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A Courageous Code?

In preparing for this blog, I received the blessings of a few men with a single theme:  courage!  Eric Metaxas, the New York times best-selling author of Bonhoeffer, describes courage as “strength in the service of others”  In his recent book, 7 Men, he details the extraordinary lives of men who embodied this definition.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.  Billy Graham has been quoted as saying, “courage is contagious”.   This week, the youth minister at Canterbury sent a letter to many in the church with concern for the youth in our community.   As men of faith, we need a renewed commitment to courageous behavior to protect our marriages, to guard our children and to strengthen our belief in God.

In recent days, the response to the Wells report on the bullying activities described in the Incognito/Martin case involving the Miami Dolphins has inspired many to speak out on the issue.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article written by Mark Schlereth, NFL analyst with ESPN. The article is based on his personal experience with the understanding and the application of the unspoken “code” in the locker room of a team in the NFL.

Joe Gibbs was the head coach, and he set the culture of our locker room from the very first meeting of the year. As a rookie, I had a vision of what my first NFL meeting would be like. I was expecting fire and brimstone, some real Football 101, but what I got was the truth from a quiet, regal man.

“Welcome to the 1989 season, men,” he said. “Today I’d like to give you some priorities for your life …

1. Your relationship with God.

2. Your relationship with your family and teammates.

3. Being the best football player you can be.

“I guarantee you, if the first two priorities are not in line, you can’t be your best on the field,” Gibbs said. “Let’s make it a great year. Break out with your position coaches.”

That was it, and the tone was set. 

In the article, Mark Schlereth shares specific details of how the “code” became a standard that players applied and respected within the team as a family.  Guys who were unjustly belittled were protected by older, experienced players, coming to their aid with their voice not their fist.  Players who crossed the line knew when enough was enough, especially when they were caught in inappropriate behavior.  The gradual decay of the “code” in the Miami locker room allowed for the perversion and persecution of a player.  The onslaught of verbal assault extended beyond the locker room, taking to social media. In the case of the Dolphins, the respect of the code was violated or, worse, ignored.  Mark explains that this behavior is disgusting and would never have been tolerated in a locker room during his playing days.  In fact, it would have been his responsibility as an older player to correct the matter, with dignity, respect and justification.  The honor and spirit of the “code” was to be maintained and perpetuated.

Exactly two years ago this month, John Croyle shared some poignant views on the role of fatherhood and motherhood at Canterbury United Methodist Church.  John is passionate about instilling the values and morals that young people need to survive the challenges of life.  From his perspective, the father’s role in the development of the child’s character, confidence and beliefs are a direct result of the leadership from the authority male in the home.  Unfortunately, he deals with many children who have been subjected to harsh and sometimes violent experiences on behalf of the man of the house.  John and the staff at King’s Ranch and Hannah Homes, spend hours unwinding the impact of the pain inflicted while instilling the children with the love of God.  This process can be lengthy and painful but his leadership is reversing the anguish caused by the wrong “code”.  (Feel free to hear John’s message on our website under the message tab.)

Each of these men were instilled with the values and priorities expressed by Joe Gibbs by someone in their life.  For Mark it was his father reinforced by Coach Gibbs.  For John it was many individuals, most notably Bear Bryant.  The point is that these men learned from the modeling of others who cared enough to share the significance of a relationship with God, and love of family.  In the case of the Incognito/Martin, men have failed the spirit of the “code”, unwilling to step in where necessary to embrace the needs of a teammate or redirect or correct the improper influence of another.  Who is or was responsible for the development of the “code”?

As a father and leader in your home, as a man of faith and belief in the church, as a man of influence in our community, where do you receive the nourishment to overcome the challenges of life?  Where and how do you reflect the priorities of your life?  What is your code?  Do your wife and children see your “code” in action, as well as in words?  Do they know they are valued and loved in the eyes of God prior to any activity not based on a performance standard or expectation?  Are you the Joe Gibbs

At The Center, we help men find value and worth through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  They may be wildly successful in athletics, business, etc but they are not content with who they have become.  Many men involved in our Bible studies would agree with Joe Gibbs priorities.  They openly invite friends, neighbors and associates to join in developing a “code” to live by, based on the rock that is our Savior.  If this article has inspired you to visit one of our studies, invite a friend who is hurting, or determine how to express and live by the “code” of Christ, contact us.

Be courageous, men, our community needs your direction and dedication to the Christ “code”…..

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