In an increasingly impersonal world, it is easy for individuals to become isolated and distant, even in a crowded room. Largely gone are the days of gathering on a neighbor’s porch, taking a walk with a trusted elder, or spending time in community to gain insights, emulate role models and soak in the accumulated lived wisdom of those who came before.

 

Such connections are in particularly short supply among men as they try to navigate the often-conflicting roles of father, provider, husband and upstanding member of society. With the rise of single-parent households, more boys than ever before are growing up without a consistent positive male role model in the home. Societal pressures and media images add their own brand of stress and pressure on teens and young adult men as they flounder to ascertain who and what they are expected to be.

 

For this year’s Men’s Issue, AY About You reached out to a cross section of Arkansas men to get their best advice for their brethren, the coming generation, and their own sons and grandsons. Their real-world advice tells of the importance of becoming a strong man in a misguided society, what real manhood looks like and what life has taught them about how to achieve it.

 

The individuals included here are not perfect, nor do they pretend to be. They are merely wiser for their life experiences and willing to share what they have learned with those who seek to hear it. May their advice inspire other men to rededicate themselves, break generational cycles, overcome obstacles and become the best versions of themselves.

 

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“Men are depicted in many negative ways in our society, and the value of men has been watered down. When I talk to high school boys, I teach them about five pillars that make up a ‘real man.’ They are to be protectors, providers, leaders, responsible and pursuers of the Lord.

 

Something I would tell dads is wanting to be your kid’s best friend is not the priority. Kids are not to be an equal to their parent. When they are given that authority, it puts them in a position of taking on adult conversations and relationships. Kids should be allowed to be kids. We adults are to be the ones who love them and discipline them. Boundaries are important. Your children look to you to know where the boundaries and expectations are, and they need you to be consistent and confident in your role to show them.

 

We are privileged as men to provide for our families. Providing for them, however, doesn’t mean just financial provision; it means providing an atmosphere for our wives to flourish and where our kids can thrive and realize there is more to life than material success. Kids will remember how involved their dads were when they showed up for activities, the conversations they’ve had and every time they were truly engaged at home.

 

To all husbands and fathers, remember: Being physically present doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in tune with the heartbeat of your family. Do you know what your wife’s day looked like today and how she feels? Do you know what your kids’ hopes and dreams are and what pressures they are facing? It’s so important that we set aside time for our families. Turn off the phones, TVs, computers — all the distractions. Listen, talk, share, play and laugh with your family. They can’t be an afterthought.”

 

Robert Upshaw

Associate Pastor, New Life Church Greater Little Rock,

Ambassador for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Upshaw Ministries

Husband to Leslie

Father to Casey, Courtney, RP, Jhordan, Cally, Alexia and Faith

Grandfather to Kingston, James, Roman and Felix

 

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