A Young Man’s Guide to Awesomeness
About the Guest
Barrett and Jenifer Johnson, founders of I.N.F.O. For Families, are passionate about helping young men “guard their heart, get the girl, and save the world.”
A Young Man’s Guide to Awesomeness
Bob: As young boys grow into young men, there is something that becomes very important to them—young women. Barrett Johnson says moms and dads need to make sure they’re coaching their sons to have the right perspective on a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.
Barrett: Let’s recognize the purpose of our lives is to walk in a relationship to God—to glorify Him with our lives / to know Him and to make Him known. That’s the purpose of our existence. Will having that girlfriend—will that make you more able to glorify God with your life?—or will it detract and distract from your relationship with God?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If your son is going to have the kind of life that God wants him to have, he’s going to need a coach, who’s pretty awesome—that means you. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: We’re going to be awesome today!
Bob: We are?—you and me?
Dennis: Yes! [Laughter] We’re going to train dads—
Bob: Wait. Wait. Wait.
Dennis: —and moms to raise awesome sons.
Bob: What are we most days?—just average?
Dennis: Let me think about that. [Laughter]
Bob: Here’s my question for you. I want to know—you’ve raised six kids—
Bob: —four girls / two boys—
Bob: —if I came to you and said: “Okay; you’re not done yet. You have to raise one more,” would you pick a son or a daughter?
Dennis: Oh, that is totally unfair / [Laughter] totally unfair. I love my daughters, and I love my sons.
Bob: Yes; I know you do.
Dennis: I’d take what God brought me.
Bob: Oh, that’s a cop-out right there!
Dennis: It’s not a cop-out. It’s the spiritually-correct answer. [Laughter]
Bob: Is it easier—
Dennis: I’m not falling into that trap—you try to trap me all the time.
Bob: Is it easier raising boys or girls?
Dennis: Oh, you know the answer to that.
Bob: Which is it?
Dennis: What was it for you?
Bob: For me, it was easier raising pets. [Laughter] That’s what I’m going to go with / that’s my final answer. [Laughter]
Dennis: That is the wrong answer—it was easier for us to raise boys.
We have a guy with us, along with his wife—Barrett Johnson and his wife Jenifer join us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back to the broadcast.
Jenifer: Thank you. We’re so glad to be here.
Barrett: Our honor.
Dennis: They started a ministry, back in 2014, after having been involved in working in churches for a number of years, where they just felt like they needed to help moms and dads prepare their kids for life—it had to do with sexuality.
Now, Barrett has written a book—speaking of awesomeness—called The Young Man’s Guide to Awesomeness.
Barrett: Well, the subtitle is How to Guard Your Heart, Get the Girl and Save the World. In that title—honestly, my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek as I read that title. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, except that every young man aspires to all three of those—well, I don’t know if he aspires to guard his heart. I mean, if you start with that, most young boys aren’t growing up, thinking, “I need to guard my heart.” Proverbs 4:23 is the verse that we all know that says we are to guard our hearts; but most boys are thinking, “My heart’s fine”; aren’t they?
Barrett: That verse is not on the radar of most teenage boys, but it needs to be. As grown men, we know the implications of what we saw, and what we did, and what we thought about when we were young men; and how we brought that into adulthood. Boy, it would be great if we could find a way to help our young men.
Dennis: Okay; so, Barrett’s got five kids—two boys / three girls. Ask him the question, Bob.
Bob: Which would you rather raise?
Barrett: You know, the pet answer was great Bob; but my—
Dennis: I thought it was lame—
Barrett: —my boys or my girls—
Dennis: —absolutely lame.
Barrett: —neither of my kids have ever pooped on the floor.
Bob: That’s a good point.
Barrett: So, that issue, right there, in and of itself—
Bob: But when my dog does—newspaper on the bottom, and we got that taken care of; okay? [Laughter]
Barrett: Well, here’s the difference in girls and boys. I think girls generally are more emotional / more drama. All that is hard to navigate; yes. We can kind of fall back to: “Boys are easier.” But given some of the issues we’ve talked about and written about in this book, I think there are some issues related to our boys that are neglected—we think: “That’s not a big deal,” because it’s not up on the radar / in your face like our girls’ drama sometimes is. We can think it’s not a big deal or going to impact their lives; but it’s simmering beneath the surface, potentially derailing their lives in big ways.
Dennis: Okay; let’s go through those three that you outlined.
Dennis: First one: “Guard Your Heart.” You have three chapters on this in your book: “Take Control of Your Thought Life”—that’s a big one. Number two: “Protect Your Eyes”— the eye gate.
Number three: “Manage Your Selfishness.” You’re going for the juggler vein on all three of these.
Barrett: I think the “Guarding Your Heart” starts in your thoughts and what our guys think about. We want to encourage our young men to have thoughts that are pure and honoring to God. In our culture we live in, there is a lot of temptations to get their mind derailed from that.
Guarding their eyes takes diligence, and takes attention and discipline every moment of every day. There are so many opportunities for young men to expose their eyes to things they don’t need to see. With me and my sons, we had a “birds and the bees” conversation at nine or ten years old. Within three minutes of that conversation, I was saying to my ten-year-old son: “Hey son, there is a ginormous, and big, and profitable industry out there designed to show people doing this; and it is not for you. I want you to have a negative view of it, because it will potentially mess up your life in some big ways. So here is where we’re going to guard our eyes and be careful what we see and make wise choices along those lines.”
Bob: The Bible tells us that we are to master the art of taking our thoughts captive—
Bob: —and this is something that we can teach our children what to do. When a thought pops into your head, it is not in control of you. You must learn to be in control of it. In fact, Colossians 3 says you’re to set your mind on things that are above and not on things that are on earth. I remember talking to my kids and saying: “You know how we set the radio on a particular station? We set it by tuning to the station we want to listen to.” I say: “In the same way, you can set your mind. You can tune it to the station you want to be listening to rather than just saying: ‘Oh, this popped into my head. Let’s see where this takes me.’” That’s how we take thoughts captive; isn’t it?
Barrett: Well, throughout our book, chapter by chapter, we use David as a great illustration of an awesome man. We know from studying David that we would consider him a man after God’s own heart and a guy that we can model. We can also see him as a flawed man. He made some really boneheaded decisions in his journey that we can learn from.
One thing we can learn about David in guarding our eyes is his experience with Bathsheba.
He was on a rooftop—he saw a woman taking a bath, and he began to lust. He stepped out farther. He drew the woman to himself—ended up having sex with her / murdering her husband—the story goes on.
We tell young men and coach young men in this book, saying: “Just like David was a king—he had authority over all things—son/young man, you are the king of your technology—of your smartphone / of your computer. David, when he saw Bathsheba, could have said: ‘Hey, we’re going to have a new rule in the kingdom that says no more bathing naked on your rooftop,’”—that would have been a reality. Every young man has a choice—to your point Bob—to say: “I’m going to choose to put a filter on my machine, because I can choose to tell my phone what to do / put a filter on my phone that provides accountability and some safety for me—what I can and cannot see.” So, again: “David was the king of his kingdom. Young man, you’re the king of your phone. You tell it where to go, and it will do what you tell it to do.”
Dennis: So, would you challenge dads to put a filter on their son’s phone and make the decision for them, or give the choice to the young man?
Barrett: Dennis, I think that a parent or a family, who do not have some kind of filter or monitoring on their technology, is missing a big gap in this day-and-age parenting. Now, that filtering process is great when your kids are young children / middle schoolers. I think, as your kids move into high school, you need to transition away from blocking everything with a filter to more of accountability-type software that you can give your kids free reign—but know: “Hey, I’m watching over your shoulder,” and “If you go someplace you don’t need to go, we’re going to talk about it.”
Dennis: You know, Bob was talking about the pets—you believe in this point: “You need to feed the good dog not the bad dog.” [Laughter]
Barrett: You know, I learned that from Gary Rosberg. He says that there’s two dogs in every man / in every teenage boy—a good dog and a bad dog. The one that you feed is the one that lives. The Scripture calls that: “…this battle between the spirit and the flesh.” Our flesh—it wants to go places it doesn’t need to go. But if we feed the spirit—God’s presence in our life as we walk with Him / as we renew our mind with Truth—all those things—we feed that good dog, and the bad dog loses power in our lives.
Dennis: So, you quote Marcus Aurelius in your book. Do you remember what he said?
Barrett: I think he said: “If our thoughts become our life…”—remind me Dennis.
Dennis: That’s right—pretty much it.
Barrett: So, what you think about becomes who you are. The illustration in that book that we gave is—it’s like walking to Carlsbad Caverns. It’s like you see these stalagmites and stalactites—these giant things in the ground that have been developed over thousands of years, probably—of little drips of water. The accumulation of drip, drip, drip—over thousands of years—makes this giant school-bus-size rock formation on the ground. That’s our lives we build—our lives are built up of a million little thoughts we have along the way.
Dennis: So Jenifer,—
Dennis: —how are you helping build your son’s thought life / helping him guard his mind?
Jenifer: I think just being practical about the world we live in. You know what? Sometimes, I have even turned to my oldest son and just said, “I am so sorry that you are living during this time,”—
Dennis: Yes; really.
Jenifer: —because he’s a technical mountain climber. He would look at stuff on my iPad® that was like highly technical stuff—not picture magazine / climbing magazine—it was like a technical magazine. On the side, if you subscribe to it—they’ve got something going down the side, trying to grab your attention to a naked person, or pornography, or whatever—it’s just hard.
So, I’m real about it—I talk about it so they won’t be embarrassed, and we’re accountable. That’s one thing—with all the accountability stuff is—I don’t want to teach: “Hey, I’m the parent; and you’re going to be accountable.” I want to build accountability so they do that for the rest of their lives and they always feel accountable—first, to the Lord Jesus Christ; but then, to my family, if I’m a married daddy, later down the road / or if I’m a college student, I’m still accountable to a buddy, like our son used.
Barrett: We desperately need accountability all through our lives. It’s not just something we do with our kids because we love them. We do it in our lives because it’s healthy.
Jenifer: I want my kids to want to do that for the rest of their life—have accountability.
Dennis: And that’s really what’s spoken of in Proverbs, Chapter 5 through Chapter 7. If a dad hasn’t read that recently—and by the way, it wouldn’t hurt moms to look at it either, as you raise your sons and daughters—just listen to the words of the dad—it says: “Be attentive to my voice for I give you understanding.” Okay; let’s talk about this second part: “How to Get the Girl.”
Barrett: I think every young man, at some point, has an awakening to: “Hey these girls that were kind of nasty and ugly, and have cooties, and all that kind of stuff; suddenly, they smell nice and they look good. I kind of want to be with one of them.” We encourage—
Dennis: When did you discover that, by the way?
Barrett: When I met my wife, of course, Dennis. [Laughter]
Dennis: Good comeback, Barrett!
Barrett: No; I think 14 years old—13/14—you start going: “Hey, I’d like to be with a girl. I’d like to have a girlfriend.” We coach guys in the book—to say: “Yes, you want to do that. It’s wonderful. It’s a God-birth thing to connect with a girl—to invite a girl into your story—but don’t do it until you’re ready.”
There’s a lot of young men that enter relationships long before they’re ready—even, it transitions from managing your selfishness. By and large, guys are selfish. Most reasons—you ask a guy, “Why do you want a girlfriend?” They’ll give you answers: “I want someone who can make me feel good,” “I want someone who can make me happy,” “I want…”—well, those are all self-centered things / that’s love of yourself: “I want someone to come and make me feel better about myself.”
We coach young men: “Don’t enter a relationship with a girl that’s serious, and that’s kind of pursuit of a heart romantic relationship, until you are mature enough in your identity with Christ that you know: “This girl is not going to complete me and make me a better person.”
Dennis: So, when is that? You’re coaching a dad to communicate this to a teenage son, who is without understanding.
Barrett: Yes; I think every kid is different. Every parent needs to pray for discernment to know: “Is my son ready?” I’ve had to tell my sons, along the journey: “You know what? I know you want to do ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’—take that girl to the dance / have a great time—but let her know, beforehand, ‘Hey, this is not going to be an intense relationship; but let’s hang out as friends.’”
That’s a wonderful thing; because I’ve told my son: “I just don’t think you are ready. You don’t have an identity in Christ. If the relationship ended, I don’t think you’d have the maturity to handle that just yet. You’re going to figure out more who you need to be before you go off and invite a girl into your story.”
Dennis: So, I’m finding out, Bob—from my adult children, now—all the ways they were sneaky and did things that we asked them not to do. [Laughter]
Bob: Yes; they’re fessing up now?
Dennis: Yes; they are beginning to disclose all the—
Bob: Like what?
Dennis: —well, having a boyfriend or having a girlfriend—and “Dad, I knew you didn’t want us to do it, but…” So, you tell your son he’s not ready—he sneaks around and has one. What are you going to do?
Barrett: Yes; you’ve got to be very careful with that, obviously; because, when a relationship starts—for you, as a parent, to say: “Hey you’ve got to turn this off now. Stop liking that girl,”—then, it has a tendency to go even deeper underground, like your kids maybe did—like our kids have perhaps done, at certain points, along the journey.
But the encouragement is to give your kids a better picture of what a mature, healthy relationship looks like—help them understand, maybe, “Am I ready for this or not?” Most kids, if you walk them through what it looks like to be in a healthy marriage, down the road, they’ll begin to realize, “I’m not at all ready for that.”
Another big question I encourage dads to ask their sons they talk with and their daughters—but to their kids—they talk through these issues. The point of life is not to look for good things and bad things. The question of figuring out the things of your life is not: “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” because, again, my 16-year-old could say: “Is this a good thing?”—“Yes; it’s a good thing.” “Is this a bad thing?”—“Yes; it’s a bad thing,”—whatever.
A better question to ask is: “Let’s recognize the purpose of our lives is to walk in a relationship with God—to glorify Him with our lives / to know Him and make Him know. That’s the purpose of our existence.” I can say to my son: “Son, will having that girlfriend—will that make you more able to glorify God with your life and develop and enhance your relationship with Him, or will it detract and distract from your relationship with God?”
Dennis: “Oh, but Dad; she makes me feel like I’m a man of God.”
Barrett: “Of course, she does,”—and that son is delusional, and you know he is delusional. [Laughter]
But we teach this at conferences, though—we ask adults to stand up and say: “Adults, who looks back at their high school relationships and says, ‘That relationship made me a better Christ-follower?’” Not a single one can say, “It made me more in touch with God.”
Dennis: Bob has a statement he makes, where he says to a group of people: “How many of you would like your kids to replicate what you experienced in adolescence?”
Barrett: Great question / great question.
Bob: And nobody raises their hands.
Bob: And then the next question is: “So what are you doing, as a parent, so that it’s not the same experience?”
I just need to take a minute, here, if I can. I want to apologize to Nancy Eyermann; okay? Nancy and I were good friends all through junior high and high school.
Dennis: Did you try to hold her hand?
Bob: Just hang on; okay? [Laughter] She lived down the street—our families were friends—and Nancy—she was a good friend; okay? One time, my friend, Denny Bowers—Denny was a year older than everybody else in our class, and Denny could drive in 9th grade. So, Denny said: “Let’s go out on a double date.” He even, already—
—he had Nancy picked out for me, and he had Cindy Jones picked out for himself. So, we went to a movie. I think we saw Patton—I think that’s the movie we saw.
Dennis: That’s a romantic movie.
Bob: It is; right? [Laughter] So, here’s Denny and me and Nancy and Cindy—[Laughter]—by the way, if any of you guys are listening, I hope you don’t mind me sharing. [Laughter] So, in the middle of the movie, Denny put his arm around Cindy Jones—I looked over, and I saw that. I thought, “Nancy is a friend.” I was not romantically interested in Nancy at all, but I was interested in putting my arm around a girl. It didn’t matter who she was, at the moment—[Laughter]
Barrett: Any girl will do! [Laughter]
Bob: That’s right. So, I did put my arm around Nancy. She endured it, I think, for the ten minutes that it lasted, until I pulled my arm back. I later realized that it was just a complete boneheaded mistake of mine.
It was not about any deep romantic attraction—it was simply about: “It would be nice to have any girl who liked me.”
Bob: I was not attracted to a girl. I was attracted to myself, and I just wanted a prop—
Bob: —to bring me—that’s right?
Dennis: Barrett, in his book, has said he kind of counters this selfishness with the challenge to young men to be heroes.
Barrett: We recommend that young men embrace the long-lost art of chivalry—of learning what it means to guard and protect women. That can drive how you treat your mother, and your sisters, and all the women in your life, even as a young man; but it also drives how you begin to date. Guarding and protecting the women in your life, including a girlfriend you might pursue, involves keeping that relationship sexually pure and keeping it above ground. If you’re not able to do that, then you’re not ready in a relationship. Many times, guarding and protecting women means guarding and protecting them from you; because you have the potential to be the biggest source of distraction and temptation in your girlfriend’s life.
Jenifer: I have just a sweet story—but there is a young man that majorly guarded our daughter, and they dated in a very healthy relationship. Our rule at home was: “You cannot go inside and hang out with my daughter if no one else is at home.” Well, with five kids and a billion people in and out of my house, that’s very rare.
Probably several months into their dating relationship, I was pulling out of the driveway. He was driving up and no one was at home. I got out of the car and I was like: “I feel like such a dork even saying this to you; but you can’t go in, because no one is at home with our daughter.” I’ll never forget this young man, looking me in the eye and saying: “Oh no; that’s okay! I’m going to do this with my daughter someday.” I thought: “A teenage boy is thinking ahead and taking notes from my husband, who has set the standard, and is taking notes. He’s not married / he doesn’t have a daughter yet; but he’s already thinking, ‘No, no, no; it is okay, Mrs. Johnson. This is what I’m going to do with my girls someday.’”
Bob: At that point, it’s like: “I’m calling a preacher. We’re getting you married to her right now.” [Laughter]
Jenifer: No lie! I—this is my other thing: “Don’t fall in love with people your kids date, because I ugly-cried for two months when that break-up came along.” Barrett’s like: “I don’t know. Were you in love with him?” [Laughter] I’m like, “Yes; I’m sorry honey!”
Bob: I’ll tell you what—another clue. I have told my daughters and other women: “Watch how your boyfriend treats his mom, because how he treats his mom is how he’ll treat you someday. And if he is not respectful, and if he is not serving her and if he is not kind to her, he will be the same way with you one of these days. Don’t think that ‘Oh, he will treat me differently.’ No; this is a pattern in him.”
Dennis: Here’s what Barrett—and I believe, more importantly, the Scriptures—are really challenging us—as dads, and as moms, and as grandparents—to do with our teenagers. We have to challenge them with greatness—not mediocrity / not conformity—but to challenge them.
I—think about this—you are appealing, Barrett—and I think the writer of Proverbs 5-7 is also appealing to the chest of a young man: “Guard the woman. Guard her from you.
Barrett: Yes; yes.
Dennis: That’s well-said: “Guard her from others. Guard her innocence.” Challenge him to protect women with his life—he’s going to be doing that for the rest of his life.
Frankly, this is a message that needs to get out—not just to dads and moms—but it needs to infiltrate our youth groups. We need to set a new cadence to this. This is for the church: “This is a great moment for the church to push back against the culture in a positive way, without pointing a finger saying, ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘No.’ Instead, make it positive: ‘Guard!’”
Bob: Yes; one of the things we’ve encouraged a lot of dads to do, over the years, is to get away with a son or a daughter before adolescence kicks in and start preparing them for what’s coming up in adolescence—
— go through the Passport2Purity®. Get away with your son—or a mom can do it with the daughter—and start preparing them for what’s ahead in the area of peer pressure, and relationships, and dating, and how you handle all of that. It’s a good time for a refresher about the birds and the bees too. I mean, that‘s part of what’s going on in that getaway time with a father and a son.
Recently, we’ve created a follow-up to that—that’s for parents of 14- and 15-year olds—where a dad can get away with a son, or a mom with a daughter, and go through what we call Passport2Identity™—where, once again, you’re visiting some of these same themes—but you’re talking with your son / or a mom with a daughter about: “What are you good at? What’s your mission? What did God design you to do for His kingdom?” It’s really a great getaway time. You can find out more about both Passport2Purity and Passport2Identity when you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You can also find out about the new book from Barrett and Jenifer Johnson called The Young Man’s Guide to Awesomeness: How to Guard Your Heart, Get the Girl and Save the World. We’ve got copies of the book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, talking about the Passport2Purity and the Passport2Identity resources, I was just, sitting here, thinking the reason we create resources like this is because we believe that moms and dads, connecting with their kids around important themes—that’s an important part of how we effectively develop godly marriages and families. Our goal, here, at FamilyLife is to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families.
We want to see the culture changed as families are changed.
We appreciate those of you who help extend the reach of this ministry when you make a donation to support FamilyLife Today. Every donation helps us take this message farther—to more people more often—and we’re grateful for your partnership with us in this endeavor. Right now, if you can help with a donation, we’d be happy to send you a copy of Dennis Rainey’s new book, Choosing a Life That Matters. It’s a book all about the important spiritual foundation that should be in place in every life in order for the rest of life to make sense. There are seven choices that we all face that Dennis addresses in this book. Again, we’ll send you a copy when you make a donation to FamilyLife Today, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate to the ministry; or when you mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about your pastor. This is Pastor Appreciation Month, and pastors have a very difficult job. We’re going to talk, tomorrow, about what you can be doing to help encourage, and support, and appreciate your pastor. Paul David Tripp is going to be with us. Hope you can be with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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