Personal Growth

The Journey of Brokenness

“Brokenness is not manly.” – A lie

Our culture has a lot of conflicting ideas about how men should do relationships. Marriage, sex, and fatherhood in particular. Conservatives have a few ideas and liberals have different ideas. Religious people have a few ideas and nonreligious people have different ideas. Sports culture has ideas. Military culture has ideas. Business culture, blue-collar culture… they all have different ideas about what it means to be a man and how men should function in relationships. Every sub-culture in our culture claims to have “the key” to manhood and relationships. They all have keys. But not all those keys unlock doors you’d want to walk through.

The journey of brokenness is not about the right door
Which door is the right door?

This leaves men feeling confused. Maybe even lied to. Lied to about who you’re supposed to be as a man… as a husband… as a father… as a citizen. When you feel confused and lied to, you end up stuck in a place of powerlessness.

Empowering men is not about an overreaction to feminism. It is about helping men clear away the clutter and figure out the truth they can take action on. It is not a claim that I have the key. It is helping you find the keys to the doors you want to walk through. In your marriage… parenting… work… and community.

Being empowered as a man doesn’t fix everything because it is not a destination. It’s a journey. When you don’t have to be fixed, it becomes okay to be broken. It becomes okay to be a work in progress. You might not look stronger, but you feel stronger. Brokenness is a position of strength, not weakness.

22 Suicides in 3 Months. Here's one thing YOU can do!

As you approach more of life from a position of brokenness, you come to know that you are not meant to do life alone. You gain support. Support brings confidence, and confidence brings yet more strength. “A chord of three strands is not easily broken” becomes more than a nice saying. It becomes something you’ve lived and felt in the support of other broken men. This is the Brotherhood of the Broken.

As you live in and experience brotherhood, bearing the Image of God becomes an experience. Brokenness, brotherhood, and image bearing ripples into other relationships. Your brokenness strengthens your marriage. Your brokenness strengthens your family. Your brokenness strengthens your community. If this sounds like blue sky, sunny day optimism, it’s not. It is painful. Brokenness is being able to “embrace the suck” without shameful thoughts or behaviors. Living in brokenness is a position of strength because in brokenness we do not avoid pain, we accept it.

By accepting pain, we become stronger. We do less harm to those we love. By living in brokenness, we grow closer to those we love.

Brokenness is a journey.

  • From shameful thoughts and behaviors to kindness to self and others.
  • From confusion to wisdom.
  • From loneliness and hostility to rich relationships.

A broken man becomes kinder, wiser, and richer.

If you feel confused or lied to about manhood, marriage, parenting, sex, pornography, work, faith, good citizenship, then perhaps you are ready to start your journey.

Marriage Personal Growth

The most important team in your life

Around New Years this year I wrote an article to the effect of the unified husband and wife achieve more. People who share common goals have a greater likelihood of achieving their goals. Dave Ramsey, in his book EntreLeadership, uses a metaphor to show the synergy of working in teams. I think the number one team that anybody should focus on is their marriage.

The metaphor is the Belgian Draft horse; it’s one of the largest and strongest horses in the world. A Belgian Draft horse can pull by itself about 8,000 pounds. If you pair that horse in a team with a horse that is a stranger they can pull between 20 and 24,000 pounds. But if two horses are raised together and trained together they can pull 30 to 32,000 pounds.

So two horses that are strangers to each other can pull roughly three times as much as just one horse. Two horses that know each other can pull almost four times as much as one horse. Dave Ramsey talks about that as synergy.

I think in a marriage that synergistic effect is a function of the level of intimacy. Intimacy is what I spoke about in the last video and why I wanted to explain that first.

The more that you have:

  1. a shared vision,
  2. a shared set of goals,
  3. a shared set of values,
  4. and then sex on top of it,

… the greater things that you will do as a couple

The greater you will function as a marriage. Inside the home, outside the home, with your kids, at work, with your friends, wherever. Intimacy is a force multiplier in marriage.

Marriage Personal Growth

4 Kinds of Love vs. 4 Horsemen

4 loves vs. 4 horsemen. 2 sides of a coin? @Danieltstephens

An interesting idea struck me a few weeks ago. Now I finally get to write about it.

There are 4 Greek words in the New Testament that all get translated into English as “love.” But they each mean something different. Several times in the last few weeks I have told clients that a healthy marriage must include all four types of love.

John Gottman, a well known researcher on marriage, has an idea that there are “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” that are very strong predictors of divorce. So the idea struck me, what if each type of love is just one side of the coin, and each horseman is the other side?

I don’t mean one coin, I mean four coins. What if the utter absence of one type of love is indicated by one specific horseman? What if the utter absence of one horseman is indicated by one specific type of love.

I have an idea of how they might pair up, but I’m not sure. So I thought it might be fun to do a survey of sorts. I’ll briefly explain each type of love and each horseman, then I’d like you to tell me how you think they pair up by filling out the survey. Once enough people have responded to the survey (at least 100), I will publish the results via email. I’ll publish the results on the blog once 250, 500, and 750 people have responded. And I’ll publish a small ebook once 1,000 people have responded.

Four Loves in the Biblical World

In order to keep this brief, I won’t be going into a ton of detail. For more on this topic, check out Truth or Tradition’s article.

Agape – Unconditional Love

Agape is God’s unconditional love for us. He loved us while we were yet sinners, and died for us – with this sort of love.

When Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself, he said to “agapeseis” your neighbor as yourself. This is the way that we are supposed to interact with everyone.

In marriage, agape love means to accept your spouse’s flaws. This allows your spouse’s change and growth to be between them and God, not dictated by you.

Agape love is most deeply demonstrated when you show compassion to someone else, and most deeply felt when you are on the receiving end of that compassion.

Phileo – Brotherly Love

Philadelphia is the “city of brotherly love,” right? But “brotherly love” is not necessarily based on a blood relationship, it also speaks of very close friendship.

In marriage, and in any romantic relationship in general, phileo should describe the first phase of the relationship. That time when you are drawn to each other. Over the long term, it is the sense of warmth and closeness between you.

Phileo love is most deeply demonstrated (and felt) when you spend emotionally present face to face time with someone.

Storge – Loyal, Familial Love

Storge love is not necessarily characterized by closeness. But it is certainly characterized by commitment.

In marriage, storge love is to stick it out through the hard times and dry spells that occur in every relationship.

Storge love is most deeply demonstrated by unwavering loyalty, and most deeply felt by being supported through hard times.

Eros – Passionate Love

Eros is most closely related to erotic or sexual love. But it is not necessarily limited to sexual expression. I prefer to characterize it as passionate love. Good sex is undoubtedly passionate. But so is the anger you feel when you are protecting someone you love. So is the pride you feel when someone you love achieves a major goal or milestone in their life.

In marriage, eros happens during the initial infatuation (even if there is no sex), on the wedding day (certainly on the wedding night), when children are born, etc.

It is important to remember that eros love is episodic, it is not enduring.

Eros love is most deeply demonstrated and felt any time that your intense emotions draw you closer to another. Eros is also demonstrated and felt whenever you do something that illustrates and illuminates the underlying phileo, agape, or storge loves.

Marriage needs all four

You’ll have a great honeymoon with only phileo and eros. But you won’t last.

Your marriage will last forever with only agape and storge. But you’ll be bored out of your mind.

Phileo, agape, storge, and eros (best in that specific order) are all needed for a lasting, happy marriage.

Gottman’s Four Horsemen

Gottman has an entire series of articles and books on this topic. If you want to know more about this concept, be sure to check out those resources.

I won’t go into as much detail on the horsemen as I did on the types of love. I think these are easier to personalize and understand than the different types of love.


Criticism is shaming or blaming. It is attacking your spouse’s personality or character by using words like “always” or “never.” Often, but not always, a criticizing question starts with the word “why?”


Stonewalling is withdrawal from the relationship. It is the silent treatment. It is one-word responses. It is walking away to “cool off” but never returning to the subject.


Contempt is bullying, name calling, and degrading. An attitude of contempt assumes superiority over the other person.


Defensiveness is whining about fairness, cross talking, or excuse making. It might be minimizing the other person’s position on an issue. It might be yes-butting, where you sound like you agree with them but really disagree.

The Survey

If you want to see the results of this survey, I need you to do two things:

  1. Fill out the survey for yourself (should take less than 5 minutes, there are no wrong answers)
  2. Share it with your friends via social media or email

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The Bonus

How is your relationship doing? Download the free quiz by clicking the button below to find out.

Click Here to get your quiz

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Leadership Marriage Parenting Personal Growth

Loving Husbands are Encouraging Fathers

Since this Sunday is Father’s Day, I thought I would share a recent homework assignment – a sermon written on the issue of domestic violence. One of the first and most important places to apply your leadership skills is as a husband and father. One of the ways that some men go wrong in their leadership of the home is to become violent or harsh toward their family.

Don’t be one of those men.

Loving Husbands are Encouraging Fathers. @DanielTStephens

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18–21)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 6:1-4)

General observations

Wives and children are told what to do, submit and obey. Only husbands and Fathers are told what not to do (don’t be harsh or provoking). What the wives and children are told to do gives men a lot of power. What husbands and fathers are told not to do is to abuse that power, giving wives and children some biblical protection. The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

Biblical Love – The Husband’s Initiative

Let’s start by examining love. The Greek word used is “agape.” That is God’s love for us. It is unconditional, self-sacrificial love. Men, how are you supposed to love your wives and children? As Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her. Now, don’t be stupid or cutesy about this. A lot of dirt bag husbands and fathers can say and genuinely mean that they would take a bullet for their wives or kids. They have this inconsistent idea of protection that’s more like an older sibling than a Godly husband or father. Only they can hurt they wife, only they can hurt their kids, but no one else can. This objectifies people and makes them nothing more than a possession.

This is not about how we die for our wives or kids, it’s about how we live with them.

This sacrifice is not limited to something that might kill us, but things that make us uncomfortable. We need to be willing to sacrifice our comfort for the good of our wives and kids. If we’re doing that like Christ does it for us, then we’re doing it on an ongoing basis, and not based on whether or not they deserve it. Jesus doesn’t love us only if we’re good, he loves us even when we’re bad. He died for us even while we were actively sinning (Romans 5:8). So we need to love sacrificially even when our wives and kids don’t deserve it.

In this whole process of love and submission, love is the igniter, the starter. And it is specifically the man’s responsibility. Expecting your wife to submit or your kids to obey without loving them is like expecting your car to run without the key in the ignition. Just as “We love because [Christ] first loved us” (1 John 4:19), so wives submit and children obey because their husbands and fathers loved them first.

So that’s what you do. Here’s what to expect.

Biblical Submission (NOT Subjugation) – A Wife’s Response

Do not expect subjugation or obligation. Despotic kings and dictators get subjugation and obligation. Their subjects oblige them in behavior only. Their subjects do not submit or obey as a condition of their hearts.

Submission and obedience are voluntary. They are not the same as subjugation. When Jesus was a boy traveling to the temple with his parents, on the way back He initially stayed behind and freaked his parents out because they thought He was missing. When they found him and He went home with them, Luke 2:51 says, “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.” If Jesus the Messiah submits to his human parents, what does that say about the idea submission makes the submitter inferior?

So what does biblical submission look like. It is “as is fitting in the Lord.” One commentator says this phrase “points to the time of their entrance upon the Christian life.” [i] So, as submission to Christ is fitting for Christians (and not for non Christians), so submission to husbands is fitting for loved wives (and not for unloved wives). Another commentator says “Wives have rights and privileges, but recognition of the husband’s leadership is essential to a well-ordered home, only the assumption is that the husband has a head and a wise one.” [ii] Submission only works if the husband is loving, wise, and sacrificial in the way that he exercises his authority. Any man that would use this scripture to spiritually beat his wife into subjugation is not loving, he is abusive. Because he is not loving, it is not fitting for his wife to submit herself to him.

Another qualifier for what submission looks like is that it is “as to the Lord.” Just as a man’s love is supposed to be Christ like, so a woman’s submission is supposed to be like her husband’s submission to the Lord. Any man who wants his wife to follow him willingly had better be submitting his life to Christ. If he’s not, then he has no right to expect any submission from her. Remember we believe in justification through faith alone, not in justification through works. Submission in behavior only is not submission, it is subjugation. Submission that is heart deep is submission that comes as a result of the husband’s love in exactly the same way that our faith comes as a result of God’s love.

Women, is this what you have heard about submission? Or have you been taught about subjugation but heard it called “submission.” If so, let me apologize on the behalf of men and pastor’s who have hurt you and done a lousy job of helping you to understand scripture.

When your husband loves you and you submit to him in your heart, not just in your behavior, you make it easier for him to love you. I’m not a Greek scholar, so my technical understanding of this may need correction from someone with better Greek skills than me. The Greek word for submit is in the middle tense. Which means the person who is doing the submitting has an impact on both themselves and on the person their submitting to. When your husband “turns the ignition” by loving you like Christ loves you, you keep the engine running by keeping the spark plugs firing.

Men: no ignition, no spark. No spark, no running engine. If the engine aint runnin, you aint drivin. You only get to steer the relationship when you love your wife. Love is no matter what and submission is optional (but strongly recommended). Too often, we get it the other way around. When we do, it gets really easy for the man to become harsh with his wife. The exact thing that Paul says not to do.

Harsh Bitterness – a Father’s Folly

I want to examine this word “harsh.” In some translations it’s don’t be bitter. The form of the Greek word here is passive. What that means is that all it takes is complacency and we’ll fall into this thing that we’re not supposed to do. Just as it takes ongoing effort and discipline to love our families like Christ loves them, it takes ongoing effort and discipline to NOT be bitter, harsh, or provoking.

When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew to Greek, the same Greek word was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to intense, fuming, boiling anger directed at a specific person. This gives the idea of a man ready to explode, a man full of anger.

Here’s what Jesus says about anger. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21–22)

What does this say about a man who actually explodes?

What does this say about a man who allows himself to hold on to anger, bitterness, or unforgiveness about his wife’s flaws or things he’s given up for her?

Biblical Obedience

What does obedience look like? “…in everything” and “in the Lord.” Remember, the underlying assumption is that your parents love you. One commentator said, “This is the hard part for the child, not occasional obedience, but continual. Surely a Christian father or mother will not make unreasonable or unjust demands of the child.” [iii]

In marriage, there is a distinction between the husband and the wife. The man’s job is to love the woman no matter what, and the woman’s job is to submit as long as he loves her. With regard to the kids, there is no distinction between boys and girls and obedience. Obedience applies to boys just as much as it does to girls, there is no male privilege in scripture. I think it’s interesting to compare kids with wives on this note. This is just my observation, I can’t claim that this is what scripture is saying: it’s more obvious when kids are not obedient than when a wife is not submissive, but both are indicators of an unloving husband and father.

I hope you notice how much burden and responsibility I am putting on the man. I think the pattern for a long time has to put the burden on the woman and to let the man skate. If we’re looking closely at scripture and keeping context in mind, that’s clearly wrong.

Provocation Impairs Obedience

Paul started by talking about the relationship between the parents before he moved on to the kids. Parents are more honorable when they love and submit to one another than when they are provoking and harsh to one another. Expecting obedience from your children when there is poison in your marriage is like expecting your car to run with no gas in it.

Just as husbands are not to be harsh with their wives, so they are not to be provoking toward their kids. The ideas are similar, but there are a few differences. The reason Paul gives not to provoke your kids is “lest they become discouraged.” Don’t provoke your kids, so that they won’t be discouraged, disheartened, or depressed. In other words, don’t shame your kids.

I’ve been talking about the love and submission between husbands and wives, and this issue of shame is one of the things that can seriously derail biblical love and submission. Nothing predisposes men to be abusive more than a shameful childhood, especially when the source of that shame is their father. Nothing predisposes women to be abused more than a shameful childhood, especially when the source of that shame is their father.

Who is more bitter and harsh than someone who has, as a pattern of life, been discouraged, disheartened, and depressed?

Rather than shaming your kids, encourage them. Notice them as individuals. As often as possible, notice the good things that they put their energy into. “What gets noticed gets repeated” – Dave Wenzel. As often as possible, let your kids judge the quality of the results they produce. As often as possible, ask them what they’ll do differently next time instead of telling them what to do differently next time.

In a loving home, the wife is loved, safe, and what she feels, thinks, needs, wants is considered valuable, and of high priority. She is not subjugated. In a loving home, children are encouraged and built up. They are not shamed.

In a loving home, husbands and fathers are loving, encouraging, trusted, and honored.

[i] Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 507). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

[ii] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Col 3:18-21). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

[iii] Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Col 3:20). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

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