A Man’s Wilder Side
About the Guest
Have you taken a walk on the wild side lately? If you're like most men, you're either concluding a great adventure or dreaming about one. Stephen Mansfield coaches moms on how to relate to her reckless young sons. He also gives insight to a great man of adventure, Theodore Roosevelt, and gleans some wisdom from a great man of integrity, Job.
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.
Have you taken a walk on the wild side lately? If you’re like most men, you’re either concluding a great adventure or dreaming about one. Stephen Mansfield coaches moms on how to relate to her reckless young sons.
A Man’s Wilder Side
Bob: Having real integrity, as a man, means that the person you are, in public, and the person you are, in private, are the same person. Here’s author Stephen Mansfield.
Stephen: The Roman soldiers used to—when they were in an inspection, they would clink their armor. They’d take their sword—they’d clink it against their breastplate. They’d clink their shield and so on together. They would shout, “Integritas!” What it meant was: “Everything is solid. Everything is strapped on. Everything is as it appears to be. We’re ready for battle.”
That word, integrity, comes from that; and it means solid, authentic from the core out. Most men aren’t that way. Most men, I’m sorry to say—through fault of their own or not—are sort of acting. They don’t feel it, authentically, on the inside. They’re not living from the inside out. They’re living something that they have absorbed as sort of a performance.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
At the heart of godly masculinity is character. We’ll explore that theme today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Of course, tomorrow’s the big day—a lot of churches, all around the country, are going to be hosting men for the one-day Super Saturday Stepping Up™ event—calling guys to step up and be godly men. If our listeners are interested in seeing if they could join with those other men, all they have to do is go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and click on the link for Stepping Up, and find out where these events are being hosted.
Dennis: We have a guy who’s going to challenge you to step up today. Stephen Mansfield joins us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Stephen: Thanks so much.
Dennis: I think Stephen got it wrong on his book—on the cover of his book—because it’s Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men; right?
Dennis: Shouldn’t it have been Mansfield’s Manual of Manly Men? I mean, come on, you could have really stretched it out. [Laughter]
Stephen: Oh, my!
Dennis: This is a maaanual right here; don’t you think?
Stephen: It is Emmanuel. [Laughter] Oh, my goodness.
Dennis: Well, you are a New York Times® bestselling author—and speaker, around the country—commentator. You live in both Nashville and Washington, DC—married to your wife, Beverly. You’ve written this book, really, to challenge men to go on a quest—also, to be wild. Is that what you said? Was it wild? Was it wild spirit? Take us into the experience of that. What were you challenging men to do, at that point?
Stephen: I want men to take responsibility for themselves. I want them to recognize that they need to press against stuff, they need to get hit, and they need to live some wildness. If they do that, then they’ll be able to live in society, you know, without being inappropriate in the ways that they are. Men need to recognize they have kind of a wild side. They need the adventure. They need to get out in nature. That’ll keep them from doing some of the stupid things they do inside.
Dennis: So, moms, raising boys, right now—and they’re looking at this wild streak coming out of their boys. They shouldn’t squelch that. On the other hand, they are supposed to raise them out of this barbarian—
Bob: Sanctify it.
Dennis: —from being barbarians.
Bob: Sanctify it.
Dennis: Yes; exactly. What coaching would you have for a mom in terms of how she relates to her son to encourage the wild side—the adventure—on the quest that a man’s to go on?
Stephen: There’s a writer about young boys who calls them “thunder-puppies”. He says, “Look, they have a certain amount of wildness they have to exhibit.” So, a lot of times, when I’m talking to the single moms at church or an organization I’m involved in, I say: “Don’t get freaked out about this. They’re going to duke each other out. They’re going to make a fort and jump on it. They’re going to do crazy things.”
I’ll give you a quick example. When my son was, maybe, ten years old, I was in the fellowship hall at our downtown Nashville church. All of a sudden, my son and his friend came in, escorted by a policeman friend of mine. It was at night. We were getting some things ready; and the policeman, friend of mine, kind of winked at me.
But it turned out that what was going on was that my son was laying down in the street—this big downtown Nashville, long street, over by Belmont University. Some will know—it is 16th—laying down in the street and seeing how close the cars could get to them before they jumped up and ran to the side.
Now, my wife freaked out! I mean, we were about to get counselors, and injections, and throw vitamins at him, or whatever. We just—something needed to be fixed! I dealt with my son very firmly, as a father; but I closed the door and just cracked up. That’s a boy testing the boundaries. That’s what they do.
So, single moms—don’t be afraid of it. Get other men involved in his life. That’s one of the best things that can happen. Bring in brothers, fathers; fathers of friends, and so on—if you’re a single mom. But don’t sweat. Boys are different from girls, and you have to let them be. They can be as much as five years behind girls, intellectually; and they’re going to tear stuff up. They are thunder-puppies.
Dennis: You tell the story about a Sunday school teacher who had a bunch of thunder-puppies.
Bob: He probably was one himself when he was growing up.
Stephen: He probably was. I’ll tell you who it was at the end of the story, but he was the head of a Sunday school class while he was in college at Harvard. A young man came in with—obviously, he had been in a fight. Of course, this was the kind of thing that would get you kicked out of church, at that time, in that city.
This Sunday school teacher asked the young man, “What happened?” Turned out he was defending his sister. Fortunately, the Sunday school teacher knew men—knew what they needed, knew what was going on, and spoke encouragingly of it. It changed the young man’s life.
Well, that Sunday school teacher’s name is Theodore Roosevelt. He was one of our Presidents, of course. He knew what the wild was—he knew a man needed to be a man. There are righteous causes for which he would have to engage in violence. That’s part of the calling on a man. He was helping to change the culture in that rather effete New England church where they would have kicked this young man out just for having a fight.
Bob: You just used a phrase that we—I want to not go past it too fast. Sometimes, you have to engage in violence for the good of society.
Bob: A man has to do that. There are some people who hear that and go, “That does not sound like Jesus to me.”
Stephen: Well, see, that’s where we misread Jesus. Jesus told his disciples, at one point, to take a sword with them. Jesus was a man in every sense. Now, our problem is that a lot of young men define manhood as violence—that’s what measures manhood. But we want every young man—every good, godly, solid young man—who’s going to be a manly man—in the sense of this book and the things that you guys teach—we want them all to be capable of constructive, contained, effective violence—absolutely! There is a redemptive and healthy use of violence. I feel much safer in a society where men are aware of that than when they’re not.
Bob: Roosevelt had a season of loss in his life that you talk about in the book, as well, that marked him in a profound way.
Stephen: It’s one of the most amazing stories. It’s one of my favorite of all about manhood.
Roosevelt was a politician in New York. He got called home. On the same day, in the same house, his mother and his wife died. He was devastated—left with a little daughter that he barely, you know, knew how to take care of. He got family members to help. He went—one of the more dramatic things that ever happened in the life of a future President—he went, and bought territory—a little bit of a ranch in the Dakota Territory, as it was called then. He, essentially, lived the life of a cowboy for a good long period of time—more than a year.
What he was doing was—he was reclaiming himself. He had already been aware he was living too much of a kind of overly-domesticated life up in New York. When he was suffering from this horrible grief, he knew that, you know, no amount of comfort, and gifts, and cards, and so on—he appreciated all of it—he needed to reclaim something in himself. He, actually, talked about the fact that “I would have killed myself.”
So, he went; and he cleared brush, and he broke horses, and he ranched, and he even chased down bad guys in the Bad Lands, and arrested them, and took them to the sheriff. I mean, it’s a story that really belongs before its time. But that is, I think, what made him a great man.
Bob: You wrote a book about another brush-clearing President. George W. Bush used to spend his breaks/his vacations, out clearing brush on the ranch; didn’t he?
Stephen: That’s right. That’s right. You know, one of the things that kept him from church, early in his adult life, was that he actually believed that a man-eating lion would die of starvation in most churches. He actually believed—you know, one of the things he said to me—I did write The Faith of George W. Bush, which is the only reason I’m referencing the fact that we chatted—is that he said he’d heard the joke once that there aren’t two genders—there’s three: men, women, and preachers. This kind of non-manly orientation in the church was playing on his brain—probably, kept him from it.
His life was a ranch life. He genuinely chops trees. He genuinely clears brush. He likes that stuff.
He’s older now. I’m not sure he’s doing it now. I think that’s important to a man. Your thing may not be riding horses, but every man has to have his controlled wildness that inflames his soul.
Dennis: One of the things that occurred to me, as I was reading your book, was really reflecting back on my father. My dad’s father deserted him when he was a boy. It was back in the days when desertion and divorce were unheard of. He somehow helped the family survive—his eight brothers and sisters—and helped piece it together. I’m not sure exactly where my dad learned to be a man. Maybe, it was facing the challenges of a dad who left, and raising his brothers and sisters, helping his mom; but my dad lived his entire life within three miles of the log cabin where he was born.
At his funeral, the most common theme I heard was a word you talk about in your book. They used to call my dad “Hook” because he had a crooked curve-ball.
I’ve written about him and said that was the only thing that was crooked about him—was his nickname. But Dad was known as a man of integrity. One man said, “I never heard a negative word about Hook Rainey.” That was a tremendous gift, to me, as a young man—to have a father who had integrity that was rock-solid. I’m in my 60s now, and I feel like I’m still going to the bank on my dad’s integrity. Explain why you wrote of it in your book because you really captured the same thing.
Stephen: Well, it’s important, I think, for us to remember that the Roman soldiers used to—when they were in an inspection, they would clink their armor. They’d take their sword—they’d clink it against their breastplate. They’d clink their shield and so on together. They would shout, “Integritas!” What it meant was: “Everything is solid. Everything is strapped on. Everything is as it appears to be. We’re ready for battle.”
That word, integrity, I think, comes from that; and it means solid, authentic. It means what it appears to be from the core out.
Most men aren’t that way. Most men, I’m sorry to say—through fault of their own or not—are in sort of a—they’re sort of acting. They don’t feel it, authentically, on the inside. They’re not living from the inside out. They’re living something that they have absorbed as sort of a performance. The study of integrity in the book is what I wanted to get to. I want to call men to be authentically who they are. I don’t think they’ve even had—some men haven’t even had permission, really, to be authentic, from the inside out.
Bob: When you thought about somebody who was a model of integrity, you didn’t go to a U. S. President—you didn’t go to a famous general—you went to the Old Testament.
Stephen: Yes. I tell you what—the guy who inspires me the most is Job, on that subject. We tend to read Job—you know, again, this is a part of the Bible—we tend to read it on Sundays or what have you. We don’t think about just the man and what he was dealing with.
But repeatedly, someone said: “Why are you hanging on to your integrity? You’re suffering. You’ve had the death of children. All your property’s destroyed. You have boils all over your body, and here you are,” his wife mocks, “clinging to your integrity.” That’s pretty much all Job clings to.
Chapter after chapter, he’s suffering. He has friends telling him idiotic things; but Job says, “I stand before God in my integrity.” It’s the theme of the whole book: “I am who I say I am. I did not commit some secret sin. This has not come upon me because I have done something that has angered the living God.” What I love is, at the end of Job, God shows up. What He says to Job is, “Stand up and prepare to present yourself like a man.” Job does pass the test.
I like that whole progression because, really, it’s about integrity because Job was authentic—really, a man from the inside out—despite the sufferings. The sufferings didn’t change him. He stood; and he said, “God knows who I really am.” That’s what it says in the Hebrew. “God knows who I really am.” That’s integrity.
Dennis: You wrote a number of statements that described Job. I’m going to just read through them quickly. At the point you want to interrupt me and make a comment, feel free to do it. You said, first of all: “Job wasn’t swayed by the opinions of men. He knows what is true.”
Stephen: Yes, he spent weeks—maybe months, for all we know—listening to guys telling him things about himself that weren’t true. He said: “I know who I am. God knows who I am. I can’t be moved.”
Dennis: Secondly: “Job speaks the truth as he knows it. It seemed to be done winsomely, but he didn’t back down from the truth.” Third, “Job never accuses God.”
Stephen: Yes, that’s his great virtue. He complains. He wishes he’d never been born—he’s suffering, he’s having a horrible time—but not once, the Bible tells us, did he ever sin against God in his words.
Dennis: He did, at the end of the book, say, “I have some questions for God.” And he has a whole list of questions. God patiently hears him out, and then says: “Are you done? Are you really—is that all?” And then God says, “Okay. Now, stand up.”
That’s where God says to him, “Where were you when I was making the earth?” right?
Stephen: Yes. Yes.
Dennis: It’s really remarkable.
Stephen: It’s powerful.
Bob: Yes it is.
Stephen: But Job, nevertheless, never accuses God—knows that God is righteous and is, actually—the whole book—asking God to act.
Dennis: Number four: “Job defends himself. He is not going to sit quietly while lies are being told and his character is assailed. He speaks. He gives an argument. He makes a defense.” He’s not a passive guy, in other words.
Stephen: Yes, you know, it’s interesting to me. We often get upset with other people who defend themselves too much. But Paul, actually, said to the Corinthians, “Hey, one of the ways I know the Spirit’s working among you in this time of conviction is that you want to clear your name. You are passionate to clear your name,”—it’s, actually, a virtue for righteous people. That’s what Job exhibits for us.
Dennis: I like this when: “Job was quick to admit his wrongs.”
Dennis: He had humility. Next, you said: “Job listened to criticism.” Yes, he was teachable!
Stephen: That’s right. I love what E. Stanley Jones said: “My critics are the unpaid guardians of my soul. Listen to your critics—see if there’s any truth in it.”
Dennis: Yes, Bill Bright made a great statement about critics. He said, “I listen to my critics and weigh what they say; but in the end, I keep moving forward.” He didn’t let critics define who he was, as a man.
And finally—the last one you write about here: “Job waited. He might have killed himself, or cursed God, or killed his friends, or lost all hope; but instead, at the end of the book, you’re finding Job still waiting, still listening to God, still wanting to be God’s man.”
Stephen: Yes. There’s only one way out of Job’s predicament; and that is for God to act. So, he waits. He trusts—he says, “I know God knows who I am, and He’ll make this right.”
Bob: And at the very end, when he says, “I had heard of You with the hearing of my ear, but now I know You.” Job, in the midst of all of that, knows God better, at the end, because of his integrity—his faithfulness. He has a deeper, closer understanding of and relationship with his Creator as a result of all he went through.
Dennis: Yes. I think it’s because, as Stephen writes in his book, “Suffering, in the end, helps make the man.” Now, here’s the question for you, Stephen. Has there been a season in your life where suffering has made the man—Stephen Mansfield?
Stephen: There’s just no question about it. I was the pastor of a very large church in Nashville, Tennessee. At that time, my wife chose to leave the marriage. Now, I certainly—when you hear a story like that, you know that both the man and the woman have fault. So, I voluntarily resigned that church.
But that next year-and-a-half was the worst of my life—just the worst of my life—all the things you can imagine—you know, questions, and rumors, and church hassles, and what have you—but just sufferings. I’m seeing it in the eyes of my children—and going through the divorce and dividing property—all that stuff. Doesn’t matter whose fault it was—it is still hell.
It did make me a better man. It made me a better man because I had a biblical framework of truth to operate with, and I had godly men who stood with me. I had godly men who confronted me, and chastised me, and kept me in the straight and narrow.
Dennis: So, when you write this book, it’s not that you haven’t been where a lot of men have been. You’ve suffered some great losses in your life and been wounded.
Stephen: Yes. Yes.
Dennis: Deeply hurt.
Stephen: Yes, until you have been harmed by your best friends and recovered, until you have had literally the dark night of the soul—where you sit up all night, saying to yourself, “Why would they do that to me?” or, “I’m an idiot,” or whatever it is—“Where is God?” until you’ve had those almost at-the-edge of sanity and life kinds of moments. I don’t think you can then recover yourself and not see what others are dealing with. I want to say that a lot of the undergirding of this book is compassion, in my mind, because I’ve had to battle through a lot of these things myself. Nobody comes from the womb perfect; and nobody emerges—goes through this life—without hardship.
Dennis: You know, just hearing us meditate on these themes of what’s at the core of godly manhood—you’ve written a lot of books—a lot of books about history, a lot of books about people. I know the passion around this subject for you. You could have written—I mean—there are a number of writing assignments. You, probably, have a list of books that you’d like to write; but this is the one you felt a burden to write. What’s your burden for this book, and what would you hope would happen as a result of it?
Stephen: What I’m hoping for is a new generation’s movement of men—for a younger generation. I care about men. I’m deeply committed to them. I’ve had to fight through a lot of these issue myself—I’ve pastored gay people, I’ve pastored people going through every kind of—men going through every kind of crisis. But what I want to see is a movement of men, worldwide, where they’re creating the kind of culture, we’re discussing here, that I described in the book. It’s a little different than what most people might expect.
I’ve had some successes. I’m not just shooting for that. Thank God for every book that sells; but unless what comes out of this is men actually creating that culture that lifts men up—calls the young into manhood, and initiates them, and changes the country—I’m not going to be satisfied.
Bob: Can you relate to that a little bit?
Dennis: I’m sitting here trying to grab the microphone away from him, you know, because we pound the table about the same things. I look across our country, and this is the day for men to step up. This is the day for men to be men and be responsible for what you’ve been given.
Dennis: Maybe, it’s a marriage that’s in the pits right now. Maybe, it’s a relationship where there’s been harm, as you said, done to you. Maybe, it’s a job you’ve lost. Maybe, it’s a defining moment where you’re being tempted to become embittered and poisoned for the rest of your life. You can’t give in to it! There’s too much at stake because there’s a lot more people watching us than we ever realize. Every man, who’s listening to us right now, has been given a domain.
They’ve been given an area—you call it a field of responsibility—to conquer, to live out his life, to rule in a gentle way/a loving way, yet a firm way, setting direction. I just fear, right now, for our nation—that we’re becoming more and more of a coarse nation—degrading women, really abusing our children in untold ways today—because men haven’t been men and stepped in to defend them. I hope your book catches on like wildfire.
And I hope a lot of guys, Bob, are going to be with us tomorrow, all over the country, at Super Saturday because we have hundreds of these groups, around the country, where men are going to be stepping up and calling other men to go through just a few hours of great, challenging content and, also, rub shoulders with some other men.
Bob: Yes, guys are going to get a chance to hear from you, and from Crawford Lorritts, and from Robert Lewis, and Tony Dungee, and Bill Bennett, and Stu Weber, and Voddie Baucham. I mean, it’s a full day with great input from some great speakers. Matt Chandler is included.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and find out how you can attend one of these events in your community; or if you want to, you can have your own event in your living room. We have these Stepping Up Super Saturday at-home edition, where you can get access to the video, online. You can get the manuals downloaded. You and your sons can go through the material together over the weekend, or you and a group of guys you want to invite over to the house can go through the material together—whatever time schedule works for you this weekend. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for Stepping Up to find out more about this Super Saturday event tomorrow—again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com.
You can also order a copy of Stephen Mansfield’s book when you go to our website. It’s called Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men. You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or order by phone at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
And then, finally, let me say a quick word of thanks to the folks who made today’s program possible. That would be you, if you’re a supporter of FamilyLife Today. If you’ve ever made a donation, or if you are one of our Legacy Partners—making regular monthly contributions to support FamilyLife Today—your donations help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program on stations all around the country—online, via our mobile app—we couldn’t do it without you. We’re grateful for your financial support.
In fact, this month, we’d like to say, “Thank you.” The way we’d like to do that is by sending you a copy of the book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey called Rekindling the Romance.
When you go to FamilyLifeToday.com—you click the button that says, “I CARE”, and you make an online donation—we will send that book directly to you. If you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation over the phone, be sure to ask for a copy of the book, Rekindling the Romance; and we’ll get it out to you. Or you can write a check and mail it to us. Our mailing address is FamilyLife Today, P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223. And of course, if you write to us, make sure that you include a note that you’d like the book on romance. Again, we’re happy to send it out to you. We appreciate your partnership with us, and it’s always great to hear from you. Dennis?
Dennis: Well, it’s sure been a treat, Stephen, to have you with us. Stephen Mansfield has joined us, here on FamilyLife Today. I’m thrilled about your book, Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men. I got that right?
Bob: Mansfield’s Manual. I think—when it comes out in paperback, make it a manual!
Stephen: I’ll be like, “I’m going to have to, after this show.”
Dennis: Well, you’re a kindred spirit. We hope you’ll come back and join us again sometime and spend a little time with several thousand of our listeners here because I’m sure they’d benefit from it.
Stephen: I can’t wait. Thank you very much.
Bob: I want to thank our engineer today for his assistance with our program. His name is Keith Lynch—
Dennis: He’s a manly man!
Bob: He is; and on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you can join us tomorrow for one of the Stepping Up events. We’ll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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