Wise Guys You Can Trust
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Boys will be boys, or should they? More than ever, men are living in a confusing world filled with more questions than answers. Sadly, rather than seeking out solutions that are worthy and wise, many opt for the easy way out. The end result is often a trail of bad decisions leading to hurt and heartache seemingly beyond repair.
Author Kent Evans believes that good guidance is all around us in the guys you know – “wise guys” if you will. It could be your neighbor across the street, a relative, or the tough as nails Navy veteran from work. He contends that all you need to do is tap into their invaluable knowledge to find life-entrenching truth.
I recently sat down with Evans to discuss his current book Wise Guys: Unlocking Hidden Wisdom from the Men Around You, why absentee fatherhood is such a big problem, and what is required to become more of the man God has called you to be.
What was the catalyst for you to write Wise Guys?
During my high school years my parents got divorced and I was really ticked off. A counselor told me, “Kent, you sound like you just don’t want to be in the same situations your parents are when you grow up.” And he said, “It sounds like you’re really determined to not end up there.” And I said, “Yes, that’s right, and he said, “Well, your brain can’t handle that. You cannot become the un-something.” And it was a great phrase, and I keyed in on it. He continued, “You can’t be angry at something and become something different.” And I asked, so what’s the answer? And he said, “Well, get around other people who have something that you want and figure out what they have and why they have it. And so this started a journey for me of almost 30 years now of just intentionally getting around guys that have some capacity that I don’t have.
There is a statement attributed to you that says, “Godly men don’t develop by accident. They require intentional investment.” What do you mean by that?
I think a lot of guys have this really fuzzy idea of whom they want to be when they grow up. So, then they find themselves at age 30 or 40 drifting or wondering why they didn’t end up where they intended. Well, if I decide I’m going to go on a trip and then I’m mad I don’t end up in Boston, well, that’s crazy. I’ve got to decide to go to Boston. I need to be intentional. I just think a lot of guys are missing that component, or they think; when I’m 40 I want this kind of marriage. When I’m 50, I want kids to treat me like so, and I think we’ve missed that intentionality piece.
The statistics on fatherless homes are staggering. Sixty-three percent (63%) of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. Ninety percent (90%) of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. This is overwhelming. Why do you think absentee fatherhood is such a big problem in the United States today?
I think that is partly due to the script that we lay out for men when they are 10 to 15, and that is ‘let me tell you what success looks like.’ Success looks like a big car and a fancy house, an NBA contract and being a CEO. We’re not praising or giving credit to the guy who works at a factory for 50 years, stays married to one woman, and raises four kids. We’ve just stopped telling the culture that that guy is doing a good job, and we’ve started telling everybody, no, the guy you want to chase is an NBA superstar, business tycoon, or whoever. They may be great guys, but we’re just casting this vision that guys latch onto that says, ‘Okay, success is outside my house.’ So that’s where they go try to find it, and then inside their house it falls apart.
With that said, what is required to become more of the man God has called you to be?
For the believer it’s a strong knowledge of God’s Word. I was just reading this morning in, “God’s Word is my counselor.” And I think about that phrase all the time, that God’s Word is trying to teach me how to become a dad; because at the end of the day, whether I’ve got biological kids or any kids at all, God’s a father, and deep in His heart is imbedded this desire for men to act like a father. You may or may not be blessed with kids, but there is a fatherhood component to the male dynamic whether you have kids or not.
I’m glad you said that because for me, Wise Guys is essentially a book about mentorship. Why is mentorship so critical in effective fatherhood?
I think it’s our job to go chase the mentor. A lot of folks want to play the victim role and sit back and say, “Nobody mentored me.” Well, how many people did you chase? I think the reason that mentorship is so important is because if you look at how we are Christ followers today because of 11 committed men that Jesus left behind and the Holy Spirit, and His model was to hand it off one generation at a time. I think that’s because God wired it in our hearts to be that way. And so when we engage in a mentor type relationship, whether we’re the mentor or the protégé, I think we’re in a God-like alignment in some context that He really rewards. I think He blesses that alignment.
For so many men, finding a “wise guy” or mentor seems to be like asking them to find the recipe for cold fusion. Why do you think men have difficulty not only finding a mentor but also finding the right mentor?
There are two primary reasons. One is we try to make the wise guy everything. He should be able to teach us everything from how to cook, to love my wife, to raise my children, and to fly fish. We think we’ve got to find one guy who has it all. That’s crazy, right? I could be able to find one guy who could teach me this thing and find a different guy to teach me that thing. And so I think we sometimes try to ascribe too many mentor capabilities to one guy. The second reason we have trouble finding them, honestly, and this sounds cliché, but it’s because we’re not looking. We just think we have it all figured out and we’re good to go, so we don’t go looking.
There are so many valuable nuggets of wisdom in this book that it is hard to focus in on just one. However, if I were to ask you (and I am) what is the number one thing a guy can do to improve himself as a man and father what would it be?
That’s a really tough question to answer, and I like it because it is a tough one. It makes me wrestle with it. I think the answer is to become the kind of guy who does more asking and less telling. The reason I say that is because I am raising teenagers. I’m at a house now with three sons. I think a lot of parents get really hung up when their kids get in the teenage years, because their kids just won’t listen. That’s usually code for, “I’m always telling them what to do and they don’t just do it.” And I just think, man, my son Alex is a self-proclaimed hardhead. He’s a hardhead, but he’s a hardhead for Jesus now. But back when he was eight or ten years old, the jury was out. He would do something foolish and I would say, Alex, stop it, and he would say, “Why?” And I would say, you tell me three reasons why or you don’t eat dinner. And sometimes he ate dinner 15 minutes late. I made him wrestle with the question. I had the answer. I knew why. I had several reasons but I knew that he was not going to just take my answer. He had to figure it out himself. I think as fathers, as men, if we get good at asking questions, doors open up, people respond better, we learn more, and we’re more humble.
After people have read Wise Guys, as an author what is the one thing you want people to get out of reading this book?
I’m glad you asked that and here’s why. I would love it if folks read the book and did not just get the lessons out of the book that I got, because that’s only 10 or 20% of the value. The value should be that when they get to the end of the book; they should be able to write on the back of the cover of the book who are their three, four, or five wise guys. My hope is that a guy reads the book and at the end of it he says to himself, “Gosh, you know, there’s that guy who every time I see him he and his wife seem so happy.” Go ask that guy to have coffee and just say, ‘Man, every time I see you and your wife, you both seem happy. Why is that?” Probably for the next two hours you’re going to get a marriage lesson, and I just hope guys do that, because for me that’s what writing this book was all about.
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