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The Quest for Authentic Manhood

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The Quest for Authentic Manhood

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The Firs irst Step tep to Authe uthen ntic tic Manh Manhoo ood: d:  Looking Back 

Well, good morning, gentlemen! You guys look bright and alert! You ready to go? Take that first step step that Bill’s been talking talking about? That’s what we want to to do this morning. All that you’ve done – looking back, looking at now and looking ahead – you’re going to summarize it on that little tombstone tombstone because we need to live live our lives with the end in mind.

I

like the little verse on the front of the Manhood Plan – it says, “Teach us to number our days, that we might present to to Thee a heart of wisdom.” Basically, you can summarize summarize that up by saying ‘Men need to live their lives with the end in mind.’ So what I want to do for you with this Manhood Plan, is to get you to think deeply about where you’ve been -- give you time to do that through through the fall. Then think deeply about where you are now. We’ll do that in January, February, and part of March. Next I want you to think  think  deeply about where you’re going and how you want to finish your life. Real men have a plan. The unauthentic man -- or the unhealthy man -- has no plan. He lives day to day. He lives in the “now.” He just reacts to life. And that’s why he doesn’t go anywhere. But real men have a plan. So I want to give you the opportunity to finish finish that and then  you – personalized by you -- of the leave Men’s Fraternity with a clear outline or framework for  you kind of man that you want to become. And that’s what the Manhood Plan is all about.  Now this morning, we’re in in Session 3. And here in Session 3, we want to take what I consider to be the first first step in authentic manhood. And the first step step to me in authentic manhood is in looking back. Real men have to look back in their their life. Some of you remember years ago when the Olympic Games used to feature a little segment called ‘Up Close and Personal’. Personal’. How many of you remember that? that? I mean here would would  be this great Olympic athlete about to ski – about to go off one of o f the giant runs, like the giant slaloms – and just as he gets up u p there and gets his skis over the edge, they would have a flashback. And that flashback would take you back to his home in Switzerland, or in Austria or  in America – and you would wo uld get to see all the events in just a small summary form of this man’s life, that brought him to to this incredible moment. And what you discovered is that these great Olympic athletes didn’t get there just by accident or by happenstance – or even because they were naturally great athletes. Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

Everybody in this room is who they have become because of events in your past and decisions you made and circumstances circumstances that you had nothing to do with. with. All of those became a mixture that created you to become the kind of person that you you are today. But there’s a problem with the past. And the problem problem is this: Most of us don’t really know our own story. We know  parts of our story. story. We like to tell the the best parts. But none of us, maybe I should say many of us, have not taken the time to really think through our past and analyze our past in a way that explains us to us. Where we really understand why we are the way we are, and why wh y we do the things the way that we do them. And without this kind of understanding, we cannot change the things that need to be changed in order to grasp the authentic manhood that we were meant to live. We need to to understand ourselves. ourselves. Everybody has a story. And if you don’t understand your story in a way that makes a difference in the way you live now, then what I find in so many men, is that instead, they’re driven by things and forces they don’t understand – or things and an d forces that they they are not willing willing to face. face. They are buried in their life, life, or they misunderstand -that rob them of the authentic manhood manho od that they were meant to live. Do you know your your story? Do you know why you are the way you are? And why you do what you do? Have you explained you to you? It’s the first first step in authentic manhood. That’s why we have the saying that’s endured through time that says this: The unexamined life is not  worth living. Everyone needs to know why they are the way they are. I thought I would model the very thing that I’m saying here today by taking you back and  just kind of telling you my story. It will help introduce me to you in a more “up close and  personal” way. It will also help you understand the speaker who stands stands in front of you you this week  a little more intimately, and I think that’s important for the journey that we’re going to go on together. For starters, let me just tell tell you that I grew up in a 1950s family. And we were somewhat the typical family, family, except maybe in two ways: both of my parents worked worked and in the 1950s that was different, because most moms stayed home. What we had to have because of that is is someone to come in to stay with us three boys and take care of us. So I kind of grew up in DayCare in the 1950s. I tell people I grew up in the modern family before it was modern. Second thing that was kind of unique about our home in the1950s was that we were –  well, we were really a non-church-going family in a small southern town. And that was different Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

 because most everybody else went to church. When Sunday came around, we rolled over, rather  than get up, get dressed, dressed, and go to a local local church. Now we were on the rolls of a local church. I remember, in fact, one time (this only happened one time) when the Methodist minister came to call on my family. family. Being a family that that really didn’t go to church much, I remember when the  pastor came in and sat down with my folks, and I remember how foreign that felt. It really was strange. And I can remember when he finally finally said ‘good-bye’ and walked out the door, my mom shut the door and leaned up against it and just went ‘whew!’ She was just glad that was over. It was like like we were in in two different universes at that moment. And now looking back on it, I think-- you know, it was kind of strange that I never saw my parents pray –  ever —at a meal or anything. anything. We never had one serious, spiritual spiritual discussion of any kind all the years that I lived at home. That affected me, it it had an impact impact on my life. life. But those were two of  the general distinctions of growing up in the ‘50s. But with that said, let me introduce you to my family for a just just moment. I want to introduce you first to to my dad. My dad’s name was Thomas Charles Lewis and he grew grew up in a well-to-do family family in Rustin, Rustin, Louisiana. His dad was a successful businessman. businessman. He was the owner of the local paper there, and editor of the Rustin the Rustin Daily Leader. Because of that, my dad had things that a lot of young men didn’t, and I think he used those to play a lot. At least, that’s kind of the reputation he had as a young man growing up. In fact, when he was in his early 20s he took off and went and lived in in Southern California. Later, when the war started, started, my dad  joined the U. S. Army and went and fought in France, and he was a proud United States veteran of the war. After the war, he came back to Louisiana and settled in Rustin and became an insurance agent. That’s what he did for a living. Then there was my mom: mom: Lily Ethel Taylor Taylor Louis. They called called her ‘Billie.” She was the daughter of a farmer – lived in Farmerville, as a matter of fact – Farmerville, Farmerville, Louisiana. And she was the youngest of 10 children. My mom was a very strong-willed, determined, determined, ambitious woman. And I think that’s why – rather than being a homemaker – she was a working woman. She became an office manager of a fairly large legal firm. She was the personal assistant to a lawyer who became the Lt. Governor of the State of Louisiana. Louisiana. Then later, after he passed on and his son became head of the firm, he became state senator. She worked for that firm for 38 years.

Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

Then there was my older brother, Charles, who was 4 years older than me. Charles was a really smart individual. A guy who was very talented talented – especially in art. And when he graduated from college he was trying trying to get entrance into the Los Angeles School of Art. Art. He was very talented in that that regard. But it was at the the height of the Vietnam war and because of that, and because his number was one of the first drawn, he had to instead put off that career and then enter into the Navy, and he became an interpreter in the Navy. That changed his whole career,  because it was in the Navy he decided art wasn’t the way to go, so he later ended up a lawyer in Houston, Texas. Then there was my younger brother, brother, John, who was 2 years years younger than me. John was kind of the easygoing, fun-loving, musically talented guy in the family. And then there was me; the not-so-smart, but very very energetic kid who loved sports and loves them to this day. day. For 17 years, as you look at those 5 individuals, we were pressed together for 17 years in a small white  brick house at 308 South Bonner Bon ner Street there in Rustin, Louisiana. And just like you, though your family picture may look a lot different than mine -- but  just like you, those formative years were formative were formative.. The experiences there, the moments there, the influences there, helped shape – in a large part - the kind of person that you see standing in front of you today. In fact, I want to just share with you some moments that shaped my life life and then we’ll summarize it, and then we’ll apply it to you. First of all, I’d say there there were some good moments from our family. You know, I felt generally supported by my parents growing up. My parents came to my ballgames. My parents were the kind of people who would show up at school events, especially my mom. She got involved in those school events, and I felt her support there. there. Our home was always open to to my friends and because I was kind of a leader type, I was always bringing large numbers of guys over to our house. My mom loved them to come over and cooked for them, and provided a place where it was fun to be at my house. So I felt generally generally supported all the way growing up. I have great memories of our annual Florida vacation. Every year, when summer came, the big event for our family was all to load up in the back ba ck of our Rambler with no air  conditioning -- which I could have done without – and pressed together, we would drive from Louisiana down to Pensacola and spend a week or two at the beach. A few times, my my dad took  my brother and I fishing. You know, it’s interesting – I can remember every one of those fishing events in detail. detail. Four or 5 times we went fishing – just just my brother brother John and I and dad. Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

Looking back on those moments, I would say – that was the best of dad. Those moments where there was no agenda; just me and dad together for a whole day of pure joy to a little kid. Remembering back on those moments, I learned something and I learned how much a son’s soul craves the best of dad, and just to be with dad in those kind of moments. There were also noble moments – not just good moments, but noble moments in our  family: The way my mom took care of her aging parents; that taught me a lot about loyalty to family; the way my dad would get up every Veterans’ Day at 3:00 a.m. and go out and put flags on every veteran’s grave. He was known for that. Even when he became very aged and his health had been robbed from him, the one thing he would relentlessly do is get up on Veterans’ day and go out and put those little flags by every grave to honor those men. I also remember that my my dad taught me a lot about human dignity. Remember, both my  parents worked and so we had to have people come in and take care of us. One of the individuals that my dad enlisted to take care of us was an African-American kid named James Jones. And I don’t know how my dad connected with him – I never will will figure that out – but he  picked this young man out and brought him into our home at night – he would – in the afternoons and evenings, a lot of times, he would stay with with us. And my dad had a real special special relationship with James. I can remember when I was about 10 – starting to get ge t a little rambunctious one night. James was trying to put us to bed and I didn’t want to go to bed and I got mad – I got furious.  Now, remember, it’s it’s the ‘50s. And I remember remember James saying, “You’ve got to go to bed.” And I looked at him and I said, “Nigger.” James grabbed me and threw me over his leg and gave me a good swat on the rear and put me in the bed. As he was putting me in the bed, “I’m going to tell my dad that you hit me.” And I can remember there was a little fear in his eyes. And as soon as my dad came in, I jumped jumped up and went running in there and said, said, “Daddy! Daddy, James hit me!” I remember James standing standing behind me and he said, “Mr. Lewis, Lewis, Robert called me a ‘nigger.’” And the next thing thing I knew I was flying through the air, landed over my dad’s knee. I got the spanking of my life. life. And he pulled me up after that, and he said, “Never, “Never, ever use those words again.” And I learned learned a lot about human dignity. You know what? I think James learned a lot, too. too. James was the the first person person in his family who ever graduated from college and he did so because of that special bond my dad had

Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

with him all those years in that small small southern town. But there were noble moments in in our  family. There were also missed moments. moments. There was not critical critical life instruction from my mom and dad. You know, it’s interesting interesting – growing up and being around them all the time, there were so many missed moments concerning just basic life skills. skills. I never had a discussion with my dad about girls. He never told me about money or cars, or manhood, or how a man looks or acts. And so I always felt a certain sense that I had to do it alone. Maybe you had that feeling growing up. In fact, I remember my senior year when I was being recruited by Tennessee and Arkansas and LSU and Ole Miss, and all these schools were calling – especially my home school, LSU – putting all all this pressure on me. me. The coaches were flying up to meet with me and talk with me -- and the governor go vernor was calling me on the phone, p hone, saying I had to sign with LSU, and I was so confused at 17. I looked my dad and said “What do I do?” And he said, “Hey, it’s up to you.” It was up to me, but I wanted wanted somebody to process life life with me. Because I had no one to process with, I made a lot of mistakes. And in making a lot of mistakes, it made me at times an angry person, because when I left home at 17, I left clueless c lueless about life. There was also no emotional closeness, closeness, especially from my dad. You know, I never  heard my dad say “I love love you.” I never heard my dad say, “I’m proud of you.” Now dad was around, but it was funny – he h e felt close and strangely distant at the same time. And for a young guy growing up - -14, 15, 16 – that’s hard to put together. When your dad feels feels like he’s real close, but real distant, and yet that was always our relationship. We had these missed moments. moments. There were also hurtful moments. moments. Probably the most hurtful hurtful moments were around alcohol that my dad increasingly gave himself to as I moved into my teenage years. It was also kind of a key issue that began beg an to unravel my mom and dad’s marriage in the process, because they were constantly at odds with one another – bickering, fighting, fighting, nagging one another. And we 3 kids running around in that that home, then getting bigger through the years. years. We were kind of  caught in the middle of this this war. And in some strange way, we’re invited in to help manage manage it.  Now my two brothers – my older brother – he just begged off. My younger brother – it  just went past him. And for whatever reason – maybe it’s just because of my personality – but again these are the events that shape a life – I felt like I had to be the negotiator. So I got enlisted into the war as the negotiator between mom and dad. Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

I remember trying to do that at 14 and 15 and 16 and 17 and 18 – trying to bring peace to our home. And it made both of them mad at me. And you know, it’s tough to be a teenager and  be managing your home and your parents. But that’s where I found myself. And you know, you swallow a lot of pain when you’re starting to take care of your parents when they should be taking care of you. And you also swallow a lot of shame. I remember one day my dad asked me to go down and pick up a couple of tools from a hardware store. We only had one in Rustin. I went down because he was working on a table that he was putting together. And there were a group of guys in this hardware store and I went and I was asking for the stuff that my dad asked me to buy. They said, “Well, what are you doing?” And I said, “Well “Well my dad’s building a table.” table.” And one of the guys turned turned to a couple of the other guys standing there, and said “Tommy Lewis doesn’t kn ow much about building tables, but he sure knows a lot about the Bible, a bottle.” bottle.” And they had this big laugh. “Tommy Lewis doesn’t know much about building stuff, stuff, but he sure knows a lot lot about alcohol.” Everybody had this big laugh. There I am standing with my little tools in in my hand and inside, I’m dying,  because I felt nothing but just a massive amount of shame that I didn’t know what to do with. There were also defining moments. moments. Probably the defining moment occurred after I left home, but it had been occurring all the way through my years at home. It was at my wedding. You see a picture of my wedding there, and there’s my brothers to the right, and there is my wife’s parents to the the left. Notice my wife’s dad; he doesn’t look real excited excited about who – who she is marrying at the moment. He looks pretty stiff stiff there. Then there’s my mom over to my left and you’re probably wondering what I was wondering that day. “Where’s my dad?” When I showed up at my wedding, my dad didn’t show up. Later I found out he was so drunk he couldn’t get out of bed. And I remember driving off with my new bride – out of Rustin to our  honeymoon. As we passed that city limit sign, I said said to myself, “I’m going to be better than that.” And it became one of the defining defining themes of my life. “I’m going to to better than that.” You see, everybody has a story. Every guy in in here has a story. Your story is different than mine, but in some ways, ways, it’s probably similar similar to mine. Everybody is who they they have become  because of moments like that – noble moments, missed moments, hurtful moments, defining moments. You are who you are in part because of those things, but do you understand those things? Maybe the bigger question is do you understand how those things things are impacting your 

Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

life right now? You see, to be a real man, man, you’ve to look look back. You’ve got to figure figure that out and decide what’s worth keeping and what’s worth throwing away. When I left home, I left clueless. I had all kinds of mixed messages going on in my soul. Some of those were good; some of them were not so good. The good ones were when I was on the campus of the University University of Arkansas in the ‘60s and it was a big anti-war environment. I felt love love for my country. country. You know where I got that? You know where I got it. At the same time, when I was on the campus – you know there would be times where I’d be talking to some friends, and somebody would say a racist statement or make a racist joke, and it always made me mad. You know where where I got that? You know where I got that. At the same time, I was clueless about girls and I made a lot of mistakes with with girls. And I made a lot of mistakes with with money. And the car that I had – that I’d bought – going to college; I screwed up, because I didn’t know how to keep it. I didn’t know how to change the oil; I didn’t know how to inflate the tires. tires. All I knew how to do when something went wrong on my car was to lift the hood, call the mechanic over and say, “See this iron thing here with wires coming out of it? Something’s wrong.” But you know, when you’re clumsy in life, it makes you mad and anger was anger was the one emotion I would allow myself myself to feel after leaving home. See, I didn’t want to to feel because to feel was to feel shame, so I just didn’t feel at all. all. And that was a problem I carried with me into my 20s and 30s. I did allow myself to feel anger and I was mad a lot. And the one thing thing that made me the maddest was when I failed at something, because I was a driven personality. personality. I had learned that the only way I got feedback was to succeed. That’s why I think I did well in sports,  because when I did well, somebody would say, “you did good.” I was this little little soul wanting somebody to tell me I was doing good in life, because nobody at home told me. And so I would  push myself and drive myself and work hard, I didn’t know why I was working so hard. I was such an intense personality. personality. But I was because back there in the the root of my life life it got created. Everybody has a story. And everybody needs to understand their their story so they can  become the kind of man that they need to be.  Now let me just make some observations about looking back because this is what’s going to start our journey journey over the next several weeks. I want to give 6 basic observations about looking back , as we finish up this morning. Here’s the first one.

Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

1.

My stor story y is is not not uniq unique ue.. Now Now you you just just got got an an ‘up ‘up clos closee and and pers persona onal’ l’ glim glimps psee int into o

my life, but as a man, here’s what I’ve learned. I can tell my story because I know now I’m not alone. I used to think everybody else had it good, and I had it not-so-good. I had it kind of  mixed. You know what I find? A lot of guys think everybody had it better than them. But that’s  just not true. 2.

Secondly, I learned that when a boy fails to connect with his dad, demons of one

kind or another often fill fill the void. When dad’s not there, it leaves a hole in a son’s psyche. Whether dad wasn’t there emotionally, or whether wasn’t there altogether, leaves a hole and the son’s going to fill it with something. 3.

Third, many men have yet to reckon with their past, or close out the unfinished

 business that still lives there. there. As I told you, this may be due to denial, looking back. Some guys don’t want to look back; they don’t want to lift the manhole cover. It might be due to lack lack of  courage or just plain ignorance about the the past and how the past affects affects now. But regardless of  the reason, the truth is that some men are still trying at 40 or 50 to win mom or dad’s approval. And they don’t even know they’re doing it. 4.

Fourth, until a man unpacks his past and deals with the themes and the pains that

reside there, he can never be an authentic man. man. You know, at some point, every guy has to unpack his past. That’s why I say the first step to authentic manhood is looking back. 5.

Fifth, you cannot become a real man man without help. There is no such thing as a

self-made man. The Scripture says, says, “As iron iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens sharpens another.” The truth of the matter is no man can become an authentic man without without the help of other men. We need their insight; we need their accountability; acc ountability; we need their balance in our o ur life. 6.

The final principle is this, for better or worse, we are all significantly shaped by

the family life we experienced. The past helps explain you and me, me, but listen. I want to make a very important announcement here at the end after all that I’ve said about the past. And it’s this: yes, we are products of the past, but no, we are not prisoners of the past. past. You guys hear that? Write it down: Yes, we are products of the past; but no, we are not prisoners of the pastunless past unless we choose to be. be. But here’s what I want you to know. It requires every man to take this first step step to authentic manhood. It’s the the step called “Looking Back.” Are you ready for it? Are you ready to look back? That’s what we’ll we’ll be doing in the weeks to to come. Authentic Manhood - 3 First Step/Looking Back 

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