Posts tagged building relationships

More than a national championship coach



EDITOR’S NOTE: Well, another college basketball season is in the books. With Duke celebrating the national championship with their win over Wisconsin, it seems like an appropriate time to remember back to a man who was synonymous with national championships. 

Long-time UCLA coach John Wooden was interviewed on the FamilyLife Today® radio broadcast more than a decade ago. For Dennis Rainey, it was more than just an opportunity to interview a basketball legend and a childhood idol. It was also an opportunity to talk to a man with a championship legacy in his personal life.

WoodenNetOne of my heroes growing up was John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood.” He won 10 national championships at UCLA and is considered the greatest basketball coach of all time.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Coach Wooden a few years ago for a series of broadcasts on FamilyLife Today.   The only thing that betrayed his age was a cane that he used to balance himself. Everything else about Coach was sharp and steady. His daughter sat in on the taping of those broadcasts and said later it was one of her favorite interviews because my co-host and I didn’t just “talk to Daddy about basketball.”

Before I get to the essence of that interview, I have to share with you what happened at the end of our time together. Coach Wooden had a way of making you feel like he really liked you … at least that’s how I felt as we wrapped things up. He signed his book and handed it to me. Being a basketball player who played on scholarship at a small junior college team during the “Wooden Era,” I smiled and handed it back to him and said to him, “Coach, you don’t know this about me but I still have the school record in high school when I scored 44 points. Why don’t you just write in the front of the book, ‘Dennis, you could’ve played for me at UCLA!’” He got a sly grin on his face and took the book back.

I watched as he smiled and scratched out a few words and closed the cover. He looked up and handed me the book and said with an even bigger grin, “Dennis, I’m a man of integrity.” After I thanked him and said goodbye I sneaked a peak at what Coach had written to me. 

Thank you Dennis,
Since I never initiated contact for an out-of-state player, why didn’t you contact me?
John Wooden
8/12/2002

After more than 3,000 interviews, my time with Coach remains one of my great favorites.

The story of Joshua Wooden

After John Wooden died earlier this month at the age of 99, a chorus of tributes arose from former players and writers. It’s hard to think of a sports figure more admired.

Few of the tributes mentioned Wooden’s father, Joshua Wooden, and that’s the story I’d like to tell. When you read about Joshua Wooden, you realize that lessons taught during childhood can reverberate far into the future.

Joshua raised four sons on a small Indiana farm in the early part of the twentieth century. Life on a farm was not easy in those days—there was no electricity or running water, and the family had to grow most of what they ate. To keep his boys warm on cold winter nights, Joshua would heat bricks on the family’s potbelly stove, wrap them in blankets, and place them at the foot of their beds.

From the beginning, Joshua knew he was not just raising boys but also building men. The boys could play, but only after they had done their chores for the day. You can imagine that on a farm with no electricity or running water, where the family grew most of what they ate, there was plenty of work for four growing boys to do!

Joshua was a strong man—“strong enough to bend a thick iron bar with his bare hands,” one of his sons wrote—but also gentle. Each night, by the light of a coal-oil lamp, he would read to his family from the Scriptures, and he also read classic books and poetry.

He believed in building character, and continually emphasized the importance of making right choices. Two of his favorite phrases that he taught his sons were:

  • “Never lie, never cheat, and never steal.”
  • “Don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t alibi.”

When his third son, John, graduated from eighth grade in his small country school, Joshua gave him a card and said, “Son, try to live up to this.” On one side was a verse that read:

Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and heaven securely.

On the other side was a seven-point creed that read:

Be true to yourself
Help others
Make friendship a fine art
Drink deeply from good books
Make each day your masterpiece
Build a shelter against a rainy day
Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

John kept that card in his wallet for decades until it fell apart. Eighty years after receiving it, he still knew the words by heart.

Joshua lost his farm during the Depression and wasn’t able to pay for his sons’ college education. But all four of them graduated from college with English degrees. Every son but John became a school administrator. John became a teacher of another sort: a basketball coach.

One of the reasons I would have liked playing for Coach Wooden was that he was more than a national championship coach. He was a teacher of character. He built men, not just players. He was a friend and mentor to his players. He called them to step up.

He developed what he called the “Pyramid of Success,” which he taught his players every year. Looking at this pyramid today, with its building blocks of industriousness, enthusiasm, friendship, cooperation, loyalty, etc., you can’t help but realize that this is a man whose entire outlook on life came from the influence of his father.

Lifelong lessons

John Wooden’s desire to influence others remained strong for another 35 years after he retired in 1975. Many of his former players called him regularly to seek his advice on everything from raising children to coaching to battling cancer.

One of those players, John Vallely, recently said, “The interesting thing about playing for Coach was not necessarily the championships, but what he taught us about living life was far more important. I just recall the importance of the Pyramid of Success and the characteristics. What he taught us were lifelong lessons. So much of what he was teaching really had a parable of how you live your life.”

Let me close with one more choice verse Joshua gave to John, this time when the Coach’s son was born in 1936:

A careful man I must be;
A little fellow follows me.
I know I dare not go astray;
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.
He thinks that I am good and fine;
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see;
This little chap who follows me.
I must be careful as I go;
Through summer sun and winter snow.
Because I am building, for the years to be;
This little chap who follows me.

I can picture the Wooden household on those cold Indiana nights, when Joshua would read from the Bible to his family. He had no idea what influence he would have far beyond his death—all he knew was that he was raising sons to become men.

What a father.  What a son.  What a legacy.

Copyright © 2010 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Dennis Rainey’s post “More than a national championship coach” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“True Success: A Personal Visit with John Wooden” is a FamilyLife Today interview with the Wizard of Westwood.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistStepping Up’s John Majors is “Leaving a Legacy to Pass On to His Children.” If you don’t have a legacy to pass on, start one.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass along character to your sons. Listen to Bill Bennett talk about “The Book of Man” on FamilyLife Today.

Avoid being a social media casualty



social media casualtyDid you know that a third of all divorce filings contain the word “Facebook”?

That’s according to a recently-released report by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. But before you go telling all your friends that “a third of all marriages end because of Facebook,” recognize what the report really says.

The truth is that Facebook is mentioned in one-third of divorce filings. A lot of those filing papers only make reference to an online relationship. Some husbands or wives have even declared their intention to break up through Facebook, email, or Instagram. But a great number of the divorce papers simply use Facebook messages or wall posts to make a case for divorce by pointing out a spouse’s uncivil behavior or poor parenting skills.

The widespread use of electronic media today makes it almost certain that Facebook and Instagram could be used by lawyers to build a legal web to snare an uncommitted spouse. And that’s on the rise. Consider that three years ago, 20 percent of divorce filings contained the word “Facebook.” Whatever the case, social media is definitely playing an increasing role in families and family breakup.

More important than that, I believe the level of social media engagement in our culture today is evidence that we’re putting a lot of time into passing interactions with others and not enough time in deep relationship-building with a spouse.

Recently I saw a comment on one of FamilyLife’s Facebook pages by a husband who took a little passing snipe at his wife for everyone to see. In all fairness, he was probably reaching out for help in an area of frustration in his marriage. But those kinds of comments, when read by a wife, often make the problem worse by feeding a sense of embitterment or hurt.

Here are some principles that may help keep social media interactions from becoming words in a divorce filing.

1. Keep everything in the open.  If you don’t have a joint husband/wife account (on Facebook for example) make sure what you say online is nothing you couldn’t say with your wife standing there beside you. Before messaging, ask yourself, “Is this something I wouldn’t mind my wife seeing?” You may even consider letting your wife read it first. It’s good for accountability, and it’s a good way to double-check that what you’ve written isn’t miscommunicating what you meant.

2. Say what you need to say … and say it to the right person.  Rather than gripe about a marital problem on social media, talk directly with your wife. If you think it might hurt her feelings or get you in hot water, think of a way you can soften the blow when you raise the issue.  In most cases, the following approach is helpful: “I know you care about me, and I know you probably didn’t think about it, but I feel (insert your emotion) when you (insert the offense). I don’t want problems to build that will isolate us. Can we work through this together?” This works for wives, too.

3. Use social media to build each other up.  It’s never been easier than it is right now to send notes to each other for no reason at all, or to brag about your wife in front of others.  Social media makes it easy to connect with each other while you’re apart during the day, and that will keep a relationship from drifting.  Just make sure that what you say online is reinforced by what you say and do when you see each other that night. Remember, your wife is always looking for proof that she’s important to you. That gives her a lot of security.

4. When you’re together, come together.  It’s very easy, even when you’re home, to drift to your own individual social media corners. By the end of the evening, you realize that you’ve hardly spoken a word. This happens with father-child relationships, too. Set your personal devices aside, and plan some face time (the real thing, not the Apple feature.)

Above all else, remember these two driving principles of building and maintaining a relationship:

  • The quality of your relationship depends on the amount each of you invest in it.
  • If you aren’t intentionally growing toward oneness, you’re automatically drifting toward isolation.

Don’t let your marriage become a social media casualty. Be intentional about strengthening your marriage and avoiding the things that could potentially destroy it.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Avoid Being a Social Media Casualty” by Scott Williams on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“The Unmasking of an Online Affair” tells the story of one couple who came back from emotional infidelity.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Dave Boehi’s 3-part series “Are We Replacing Conversation with Connectivity” on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this post and these articles with your wife and work together to keep social media under control.

How should a single man prepare himself for marriage? (part 2)



EDITOR’S NOTE: In the previous post, we looked at how a man should take the initiative in developing a relationship with a potential future mate, and how he should be preparing himself morally and financially for that relationship. This post looks at the spiritual and relational preparations for marriage and family life.

A man should prepare himself spiritually.

Finding myself single again after being married for over eighteen years, I confronted a question that we must all wrestle with in the face of any loss: Is God enough for me? Until we can answer in the affirmative, we would be wise to suspend seeking another relationship.

Loneliness is difficult, but it is not a sufficient reason to pursue a partner. Loneliness in its rawest form can make us very self-centered. Therefore any relationship we enter into out of sheer loneliness holds only ourselves, or mostly ourselves, at the center. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we seek to medicate our wound through the presence of another person. This is neither fair to them nor healthy for us.

Remember men, we are to be Christ-like. That means we are not seeking to be loved but to love. Love that is self-centered is really not love at all. Better to come to grips with this now and have God form genuine love in our hearts than to enter into a relationship that hurts both individuals and misrepresents Christ.

So how does a man prepare himself spiritually? By seeking God with all his heart. To do this, he must embrace his loneliness, grief, disappointment, hurt—any and all circumstances that have brought him to this place of aloneness. Embracing the hurt ushers in the comfort, and comfort is delivered by God Himself.

Spend more time in prayer. Spend more time studying the Bible. Read Christian literature that instructs and edifies. Attend Bible study or discussion groups. Involve yourself in service. Step out of the world of self-pity and into a life that is marked by Kingdom purposes and activities. Give more than you take. Understand that real men are leaders and real leaders are servants.

Spiritual development also involves the building of a prayer life. Speaking of which, it is surprising how few men actually ask God for a wife. Of all things, why would we leave this matter off our prayer list? Perhaps some would argue that it is unspiritual to pray about such a thing, that if God intends us to be married we should disengage from the process and allow Him to override our neutrality. Being neutral is fine if it means surrender and waiting by faith on God’s answer (which, by the way, first demands that a request be made), but it is not fine if it implies apathy or cowardice.

A man should prepare himself relationally.

Beware of two relationship-killers: over-aggression and passivity. In the past the former was the likelier culprit; these days however, the latter seems more common. When it comes to male-female friendships, which is where any meaningful relationship begins, men are increasingly stolid.

What is making men so passive?

Some of this is no doubt due to personal hang-ups or bad experiences. But much of it is, in my opinion, the result of two widespread phenomena. First, the past few generations have provided fewer and fewer positive examples of what a Christian marriage can be. Second, manhood has been under siege. Women have been encouraged to be stronger, to stand up for themselves and revolt against male domination. In some instances this may have been both appropriate and necessary. However, as a cultural wave, it has created a harmful undertow: the erosion of manhood.

Regardless the reasons, it is time for men to become manly again. It’s fine to be deliberate, but not passive. It’s good to be cautious, but not cowardly. Dating is risky business, and I’m not advocating a reckless abandonment to our feelings. I am saying, however, that Christian men need to be motivated toward building proper relationships with Christian women. This is the design and intent of God. Clearly marriage is part of His will for most men and women. Do not rush into it, but do not hide from it either.

There is a time to involve trusted members of the body of Christ in your personal business, and your dating life should be one of those occasions. Connect with some married couples whom you respect, and ask them to pray with you about this matter. If you are interested in a certain lady, ask them to pray about whether you should initiate contact with her. Get their counsel on how to proceed, and be open to their cautions.

Though I’ve listed only four, you may discover other areas of your life that need attention. Perhaps you need to work on your physical condition (for the sake of health, not vanity). Perhaps you’ve made ministry commitments that you’ve not kept (now would be the time to take that mission trip). Perhaps there are interpersonal rifts that you need to mend or personal disciplines you need to establish. Anything that stands in the way of your wholehearted devotion to Christ also obstructs your candidacy for relational intimacy. Wisdom says: Deal with these matters sooner rather than later.

The right man on the right journey.

In Proverbs 18:22 we’re told, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” The word “finds” can be translated “to come upon, meet.” The biblical language here describes a discovery made while on a journey. In other words, the man was not on a hunting expedition, intent on finding a wife, trapping her, and dragging her home. Rather, while on a purposeful journey he met her, recognized that she was a godsend, and won her heart.

As we men journey through life, seeking God and going about the tasks He has given us with diligence and faithfulness, it is within reason to believe that God will bring the right woman across our path. Let us make sure, then, that we are on the right journey. And let us not be afraid when we discover the “good thing” that God sends our way.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read the second of a two-part post, “How should a single man prepare himself for marriage” by Tim Grissom.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistIs dating preparation for marriage or just meeting the needs of the moment? Listen to the broadcast “Dating Friendships.”

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHow are your preparing spiritually for marriage? How about “Developing a spiritual workout plan”?

STEPPass - 10-point checklistWhether married or single, you could benefit from the Stepping Up video series. How about leading one?

A character cheat sheet



This blog post originally appeared in Noah Gets a Nailgun.

CarverEdwardsWooden

We talk often on this blog about leaving a legacy. Honestly, that can feel pretty daunting, esoteric, and enigmatic. And if that isn’t clear enough, you might feel obfuscated by such pleonastic redundancies.

No doubt “Leaving a Legacy” is a big task. But where does one start? Leaving a legacy is simply the daily living out of your core convictions. More than likely, the people you admire were good at living out what they believed, in very small ways, day after day, moment by moment. They were consistent, stable, and people of integrity. They could be counted on to do the right thing at the right moment.

But here is the challenge of living that way: To live out your core convictions, you have to know your core convictions. Steven Covey says you have to “begin with the end in mind.” He isn’t talking about reserving funeral plots and picking out caskets, but knowing where you want to go before you leave the driveway. Most men struggle to live consistently because they have a moving target. They are not even sure who they want to be. So you have to start by identifying these convictions and dwelling on them regularly. And since nothing is manlier than a solid shortcut, after identifying your core convictions, your operating principles for life, you should jot these down on a 3×5 card.

Ok, I already hear the objections. “Hey … if they are ‘core convictions’ shouldn’t you be able to remember them without writing them down?” Good word. In theory they should always be at the front of your mind, but in reality, we often behave differently than we know we should. Usually more base interests like food, sex, sports, and Shiny Objects With Flashing Buttons move to the front of my mind, pushing aside all other thought or reason. In these moments, a short list serves as a great reminder of what I have convinced myself of in a saner moment. Because we all suffer from temporary insanity at times, having a crib sheet will help you through those character tests.

Not only is this decidedly manly, but a few prominent manly men have led the way with their examples.

Carver’s 8 Cardinal Virtues

Famous American scientist, botanist, educator, inventor, former slave, and all around renaissance man (dubbed the “Black Leonardo” by Time Magazine) George Washington Carver had his own list, what he called his “8 Cardinal Virtues”:

  1. Be clean both inside and outside.
  2. Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  3. Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  4. Win without bragging.
  5. Always be considerate of women, children and old people.
  6. Be too brave to lie.
  7. Be too generous to cheat.
  8. Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.
John Wooden’s 7 Point Creed

The famous basketball coach from UCLA, the “Wizard of Westwood” (anyone with a nickname involving the word “wizard” must be manly) holds the record for most NCAA championships by any coach by a long shot (10 championships in 12 years, 7 of those in a row). Wooden was given a seven point creed to follow by his father. Seven points and seven championships in a row. Coincidence? I think not.

On one side of the card was a poem from Henry Van Dyke, and on the other side was the list his father developed. First the poem:

Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his life more true:
To think without confusion clearly,
To love his fellow man sincerely,
To act from honest motives purely,
To trust in God and heaven securely.

On the other side was the seven-point creed:

Be true to yourself.
Help others.
Make friendship a fine art.
Drink deeply from good books.
Make each day your masterpiece.
Build a shelter against a rainy day.
Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.

Even into his 90’s, Wooden could rattle off both sides of the card from memory. No doubt these items had a profound influence on shaping his character and life.

What was the power in these lists? They were short. Which means memorable. Yes, some over achievers like Jonathan Edwards went for the long ball, weighing in with a whopping 70 resolutions, but there is definitely power in brevity.

So what is your list of “Core Convictions” or “Cardinal Virtues?”

If you had to write down what guides you on the back of a 3×5 card, what would be your list? We’d love to see your list – leave it in the comments below. Try to keep it under eight. Shoot for seven if you coach basketball. Just in case.

And consider writing these down and handing them over to your kids on their 16th birthday or before. You’re giving them a character cheat sheet, because in this case, cheaters really do win.

Parenting and anger



This blog post originally appeared in Noah Gets a Nailgun.

A few weeks back I was volunteering at my kid’s school as part of the Watch Dog program. I was in the cafeteria reading with four 1st graders when I heard the assistant principal down the hall ripping apart this seven-year-old girl. I have no idea what the girl had done but whatever it was, it must have been really bad. I’m pretty sure I would have either cried or wet my pants had the assistant principal talked to me like that and I’m 37.

Parenting and anger
parenting and anger

“Kids, if you don’t obey so I can have some peace and quiet, someone’s fixin’ to get this dropped on them.”

The very next day I was reading in James where he says in 1:20, “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” The verse came alive in several new ways when I read it. First, when I get angry and yell at my kids, it is not going to produce in them a heart that wants to be righteous. My anger might cause them to obey what I’m wanting done but it’s not addressing the heart. Their disobedience is the symptom of something deeper and my anger is only addressing the symptom, not the root. In order to get to their hearts, I need to approach it in love, kindness, and care for them. Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. We would do well to follow the same example.

Another nugget I took from this is that while the girl might behave now, she’s not doing it out of respect or love for her authorities but rather out of fear. And because it’s being done out of fear, she will not have any type of growing relationship with that person. The same is true for us. If our kids only obey because they fear us, we won’t have the relationship with them that they need or that we want.

The way I see it, as our kids get older, our role in their lives changes. If done right, as your child gets into her teen years, you should become more of a mentor to her. And from there, that should morph into a friendship, and you will become someone she can seek counsel from. If we’ve not built the relationship with our kids from an early age on, this isn’t going to happen. We destroy the foundation of the friendship when we yell and get angry at our kids. Think about it for a second, if a buddy of yours is constantly getting mad and screaming at you, how long are you going to stay his friend?

I personally need to do a better job with how I talk to my kids when I get upset at them. I need to address the heart behind their actions. I need to think long term about how I’m building (or destroying) the foundations of my relationship with each of my kids. I also need to check my heart and see where my anger is coming from. James again comes through for us in his first two verses of chapter 4:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

What part of my attitude is because I’m not getting what I want? I want my kids to go to bed so I can watch TV so I yell at them to go lay down. Or I’m mad because I wanted to go do something on a Saturday but I instead need to be home watching them. My anger is because I’m not getting what I want.

I don’t doubt that what I saw at the school was what I look like when I get mad at my kids. It was helpful to see what my anger looks like toward them and I know I can take from that experience to become a better dad, and I hope you can too.

Todd NagelTodd Nagel is a 36-year-old man who has been a husband to Sarah for 11 years and a dad to four kids, two girls and two boys, ages 9 – 3. He loves the outdoors and especially likes to hike, mountain bike, kayak, and golf, but doesn’t have a ton of time or money to do much of those things (see info about having a wife and four kids). Todd has been with a ministry called Cru for 14 years and has a desire to see men grow spiritually and lead their families well.

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