It's the fourth week in January … Do you know where your New Year's resolutions are?
A recent survey of adults in Britain found that three-quarters of those surveyed gave up on their New Year's resolutions after just nine days. Even if we Americans manage to hang in a little longer, it's not likely that most of us will make it through the month. It seems the reason so many of us quit our resolutions is also the solution: our behavior doesn't change until we develop the character that drives those changes.
Scouting the landscape of America and its communities demonstrates that many of today's social ills can be traced back to a crisis of identity and character among men. Our prisons are overcrowded and legions of grown men are on a costly detour of perpetual adolescence. Too many children suffer from a malady called lack-a-daddy, whether their dad is unmarried to their mom or missing from their lives. Too many teenaged girls are left with grownup problems after being used and abused by older men. Or just witness the men who fail to cherish, protect and be faithful to their wives or who put their work, hobbies or entertainment above their kids.
These problems aren't a lack of resolve, but of identity, purpose and focus.
As we kick off a new year, millions of us are focused on who will win the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl. But, the more important focus should be on how we will develop our character as men, and become who our families need us to be. Vital to Super Bowl success is commitment, humility, and persevering for the good of the team. These same traits are needed to be champions in our own lives.
From my decade in the NFL and two more decades raising four sons, I've learned that a man's identity and character are best developed in the company of other men. Character and identity are not picked up from TV, movies or other aspects of our individualistic and appearance-driven culture. They develop when dads and grandfathers spend time with sons, sharing stories and teaching them. They grow when mentors come alongside guys whose dads were either not around or not engaged. They stick when men hold each other accountable as they team up to become good men, mentors, and even heroes, who love and protect others in courageous ways.
Support teams are keys to success, in football as well as resolutions. We need men of strong character to show the way, with honesty, humor and encouragement. That is what Stepping Up is all about. Men getting together in small groups, sometimes in larger groups, to spend a day game-planning for courageous manhood. Usually it leads to forming small groups and mentoring relationships that allow men to develop into strong men of godly character.
On Saturday, Feb. 1, in church events and small groups nationwide, Stepping Up Super Saturday will challenge men in any field of work and every stage of life to become strong, effective leaders in their homes and workplaces. Leaders including Dennis Rainey, Tony Dungy, Robert Lewis, Bill Bennett and others, through video vignettes provide lessons on courage, character, love, and leadership and teach the values of resiliency, humility and sacrifice.
Jesus is the ultimate model for Stepping Up and for all of us men. He perfectly lived out His identity and purpose. He called other men close to himself and trained and mentored them to be men with a mission: a mission to carry love and truth to a needy world. God has the blueprints for manhood in his Word. He has the power for manhood in His person.
Make 2014 the year you step up to become the man of quality character God has called you to be. Get equipped to be a man who is willing to admit mistakes, able to apologize, clear about priorities, and able to love and defend those who matter most to him. You don't need to wait for the turn of the next New Year to make a resolution to change your life. Resolve to be better. Christian men, it's time to step up ... together.