughter]
Stephen: It’s: “Come on! Come on!” [Laughter] General Boykin—now, bear in mind—commander of Delta Force. I mean, he’s there—at all the major military events for two or three decades. He retires at the age of 60-something. The next thing he does is bag a record moose in Colorado. Now, there is a man, baby! I’m going to follow him.
Bob: Your dad, you said, was a military man—
Bob: —not a guy who showed a lot of emotion. You came to a point in your life where you recognized you needed to honor him—to do the same thing for him that General Pershing did for Georgie Patton.
Stephen: I did, yes.
Dennis: Yes, in fact, you know what I’m going to ask you to do. I want you to just take a couple of moments and just collect your thoughts because I want Bob, first of all, to tell men and, maybe, their wives—this would make a great gift, by the way. It’s a little early for Father’s Day—but maybe, look at it as a Valentine’s gift for your husband.
Dennis: Get this book, Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men. Give it to your husband and let him join in the adventure and the journey. But here’s what I’d like to ask you to do. I’d like to ask you, when we come back, to imagine your dad seated across the table right now. I know you wrote him a letter that honored him, but what I’d like you to do is give him a verbal tribute of how he positively impacted your life. Would you like to do that?
Bob: While you gather your thoughts, let me encourage our listeners to get a copy of your book. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men. We have it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order a copy of Stephen’s book.
Let me also mention—on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, we’ve got more information about the big event—day after tomorrow—the Super Saturday one-day event for guys—thousands of guys rallying on Saturday in locations, all across the country—both in churches and we’ve got a bunch of guys who are doing this with the at-home edition—getting their sons together, or getting other guys together, and getting access to these videos and watching them at home—getting the manuals delivered electronically, as well.
If you’d like more information about how you can attend one of these events in your community or how you can have your own at-home Stepping Up Super Saturday event with a group of guys or with your sons, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the link for Stepping Up. All the information you need is available right there. Again, the website—
FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have any questions, give us a call at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
And of course, we always want you to know we are grateful for your support of this ministry. FamilyLife Today, like most of the programs you hear on this radio station—we’re listener-supported. It is folks, like you, who make this daily time together possible. You help us cover the cost of producing and syndicating this radio program when you make a donation, online, or when you call to make a donation, or mail us a check. We’re grateful for your partnership with us.
In fact, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” this month, for whatever you are able to do in support of FamilyLife Today by sending you a copy of a book Dennis and Barbara Rainey have written for couples called Rekindling the Romance—how do you breathe some fresh air into your marriage relationship? We’d love to send you a copy of this book. All you have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”,—
make an online donation—and the book is in the mail on its way to you.
Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone. If you do that, be sure to say, “I’d like a copy of the Rekindling the Romance book,” and we’ll send that to you. Or you can mail a check to FamilyLife Today. Our mailing address is P O
Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas—Arkansas is “A-R”. The zip code is 72223. Jot us a note, if you would, and mention that you’d like the book on romance. We’ll be happy to send it to you.
Again, let me just say, “Thank you for your partnership with us,”—means a lot to us. We’re grateful to be linked together with you in this ministry. Dennis?
Dennis: Well, I’m in need of going moose hunting, personally, Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: I knew this was just going to call out the musk in you.
Dennis: You want to go sing a song around the campfire. I want the campfire to be in a wilderness.
Bob: There’s nothing unmanly about singing a song around the campfire.
Dennis: There’s nothing—there isn’t anything—
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: That’s exactly right. We’ve been talking to Stephen Mansfield, who has been thumping his chest here, and calling other men to step up and to be God’s men. There was a moment when you decided you would honor your dad. And I’ve kind of given you the assignment of giving your father a verbal tribute, here on the air.
You don’t know this, but a number of years ago—about 20 years ago—I wrote a book called The Tribute. It was a book designed to equip adult children to take honor home to their parents instead of giving their parents a DustBuster® and a pair of house slippers—[Laughter]
Stephen: —Dockers® or something.
Dennis: —for Christmas, or at the anniversary party, when they’ve been married 25/40/50 years. Instead, write a tribute—put it on a piece of paper, put it in a frame, and read it to therm.
Bob: Can I just tell our listeners we’re about to rerelease that book with a new title? It’s going to be called The Forgotten Commandment—
because we think the Fifth Commandment is one a generation has forgotten. We’re going to coach people on honoring your parents. That’ll be coming out in the next couple of months.
Dennis: So, what we’re going to do here is just allow you to imagine your dad—is he still alive, by the way?
Stephen: No, he’s dead.
Dennis: But let’s imagine, for a moment, that he is seated across the table. What I’d like you to—to give it your best shot at honoring him with a verbal tribute.
Stephen: Well, that’s easy for me because my father—and I’ll speak directly to him in a moment—my father, while not the most intimate man, was a great man. And I’ve said to him many times:
Dad, you were a war hero. You served your country at great risk and peril. You were honored in the military. You took care of our family. Dinner was at 6 o’clock—every evening, you were there. No sports—no assignments—unnecessary assignment—kept you away.
Never did I wonder if you were striking my mother. Never did I wonder if the—as some of my friends have had to—that if my father was going to come into my room at night and do something inappropriate.
You taught me principles of manhood. You loved me. When I was going through the worse time of my life, you said to me, “You will continue to rise,” and that’s become like the defining blessing of my adult years.
So, if my dad was here today, I would say:
Dad, I could never have accomplished what I have without you. Your example, your words, your heroism in the military, the values you lived out, the way that you spoke to us as a family, the morality that you lived out, the ethics you taught in our home, the gentleness with which you loved each one of us when you were home—all of that has been absolutely defining. I love you, and I’m grateful you were my father.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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