Family

Build Great Friendships | Letters To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

The secrets to building great friendships with others.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

—Proverbs 18:24

It Was Easier When You Were Younger

It was a lot easier when you were a kid. Kids just showed up, and because they were present, you built friendships. As you get older, it gets a little more complicated. Morality, media, work, activities, and distance separate us. These issues will make formal friendships more and more challenging. Some of this separation is good, and some is bad.

“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”—One of the top five regrets of men.

Many men on their death bed have big regrets. One of the top five is staying in touch with friends. I believe most do not realize until it’s too late how vital friendships are to us. Good relationships with your family and friends bring immense human happiness, which results in deep human satisfaction. And I want that for you. In fact, God wants it for you.

During my childhood, I was desperately lonely. My father was gone. My mother was absent. My friendships were challenging for me. But I wanted to have them, just like everyone else. While I was at lost for great relationships, I discovered a few secrets over the years that have brought me great satisfaction, and I hope learning these now will benefit you in your future.

5 Secrets To Building Great Friendships

One | Don’t Search, Reconnect

One way to build great friendships is by engaging with friends you already have. I have several good friends that live a considerable distance from me. However, I have come to learn that while I rarely see these men in person, I can still have an active and loyal friendship with them. There are many reasons I stay in touch, but reaching out to them regularly (even just once a month) has kept the conversation going and our relationships alive. Many men never think of doing this, but we should. We should take ownership of the connection and reconnection. All you need to do is occasionally call, text, email, or ping them. Touching base like this means a lot.

Here is why this is important. Men need to learn to maintain friendships by taking small steps to nurture them. I think our lack of initiative in nurturing is what leads to this feeling of regret. I know “nurture” feels like an effeminate word, but it’s not. Nothing could be more masculine. But nurture requires forethought and intention that is others-focused. Most men, me included, get consumed by all the other activities of life that revolve around self and thus fail to nurture friendships because we are obsessed only with ourselves. This is just one of the ways pride’s insidious nature impacts reconnecting with our existing relationships. It’s essential to learn how to nurture connection and reconnection now before you get married—because marriage and family are all about nurture.

And by the way, it’s good to practice on us by calling your mom, sister, brother, and myself once in a while.

Two | Don’t Be Interesting, Be Interested

As men, when it comes to relationships, we think competitively. Because we think this way, we spend more time thinking about what makes us unique and interesting. We aspire to be the “most interesting man in the world.” And yes, we are our favorite subject matter. But to build great friendships, you may need to worry less about being the most interesting man in the world and be interested in others.

People love other people who are interested in them because, as I have already stated, every man’s favorite subject is himself.

If you want to build some great connections, get a guy to share a story about himself, and show interest by asking subsequent questions. I have found people are fascinating. Their interests, upbringing, experiences, and areas of expertise are crazy cool. And behind every one of these people is an interesting story. Dig it out. Ask questions until you find it; everyone has one. Before you know it, you may discover you have a connection with a person who could become a life-long friend. So, work at getting people you meet to share a story.

Sometimes, when I meet people, I often see how long I can get them to talk about themselves before they ask about me. It’s a fun little game I play, mostly for my entertainment. Give it a spin with others, and use this question frequently—“Could you tell me more about that?”

Three | Don’t Pretend, Be Real

“Being real,” as I call it here, requires appropriate levels of vulnerability. We have to be careful, though. There’s a balance we must strike between sharing too much (oversharing) and not sharing enough (pretending). We need to find ways to share and connect that build trust with others, and vulnerability is the tool for doing this. Vulnerability builds trust, which leads to stronger and healthier relationships. While many men wrongly think being masculine is about being invulnerable, invincible, and impervious to issues, real men are appropriately vulnerable and thus authentic. Being vulnerable means we drop our guard, and in doing so, invite others into a more intimate relationship with us. This leads to relationships that welcome an emotional exchange, not merely a transfer of facts and opinions. This is precisely why, on a plane, people will spill their guts to the person sitting next to them about how they feel. They know there is nothing to risk because, more than likely, they will never meet them again. What ends up happening is we build a quick emotional and psychological connection with this person. Often, we don’t take these risks with people we see every day because we are afraid, and as a result, we pretend because we think it is safer.

I would recommend that you learn how to develop the muscle of vulnerability in your life. I know life is not perfect, and I know you will probably not share everything with me, but you should with someone. If you spend too long pretending in life, you will end up being artificial—and people can sense this from a long way off. Lean into this with a trusted Godly man. You will not regret it.

Four | Don’t Neglect, Make Time

You need to be forging out a little time for relationships every day. College is not just about being consumed by studies, advancement in sports, and locating a spouse—it’s about getting a job. But all these activities touch on one crucial element, and that is your social development. You need to give just a little bit of attention to this each day. Your life is going to get busy—too busy. You’re going to become consumed by activities. And this will be an ongoing problem you will encounter, regardless of your stage or phase of life.

I am much older than you and deal with this every day. My problem is my ability to laser focus on tasks. While this is a tremendous strength, it can also be preventative to relationships. Often, I become so focused on the present task that I become oblivious to this need, and it has taken work and attention on my part to address this. I have had to give attention, a little bit each day, to get my mind off a task and care for the people God has given to me. They, after all, are the means and the end of every job I am trying to complete.

I would encourage you to spend time watching people who are experts in relationships. Men who are inspirational that others instinctually follow. There are small habits and behaviors that they embrace that others do not. They may be aware or unaware of these things, but spend time with these men and study them. Practice what you see in them that has Godly implications on your relationships.

Remember, all this requires time—so make time. First, make time learning how to master relationships as you spend time with people who are experts. Second, make time to invest in these relationships as well.

Five | Don’t Wait, Make Plans

I don’t know why men don’t do this, but we don’t make plans. Women make plans all the time. You may remember or trip to the Dominican Republic in your senior year of high school. I was blown away by how many women were there. I even turned to your mom and commented on this. I distinctly remember your mom saying, “It’s because women make plans,” and she is spot on. I think if men were smart, they would figure this out, as it’s a big missed opportunity.

Be a leader and get some guys together. Whether for road trips, ski trips, hunting trips, or mission trips, it doesn’t matter. See the world while you are young, but do it with friends. You can make plans; even something impromptu is excellent. In college, we called it “making a memory.” You can either sit around staring at a device or you can jump in the car and make a memory you will never forget. I have a ton of memories like this, most of which I may leave out of this letter and share with you privately.

In closing, you have limited time. You cannot have a hundred great friends. But you can have a few close friends.

I love you, son. Dad

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 16 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org

Family, Fortitude, Personal Development

Who's in Charge of Your Marriage?

When men fail to love their wives because of what they perceive to be a lack of responsiveness, they are allowing themselves to be controlled by the behavior of their wives. In fact, I find that these two things are occurring when this transpires:

1. The man is waiting for permission from his wife to be the man he vowed to be.

When a man bases his love on the behavior of his wife, he is not in control. Whether he realizes it or not, he is being controlled by her negativity not by his conscience, his commitment to the marriage vows, or his God. His is committing the mistake of allowing her behavior to dictate his actions.

This is a classic mistake that spouses make in a troubled marriage. In a sense, they are allowing the dysfunction of their spouse to become the true god of their actions (Romans 6:16), and this is always a problem in that no individual or couple will ever rise higher than the true master of their marriage. We deal with this in chapter 3 of our marriage book.

2. The man becomes a walking contradiction.

What most give off that they are the most is what they are the least.

Bank tellers will tell you that the person with lots of bling and the shiniest car is usually poorer in relation to the man with an old truck and overalls.

The teenager that has to walk with a strut and talk a big game typically has the least confidence. It is the young man that finds but little need to let everyone know how confident he is that is truly over abounding with confidence. (Proverbs 17:27)

In the same way, the man that runs from his obligation to serve his wife yet becomes bitter about her negative responses will often tout how he could care less what she does. But, it should be noted that the man that has to tell everyone how little he cares is usually showing how much he cares. If he did not care, then why does he feel a need to verbalize his disgust.

Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34). I know people say that you cannot know someone’s heart, but Jesus teaches otherwise. We typically know what is in someone’s heart by their words as they are heart indicators.

Love Because it is Right

Though I am the first to admit that there are some women that are dissatisfied no matter how much love they receive, men will be wise to love their wives because it is right rather than because it produces the result they desire. In fact, when a man refrains from loving his wife because of her lack of responsiveness he is showing that he is simply a conditional lover.

Conditional Love is Not Love

To say that someone is a conditional lover is oxymoronic. That is, a conditional lover is not a true lover. He or she is merely one that has mastered having good behavior in order to receive a desired result. This is not love as much as a deceptive form of love which is no love at all. (I Corinthians 13:5)

True Repentance

Many men will do well to remember that true repentance is taking total responsibility for the state of their actions and the repercussions of those actions. I have found that men do not even begin to prosper until they stop blaming their wives for their negative behavior and focus more on the lack of love that has caused the lack of good feeling in their wives.

If I neglected to change the oil in my car, I have nobody to blame but myself. I can ignore the warning light, argue with it, or take full responsibility. In the same way, many husbands will do well to accept total responsibility for the state of their marriage and their home and return to their first works.

Man Up

I am finding many men that are balking at taking full responsibility for the state of their marriage. Though I am aware that some women will reject the love of even the best of men, this is more of an exception rather than a rule.

Behind every bitter woman is a man that failed somewhere. That man may be a father, ex-husband, old boyfriend, or current husband. But, mark it down, somewhere out there, a man lacked the strength or the wisdom to pull her outside of herself in a loving way.

I am a firm believer that the lack of responsiveness that we have today from the wives in our society is a reaction rather than a mere action. It is a reaction to the lack of masculinity in our families.

The Demasculinization of America is a Faulty Premise

I say that nobody, including our wives, took it away. We gave it up. Take responsibility for your actions and the negative repercussions of those actions. Do what the scriptures say and “be men of courage.” (I Samuel 4:9 and I Corinthians 16:13)

I often hear people talk about the demasculinization of America. However, as of late, I have been swaying away from using this term. This is because if someone can take away my manhood, then I was not much of a man from the start. In other words, is someone taking away our manhood as a society or are we as men giving it up by walking contrary to the scriptures?

About the Author: Dr. Raymond Force currently serves as a pastor of the Crossroads Bible Church in Ocala, FL. Having served in a number of churches throughout his ministry, Dr. Force pulls from his experience as a pastor and a youth pastor to help others to overcome difficulties in their lives and relationships. Dr. Force has been married over twenty years and he is a father of seven beautiful children. Hitting Home is a family owned and operated ministry that enjoys working together for God’s glory.

faith, Family

In Your Singleness | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Ephesians 5:25

Companionship is a Worthy Desire

If you are looking for companionship, friendship, and a relationship with a woman, know that this is a worthy desire. And having the aspiration to one day be married to an awesome woman is a declaration of the desire for a relationship and to one day become a husband and a father. It also indicates an awareness of our passion for an ongoing connection. Even Adam, the first man, wanted a relationship, and God saw that it was good for him not to be alone—therefore, God created woman.

But during your single years, you have an opportunity. It’s the opportunity to develop spiritually and hone a character that’s worthy of a long-term relationship. Right now, you have the chance to become the man God wants you to be—aside from the titles husband, father, or leader. I know many married men and fathers who wish they had invested more time in character and spiritual development before marriage. Even though the challenges of relationships refine us, it’s crucial during your singleness to become the man God wants you to be today. You must find your identity in Christ today. It will be the anchor for your life regardless of the titles you hold tomorrow, including husband, father, and leader.

Four Things to Consider While You’re Single

One | Learn self-leadership

All men need to learn self-leadership. Discovering the value of self-leadership as a single man is a great asset. I don’t know any woman who is not attracted to a man who can lead himself effectively. A man who cannot lead himself is destined for relational issues in all other parts of life. Self-leadership is an intentional exercise. It affects many aspects of a man’s life: timeliness, responsibility, conflict, self-care, grooming, building healthy relationships, avoiding unhealthy ones, and setting priorities. Self-leadership involves organizing our lives around priorities and values that lead to purposeful action rather than leaving each moment to happenstance.

Here’s a potential question that might get you thinking about your self-leadership.

“What are my honest relational priorities, and what’s my plan for getting there?”

As a man, you must begin to determine your relational priorities now. Let’s say you define your priorities in this order.

  1. A vibrant relationship with God that gives glory to Him.
  2. Career fulfillment that positively impacts others.
  3. Core relationships that influence self and others.
  4. An active relationship with my family of origin.
  5. A committed God-honoring marriage.
  6. God-fearing children.

Now, these are only broad examples, and you can borrow them if you like. But as a single man, naming these “relational priorities” in this way will allow you to begin devising a plan and determining the self-leadership needed for the course. While at present, you cannot do much about tending to a marriage or children, you can devise a plan for becoming a man that a wife and child would love and respect. And you can give a lot of attention to the first four priorities on the list above. You can devise a plan and focus on becoming the man God wants you to be. And by leading yourself in the present, you will be more prepared for leadership in marriage and of a family with children. But you must determine personal priorities first and then take a little time to reflect on how you are going to lead yourself there.

Having identified what’s on your priority list, you now need to develop an intentional plan for getting there. This is where self-leadership moves from reflection into action. Perhaps there will be several small steps in each area where you can live out your priorities. Leaders are intentional, and your intentionality—while you are single—will serve you now, and if you get married, it will serve you later. So, start by leading yourself now.

DO THIS:

  • Make a list of relational priorities (or borrow mine).
  • Reflect on what is needed to get there.
  • Set one goal in each priority.

Two | Determine your values and grow into them

If you haven’t taken the time to write down or state your values, you need to do so. A value is a stated measurement for a standard of behavior. Declaring values is a considerable step toward maturation and stewarding your life and calling. Many leaders I’ve met in life state business values and require employees to live by them, but they fail to know or declare their personal values. Determining, stating, and living by your values are essential steps toward finding a woman who shares these values. Just think about it for a minute. What could be worse than working for an employer or being a relationship with a person who does not share your values? Just so you know—it’s miserable.

Take a couple of minutes to reflect on the following question:

“What values guide your life, and how would you define those values?”

Let’s say, for a moment, that a value you possess or aspire to hold is honesty. Rather than just recognizing this, define it. Write down the implications of living a life of honesty. Consider how the application of that value may influence your actions, attitudes, motives, and relationships with others and God. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of values as dull ideas. Instead, think of them as living measures that influence your actions, attitudes, and motives. You might state the value of honesty this way:

“In all that I do, I will speak honestly, seek the truth, and do my best to live transparently with others.”

Because it’s written down, stated, and rememberable, your value has the potential to become a guiding principle. And as you look forward to marriage, you can aim to find someone who either shares or supports your value of honesty. If not, it might be a deal-breaker, not because of the person but the value.

DO THIS:

  • Make a list of three values you possess or aspire to possess.
  • Define these values in your own way.
  • For one week, evaluate your actions, attitudes, and desires, using these three values.

Three | Discover your identity in singleness

Men and women sometimes get married because they believe they are missing out on something in their current situation and feel a spouse will fill that void. While there is much to be said about a man and woman becoming “one flesh,” we need to remember that Jesus offers the relationship that completes us—not a spouse.

A relationship with Christ is one of perfect grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love, which cannot be found in any human relationship. Your relationship with Christ is the ultimate relationship and primary to every other relationship. Coming to a place of contentment in your singleness with Christ is part of living out your identity in Christ. And why is this important? Well, because your identity is not found in marriage. Marriage doesn’t take the place of one’s identity in Christ; it only compliments that identity. Remember, in singleness you are a complete person in Christ. Regardless of popular opinion, your spouse will not complete you—Jesus does.

Four | Get to know yourself

Finally, you need to know yourself. This is a lifelong pursuit. So begin today to get to know who you are in all kinds of circumstances, for in marriage or companionship, you will not be able to hide.

Here are ten questions to reflect on today:

  1. What do you believe is possible for you?
  2. What activity in your life gets you fired up?
  3. How would you like others to perceive you?
  4. What is something you love doing, even when you are tired?
  5. What do you fear about a job or a relationship?
  6. What have you done in your life that makes you proud?
  7. What is your most significant self-limiting belief?
  8. Who is your role model?
  9. Who is a person that you don’t like but spend time with?
  10. What is one failure that you have turned into your greatest lesson?

God made you unique, and as a man who lives in a broken world, you have unique capabilities and vulnerabilities. Know and get to know your strengths and weaknesses as you encounter friendship. You will learn some lessons as you go, but be willing to get to know yourself as you do. This exercise in self-awareness will benefit you, your future wife, and your future children. Be committed to self-improvement and getting to know yourself through the phases and stages of life.

I love you, son—Dad

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 16 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org

Family

You Always Bite The One You Love

By Dr. James Dobson

Isn’t it curious how in the midst of a nasty family argument we can shake out of the bad mood the instant the telephone rings or a neighbor knocks on the door?

Sometimes those we love are treated the worst, and kids are quick to notice this hypocrisy. Have you ever been brought up short by a small voice questioning this sudden turn to kindness after twenty minutes of fire and brimstone?

The late Mark Hatfield, a longtime senator from Oregon and the father of four kids, said his wife stung him once by saying, “I just wish you were as patient with your children as you are with your constituents.”

He isn’t alone. We’re all guilty at times of what I call “split vision,” treating certain people with forbearance while heaping contempt on others under our own roof. We assume the worst; we pounce on every shortcoming. We never miss an opportunity to deliver a corrective harangue. And in the process, we wound the people we care about the most.

Isn’t it time to cut one another a little slack at home? If, in fact, we love our spouses and our children and our parents as much as we say we do, one way to show it is to give them the kind words we bestow on our casual acquaintances.

faith, Family

Get Good Counsel on Money | Letters To My Son

Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.—Proverbs 15:22

There are certain areas of a man’s life where the counsel of others is necessary, but where I have found it hard to ask for help. One of these areas is money.

Why am I so hesitant to ask for help in the area of money and finances?

I think there are several reasons.

One | Shame

I, like many, have made numerous financial mistakes over my lifetime. I’ve lived on the financial edge, accrued debt, purchased useless things that I could not afford, and have made a bad investment or two. I, like most men, don’t like to reveal my failings to other men; it is shame and embarrassment about these events that keep me from getting the help I need.

Two | Self-Reliance

Shame, while one of my issues, is not the only issue. Self-reliance, in combination with ongoing shame, is a powerful one-two punch. Self-reliance complicates everything, resulting in the belief that I ought to be able to figure out budgeting, spending, saving, and investing on my own. Even though I may have a novice understanding of money, remaining in a state of ignorance because of self-reliance is not the better choice. And worse, the faulty self-talk that says, “try and figure it out on your own,” will keep you captive to unhealthy practices and from gaining the knowledge, disciplines, and skills for success.

Three | Pride

The third related core issue with shame and self-reliance, is pride. Arrogance keeps me, and all men, from asking for help and advice.

How do we handle these personal issues that keep us from getting the help we need?

I have learned we must humbly find help before we become humiliated. Proverbs 15:22 says it this way: “Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” One mark of Godly men is humility—not shame, not self-reliance, and definitely not pride. Humility is to think of yourself less. It’s thinking less about how the present financial situation reflects on you as a person and more about how others can aid in guiding you out of it. This infers that we must separate who we are from what the issue is, and in doing so, we must embrace the virtue of humility. But a humble man does not think “less of himself” in a self-defeating manner, but instead, he “thinks of himself less” as it relates to the issue at hand. Money, as it relates to manhood, can feel like a direct attack on who we are as a person. The best thing we can do is detach the issue from who we are and admit our mistakes and failures so we can find a way out with competent counsel. Why? So we can be the men God designed us to be and so we do not live in constant shame, self-sufficiency, and pride.

Where do we find help for our financial questions?

First | Jesus

One of the most popular and essential areas from which one to develop a biblical understanding of money, finances, budgeting, debt, and sound financial decision-making is the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus talked about money more than many other subjects—more than heaven, more than hell, more than heaven and hell combined. And even more than love. Of the 39 parables Jesus told, eleven of them are devoted to talking about some aspect of money. Maybe Jesus knew money would be challenging for men?

So if you are looking for wisdom on money, read the words of Jesus in a few of these stories.

  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son—Luke 15:11–32
  • The Rich Man and Lazarus—Luke 16:19–31
  • The Day Laborers in the Vineyard—Matthew 20:1–16
  • The Widow’s Two Coins—Mark 12:41-44
  • Ceasar’s Taxes—Matthew 22:15-22
  • The Rich Young Man—Matthew 19:16-24
  • Zaccheus the Tax Collector—Luke 19:1-10

Or consider these foundational quotes by Jesus about money.

  • For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.—Matthew 6:21
  • Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.—Luke 9:3
  • No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.—Matthew 6:24
  • For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?—Mark 8:36
  • Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.—Matthew 5:42

Second | Other Faithful Christian Men

There are many great Christian men out there who know a ton about money. They are usually men who have done an excellent job managing, leading, and guiding their finances. Ask them if they would share with you what they know and how they handle their finances. Ask them questions and let them know what kind of specific guidance you need. If you want, you could gather a group of men together who wish to openly discuss the topic of finances, learn with one another and encourage one another.

But remember that there are also some people from whom we should not seek counsel. Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” Be aware that some of the financial advice that we find in the world can be self-serving. In other words, it feeds on the assumption that we will be selfish at some point and that, financially, there will be things that we will want, that we will be afraid of missing out on, and that we will convince ourselves that we need right now.

Regardless of whom you turn to for guidance, spend some time addressing your motives and desires and make sure that your heart is in the right place before you make a significant purchase or investment. If in doubt—don’t do it. If pressured for a quick decision—walk away. If you have not prayed about it—wait. Waiting is a profound financial principle that people who live in a consumer-driven society need to heed.

Son, don’t let shame, self-reliance, or pride keep you from discovering the fantastic gift of financial freedom. We have all paid a dumb tax with finances. Don’t pay more. Get counsel, teaching, and Godly advice on money.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 16 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org