BCC Breakfast
BCC Breakfast

Giving Your Life Away

Jerry Leachman’s message given at The Center Mens Breakfast at The Country Club of Birmingham.

Thanks, Richard. I appreciate that introduction. You know, I live in Washington D.C. I don’t have to listen to all this Auburn Alabama stuff up there. Anything I tell them up there about Auburn and Alabama, they have no cross reference, no way to check me at all. I’m their single source of information. I kind of like it that way. The problem is, the older you get, the further removed you are from the event. You know, I’m faster than I used to be, and you know, Coach Bryant and I were like really tight, and people want to pump up their events.

At least we got a nice little humble introduction here, but I tell you, I just recently got introduced, I spoke to the Washington D.C. chapter of the Rotary, I don’t tell them any of this, I got introduced as an All-American at Alabama and Captain of a National Championship team. And I am like scanning the room big time thinking, man, I hope Kenny Stabler’s not here today.

With the Redskins, as you know, we have several Auburn Alabama players on our starting roster. Cornelius Griffith, Chris Samuels from Alabama, on the Auburn side, Marcus Washington, who is so high energy I’ve asked our doctors to take blood samples from him and study him. He never stops moving. Carlos Rogers, one of the good young cornerbacks in the league and then, who’s the kid that plays quarterback? I can’t remember his name right now. Jason Campbell, who’s also from Auburn. Jason and I have actually gotten really close. He’s been a rookie, and nobody talks to rookies, so I’ve been talking to him for a year and a half. Now everybody wants to talk with him, but it’ll be exciting to see how Jason does now that he has the ball. Tune in this Sunday. He’ll be teeing it up down at Tampa Bay.

Now I get a chance to go all over the country and speak to different groups. I actually spoke to a group that was really fun last year out in Colorado. You ever heard of a group called Cowboys for Jesus? There’s all kinds of groups out there and I identified, one of the guys mailed me this article about some country preacher out there in the Rockies, because I have actually showed up at the wrong venue to speak before, and I’ve actually given the talk with people looking at me. And this little article about this country preacher said the funeral was held at a cemetery way back in the country and this man would be the first to be laid to rest there, brand new cemetery, a homeless man. The preacher got the instructions to go out there and conduct this service.

“As I was not familiar with the backwoods area, I became lost, and being a typical male, I did not stop and ask for directions. I finally arrived one hour late. I saw a backhoe and the crew. They were eating lunch, but the hearse was nowhere in sight. I apologized to the workers for my tardiness and stepped to the side of the open grave where I saw the vault lid already in place. I assured the workers I wouldn’t hold them up too long, but it was the proper thing to do to give this man a Christian burial. The workers gathered around, still eating their lunch. I poured out my heart and soul. As I preached, the workers began to say, amen, praise the Lord, glory. I preached and preached as if I’d never preached before. When I closed the service with prayer and walked to my car, I was exhausted, but I had felt I had done my duty for that homeless man and the crew, and they would all leave with a renewed sense of purpose and dedication in spite of my tardiness. As I was opening the car door to hang up my coat, I overheard one of the workers saying to another, ‘I ain’t never heard nothing like that in all my born days and I’ve been putting in septic tanks nearly 30 years now.’”

People always ask me, being in Washington for 21 years, and being involved with the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, and through five NFL coaches, just as an interesting point of reference, like all the people you’ve been privileged to meet, who are some of the ones you’ll remember? And you know, quite honestly, it’s none of the NFL athletes or the politicians or anything, but I had I’ve had a chance to be with Billy Graham several times, just one-on-one. When I’m around him, the first thing, it’s, you’re just impressed with his deep humility. Those of you that are lawyers, especially litigators and trial lawyers, you know the importance of a good character witness. You can have a great defense, if you want to, but if you have a great character witness, it could be game, set, match.

I was at a luncheon recently at the Metropolitan Club with some associates of the president. They’re from Texas. One of them was an old gentleman from Texas and he was a very close friend of Governor Connolly. You remember Governor Connolly? He was in the car, I think, with Kennedy, when the shooting occurred, and he got in trouble one time out there in Texas in a famous trial called the Milk Fund Scandal trial. It could have taken him down completely. My friend said, you know, I sat through that whole trial and held Mrs. Connolly’s hand. Mrs. Connolly died, I think a few months ago. He was a pallbearer at the funeral. He said, the defense did the best they could and then at the end, they had four character witnesses. The character witness to say, no matter what anybody said here today, the governor’s not that kind of man. The last one was Billy Graham. Now, if they have Catholics over there in Italy, what do you think they have out in Texas? They’ve got Baptists. That jury was 12 people. You figure any Baptists on that jury? And I’m talking about Southern Baptists. Billy Graham’s a Southern Baptist. So, the bailiff comes up and swears him in, and he said, would you please tell us your name sir, and he said, my name is Billy Graham. He said, Mr. Graham, would you tell us what you do sir? He said, I share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not only here but around the world. You know what a knee-jerk reaction is? As soon as he said that one of the jurors stood up and went, Amen! Governor Connolly was acquitted of all charges.

Well, listen, I just saw an old friend of mine, Mike Colon. Mike and I go way back, and I actually had one of Mike’s coaches. When Marty Schottenheimer did his stop through Washington one of the assistant coaches down at Miami, Bill Arnsbarger, was in our study. I asked him about Mike, I said, what do you think about Mike Colon? He played linebacker down there for the Dolphins. You know what he told me about Mike? He said, Mike never played for the Dolphins. It’s pretty interesting, so, all we know is Mike would leave for about a half a year and come back with large sums of money. I don’t know, you figure that one out. I don’t know where he was, but I met Mike’s son John.

John, would you stand up? I think you’re man enough where I couldn’t embarrass you. John, tell us where you just returned from, son.

John: Iraq

He just returned from Iraq. [Applause]

What branch of the service were you in and what were you doing over there?

John: I was in the active Army and [unintelligible] infantry unit [unintelligible].

Yeah, well, keep standing for one second. Is there anybody else in the room who served in Afghanistan or Iraq? Well, you know what, I’ll tell you this son, and I won’t back down from this, there’s going to be a game tomorrow that means a lot to the state but those players and coaches, they’ll agree with me, they’ll be the first, you guys are the real heroes. I want to, we want to thank you again. [Applause]

Guys like John are my role model for what guys chasing after Christ ought to be. I’m so tired of all these girly men for Jesus, aren’t you? There’s probably a group out there called that too, I wouldn’t know. But Paul said endure hardship with me as a good soldier of Jesus Christ and I love the attitude these guys have.

Just a continuing report to you about Brit Hume he’s still hanging in there with Jesus. He’s even getting more fired up, but I was down at Fox meeting with somebody, we were having a little one-on-one session studying the scriptures, and I was leaving a few months ago, and Brit said, he was walking in the door while I was walking out, he said, hey, don’t go yet, there’s a guy I know you’re going to want to meet. I said, who is it. He said it’s a Marine Colonel we’re about to interview. He’s in Studio B. Just go in there with me. I just want to greet him, and we walked in. Turns out this guy was in the Pentagon the day the plane hit. His ear was gone, half his face was burned, he had those burn stockings on, he was in his dress uniform, and he was going to be interviewed on the war. He’d been over there; he knew everything about it. There was no journalist in the room, but he was sitting there in his dress uniform, hands folded like this, just waiting to be queued up when Brit and I walked in. He kind of did like this, he said, oh, Mr. Hume, I didn’t know you personally were going to come in here and greet me. What an honor. Nice to meet you, sir. He kind of looked at me like, who is that guy. Brit said, he’s my minister, or something like that, and we talked with that guy for a little bit. You know, the real studs, the guys that could kill you 50 ways and all you do is get to pick a number, they have an attitude that’s right out of the Bible, they really do, and it’s one of service. You know, James and John, sons of thunder, you can guess why they were nicknamed that. They would have been the kind of guys before they met Jesus, would you say hey, James and John would you please clear your mouth up, there’s an auto mechanic standing right over there, just watch it, will you? They came to Jesus and said, we want You to do us a favor. When this thing’s all over we want to sit at Your right hand, and He said you guys don’t even know what you’re talking about. He said, listen, the Gentiles, they like to Lord it over people when they get in charge of something but it’s not going to be that way with my boys. You’re going to serve. He said, even the Son of Man didn’t come to be served but He came to serve.

Now at the end of this little three-minute interview with this Colonel we had to get out of there because they were going to tee it up and interview him on the Fox network. Brit leaned over and grabbed this Colonel’s hand very gently because it was all burnt up. He said, Colonel, I’d like to thank you for your service to our country. That man looked up with a steely-eyed deep, deep conviction. You could tell this man ran deep when he looked at Brit and he said, Brit, I like to serve, but I’m nobody special. You know, he doesn’t view himself as a hero. He views service as part of who he is. You know, you can have right opinions, but you won’t die for them because when the gun’s sticking in your face you’ll change your opinion. You have a conviction, you’ll die for your conviction, and what’s just so sad, I don’t see many guys that are men of conviction, even the Christian guys running around got all the doctrines straight, but they don’t have any real conviction. They’re not the kind of guys you’d want to go into war with.

I’ll give you a p.s. to this story. I was thinking, man, guys like that. It was time to leave, and I looked up at Brit, I said, Brit have we got 60 more seconds, and he gave me one of those looks like, Leachman, I hate it every time you start doing stuff like this because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I said, Brit, I don’t know this guy, now, we’re discussing this right in front of the Colonel, I don’t know this guy but I think we should say a prayer over him, and he’s like, well what do we pray, I said, I don’t know, but I’ll just put my hand on this shoulder, you put your hand on that shoulder, I’ll start and you close. He says okay. So, I forget what I prayed for him, I forget what Brit prayed for him, but I do remember how Brit closed. When he closed, he said, in the name of our Almighty Savior, Jesus Christ. See, he said it. He didn’t say the man upstairs, didn’t say the good Lord, he said it. He’s the boss down there. Funny thing about it, we forgot all the staff. When we finished that prayer, this Colonel is like, yeah, thanks guys, thanks. We looked around and there about three staff people holding the door open and looking in there like ghosts were flying around in the room or something like that.

I called him the other day because I had to leave, I said, hey, was that guy a good interview? I didn’t get to stick around. He said, oh, he was great; he knew everything, he was great. I said, well who was interviewing him? He said, it was a remote interview from New York. I said, he said, did you know when we were praying over that man, everybody in the studio at New York was gathered around the monitors looking at that thing? I said, you’re fine with that. He said, oh, good Lord, they need it more than anybody up there. I like their attitude. Not only of service but they don’t whine, they don’t complain.

You know, I just saw one of my High School coaches, Snoozy Jones. He came up here and he said, well Jerry, you’ve aged better than me, but you used to play linebacker you could play tackle for Lanier High School right now. But you know, I’m 56, I have three grandchildren but I’m not going to mail it in. Some of my friends have just mailed it in. I keep exercising, I keep battling it, I’m not saying I’m winning, but I’m in the fight, but I made a commitment to get out there on that jogging trail and I was out there recently in Washington. It was cold, wet cold, and I was jogging down there, and I didn’t much like it; I hadn’t warmed up yet, two leathernecks were jogging towards me. How do you know? You know. You see them and you know who they are. I get saluted all the time around Washington. I’ve always had short hair. It’s silver. I absolutely let them do it, too. I like it. And these two jar heads snap a few off it then they got near me, and I was just going to assume the role, you know, since they had laid the mantle on me, and they were approaching me, and I said, how about this weather, men, you know, I had to lower my voice so they would assume my testosterone level was … I said how about this weather, men, and when they got right beside me, one of those leathernecks looked over at me and said, where else would you rather be sir? I go, yeah, yes. I am so glad these guys are in business, you know.

Well, listen guys, we live in serious times. I don’t know if you’ve watched the news lately, but I have people in real estate in the Washington area that I know, men I have in the groups and they’re quietly talking about unloading some properties. I have friends that own homes who are discussing, should we hold on to our property. Now why would I say that? Well, let’s look at the trend lines from a few parts of the world. How about Iran? You know, the man the Iranians elected to be their president the summer of 2005, he sent shock waves through the world capitals, he rattled global markets and drove up the world price of oil, and he said the end of the world is just two or three years away. He is prepared to make or steal nuclear weapons, and this guy will use them. One of the fellas, please don’t think I’m name dropping, I live in Washington, this is who lives there, this is who I minister to, I’m just the same guy that went to Lanier High School. I always hated people that left Alabama and came back acting like they were somebody, I’m like, oh shut up, you know, especially if they used to speak Southern and they’d come back with a Yankee accent, I really couldn’t stand that, so when I mention these people to you, it’s just who lives there. I’m already self-actualized. Christ loves me, died for me, I’m good to go, I don’t care if I meet anybody else or not.

But one of the men that came to me and said, you know, I’m not making much progress in my spiritual life; could you disciple me? We meet one-on-one in a diner but he’s the man that briefs the Secretary of Defense not just Rumsfeld. He’ll be the man that briefs every morning the new one. We’ve talked about this. He says, yeah, we’re trying to plan for this and it’s not as easy as you might think. You know they’re saying if they could sneak a bomb up through Mexico, they could blow it up in a city with little or no warning to the American people and within seconds, they’re predicting in Washington 300,000 people would die pretty much instantaneously and that’s where I live. In football we call this playing in the red zone, and I think we’re in the red zone. Do you agree with me on this so far?

Now, let’s look at a trend line on what’s happening in our country.

In one generation, America has experienced a dramatic transformation from a producing society to a consuming society. Thirty years ago, we measured our economy by what we produced. Textile mills employed hundreds of thousands of people in the south. Today we measure our economy by what consumers spend, not by what our country produces. You watch how economists make their forecast on confidence polls and how closely the market follows Christmas retail sales.

Two days ago, in Washington I spoke to one of the top retailers in America. They’re family, they’re billionaires, they own stores all over America. I was on the phone with him; he’s in one of the groups I teach up there. I read that to him, and he said, oh yeah, he said, this year we’re predicting each person, not family, the average, per capita will spend 725 dollars a person for Christmas. That’s times 300 million.

In the transformation to a purchasing instead of a producing culture we’ve completely reversed the Protestant work ethic which fueled the great economic growth of this country in the 19th century. At the heart of the work ethic was the belief that one should work hard, be thrifty, save, produce, and practice delayed gratification. Now today delayed gratification is seen as a denial of some inherent natural right. Many people believe it’s their constitutional right. If you can’t afford it, finance it. Consumer debt is now at over 200 trillion dollars, bankruptcies are up 125 percent.

Why am I reading all this? It’s had an impact on our culture. Consumerism has powerfully transformed and affected, not the spending habits only of our people, but the beliefs and values of Americans. Listen to this as I wrap up this portion of our roll call together here today.

We’ve come to see money as the key to pleasure and pleasure as the key to happiness. This definition of happiness has become the summa bonum of the ultimate American virtue. As one writer put it, if you’re not chasing money then what are you chasing. This belief is so much a part of the American culture. In a recent survey, even people who should know better get confused. Over half the Evangelical Christians surveyed agreed with the following statement the purpose of life is enjoyment and personal fulfillment.

Now that’s not a person of great moral conviction there that’s going to do anything to help you out in the red zone because when you get in the red zone, it ain’t rocket science. You better mean business or you’re going to get your butt slap run over and that’s why I give locker room talks because I honestly believe in the world we live in, fellas, most of the guys I minister to, I give them locker room talks because I know they’re going to run out on the tunnel and they’re going out on the field, and if you don’t knock the snot out of somebody, you’re going to get rolled like dice in the end. I don’t believe it, I know it. Happiness is a bottom line. Listen to a few of these quotes.

I’ve had few difficulties. Many friends, great successes. I’ve gone from wife to wife and from house to house. I visited great countries of the world, but I’m fed up with inventing devices to fill up 24 hours a day. That was the suicide note of Ralph Barton the cartoonist. I sit in my house in Buffalo. I get so lonely sometimes it’s unbelievable. Life has been so good to me. I’ve got a great wife, good kids, money, my own health, I’m lonely, I’m bored. I often wondered why so many rich people commit suicide. Money sure isn’t a cure-all.

Believe it or not, that was O.J Simpson in 1978. I wish O.J could have sat in a deal like this in 1978. You remember Lee Atwater?

He said, in the 80s, we were about acquiring wealth, acquiring power, acquiring prestige, but you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power I wouldn’t trade for a little more time with my family, what price I wouldn’t pay for one more evening with my friends, took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it’s the truth the country’s caught up in this ruthless ambitious and moral decay of acquiring. I don’t know who’s going to lead us through the future, but they better be able to speak to the spiritual vacuum at the heart and soul and the tumor of our country.

Yannick Noah, the father of this great basketball star for the Florida Gators said:

I guess people think being successful, they equate it with being happy, but when I have all the things that make me successful, I wasn’t happy.

Here’s the last one that amazes a lot of people. Three weeks before this man died, one of his friends said, when you started out you wanted three things, wealth, fame, happiness. The man replied:

I have two out of three. I’m not happy, but I am lonely as hell.

That was Elvis Presley three weeks before he died talking to a friend.

Listen to how different are the words of our friend Billy Graham. Billy says:

Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for the last day. The Legacy we leave is not just in our possessions but in the quality of our lives. What preparation should we be making now? The greatest waste in all the earth which cannot be recycled or reclaimed is the waste of the time God has given us each day.

You know, my children, and I’ve mentioned this before, Josh, I forgot, how old are you, 33? Okay, thank you, son. I’ll be asking you more questions like that as we grow older. Josh, my son lives here in Birmingham. He works for McWane Pipe. My daughter must be 31. She’s two years younger than you. She lives in Charlotte. They have three kids, and she is married to a Secret Service agent and like I mentioned before, you men with daughters, you better pray up a son-in-law like I have. He got a gun, he got a badge, he loves Jesus; it gets no better than that, I’m going to tell you. So that’s 33, 31, and at home with us, we have a 14-year-old. That’s a 17-year gap between kids, and I just say, you know, when you got it, ain’t bragging, you know it, and that’s just the way it is. I know a lot more now than when we were raising the first bunch and I told Tucker, our 14 year old, I said now,, when you get 13, I’m going to formally disciple you and meet with you like I do all the men I meet with, and I want you to get a notebook and write your name on it, a sturdy one that’ll stand the test of time, and when I give you these lessons, I want you to date it and write clearly and keep it, and when you have a son or daughter that’s 13, I want you to give them the lessons I give you from their Granddaddy and I want them to see your writing in there and I want them to see the date. This is what we call creating a legacy.

Now you can have a bad legacy. The Bible says the sins of the father are passed on to the second, third, and fourth generation. Now I was in a bad legacy when it came my turn at the plate and God used me, the least candidate of all, to break a bad chain in my family and start a good chain. My parents found Christ, my wife and I love Christ and our kids love Christ and our grandkids seem like they’re just going right down the track of loving Christ. But I said, I’m going to teach you.

Now I had a guy ask me, he said, now wait a minute, Jerry you’ve been doing this so many years to so many people, we want to know, this is in a men’s group, what was the first lesson you taught your son, we meet at the Silver Diner in a little booth, what’s the first lesson you teach your son thinking maybe you won’t get to teach him another one. I can tell you, Luke chapter 6, it’s just two verses, it’s two little verses that Jesus said, and in my way of thinking,, if you don’t get this lesson, all the others go to church, you know, sail around the world with Jim Dobson on a boat and talk to him the whole time, nothing else you learn will matter if you miss this lesson right here. Jesus said this, can a blind man lead a blind man, will they not both fall into the ditch, a disciple is not above his teacher but everyone who was perfectly trained will be like his teacher.

Now according to Jesus, if you think He knew anything about life, maybe you think you know about life more than Jesus, maybe you do. I think Jesus knew something about life. He said this. Can a blind person follow a blind person? Won’t they both end up in a ditch? And then He put this funny little ending on the second sentence. This is all in Luke chapter 6 verses 39 and 40. He said, when the student is fully instructed, he will be like his teacher.

According to Jesus what this teaches us is this. Number one, you’re responsible for who you follow, you. There’s a saying; who’s the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who follows the fool. You need to decide who you’re following. Now maybe you’re following yourself. I have no idea. Maybe you’re chasing the dollar, but I will tell you this, according to Jesus, whoever you are following, that’s exactly what you’ll end up. He said, when the student is fully instructed, he’ll be like the teacher. Wherever your teacher is headed, that’s where you will end up. This will also determine your legacy our non-legacy or bad legacy. Wherever your teacher is going, that’s where you’re going. Whatever they’re like, that’s the way you’ll end up. You know, who you follow determines every other decision you make in life that matters. This is nuclear; this is the core.

Joe Gibbs and I were talking recently, and we were talking about this verse. He said he knew a man who was a billionaire, and that man was dying. He was gonna die. It wasn’t will he pull through; he was going to die. Joe said, I went to see him in his estate. He had an enormous estate outside of Washington. He said, when I walked in his bedroom, it was me, it was that man, and there was one maid, a servant down in the kitchen making sandwiches or something, that was it, nobody else was in that house, and this man’s legacy wasn’t very much.

You know, I tell men all the time if all you have to leave your children is money, you’re not leaving them very much, are you? Just didn’t think very much of them, did you? I have a guy in one of one of the groups I teach, he’s a billionaire, and I asked him the other day, I said, Dennis how much of that money are you planning on giving away, and how much are you planning on giving to me? No, I didn’t ask him that part. I was interviewing in front of some other CEOs. I mean, these other poor guys, they only have one or 200 million each you know. He said, all of it. He said, my wife and I have a plan to give away all of our money. We’re going to give our children some money to help them get a house, help them have a life, but not enough where they can do nothing for the rest of their life. They’re actually going to have to go out and make something of themselves and we’re going to give it all away. My plan is to die broke, and these guys were astounded, absolutely astounded.

When we got through with the lesson Tucker looked at me, our 14-year-old, and I said, now Tucker, he was 13 when I gave him this lesson, I said, you’re 13 now, you’re a young man, so far, your mother and father, our faith has been your faith, but now you’re at the age you’re going to have to vote and eventually all this is going to have to become your faith. He looked at me and I could tell that boy had some conviction. He said, Dad I’m not going to follow those kids up at Cooper Middle School. I know where they’re headed. It’s not me against them but I’m going to follow Christ. I said, boy that’s quite a statement for a 13-year-old. Son, I said, I’ll try to give you some artillery and backup any way I can.

When they started school this year, I said, Tucker, did you get teachers you like? Did you get any you don’t like? He said, well, the one I didn’t like last year, she’s across the school and there’s one other. He said, I didn’t tell you about this deal? I said, what deal? He said, I had this teacher and she’d overheard me from time to time talking to—now Tucker’s no evangelist, he’s just a kid, he gets in trouble like everybody else, but when Tucker talks about his faith in the Lord, he doesn’t know he’s doing it, it’s just natural to him—he said, this teacher had overheard me talking to some of my buddies from time to time about my faith in the Lord when they say what do you believe, you know, stuff like that, just sitting around study hall. He said, she was calling me to the board the other day and she looked at me and said, hey, Jesus boy, come up to the board. I said, really, what’d you do? Now the old linebacker is coming back in me. I said, you know I think I could take her; you know. He said, dad, I stood up and I pointed right at her and said, get this straight, you will not call me Jesus boy and you won’t mock my faith in Jesus Christ, you got it, teacher. I said, what’d she do? He said, sent me right to the office. I said, what happened? He said, I told the principal, and she rolled her eyes and said go back to class. I said, what happened next? He said, she’s gone. I said, what do you mean she’s gone? He said, they fired her. I said, man, chalk one up for Fairfax County, Virginia. He said, Dad, am I in trouble for speaking to her disrespectfully? I said, no, I’m confident your mother and I are about to give you a raise, boy.

I’m telling you what, Jesus wasn’t asking us what do you believe here. He was saying, who are you following? I know ministers that don’t follow the Lord. I know ministers that buy into this hedonistic philosophy like happiness is the bottom line. I remember just talking to a very popular Minister who was about to leave his wife and family, just leave them for another woman, and I said, so what’s the bottom line. He said, I just believe God would have me be happy with what time I have left. I thought, good grief. You know, I think he’s still in the ministry running around talking to somebody. I’m following Jesus. This ain’t religion. I know where he’s going. I know what he’s like and I want to be like it. I want my kids to be like that. And I’ll tell you this there are a lot of you that you don’t want to follow Jesus, but you want your kids to. No, you’re out of the game. I’m sorry.

Don’t ever pray or ask God to do anything in the life of anybody else that you’re not willing for Him to do in your own life. You’re a phony if you pray prayers like that. You just ask yourself, God what am I willing to let You do in my life, then you can pray those prayers for other people. That’s right.

Now all the years I’ve been working with men, I will tell you this. I can tell you there are two top struggles. I don’t need to read 12 books or ask a professor. I’ve seen it. You know, a man with experience is never held hostage by some dude with a theory, never once, and the two things that men struggle with in my experience. One is sexual temptation, and you hear a lot about that, but do you know what the other one is? It’s anger. Men struggle with anger. You know, I was reading a study by Dr. Gottman up at the University of Washington. He has been studying relationships with couples. He’s been up there 30 years and he’s had some 20 or 30 years and he’s had like thousands and thousands of couples come in. He sits them in chairs, puts a video on and a mic on them and he has them discuss one controversial issue in their relationship for 15 minutes. After they do it, Dr. Gottman has figured out how to predict within 96 percent which one of those couples will still be together in 10 to 15 years. 96 percent accurate. That’s almost perfect.

Now those same tapes have been given to 200 marital therapists, pastoral counselors, people that know the Bible, graduate students in Clinical Psychology, they’ve been given to newlyweds, people who recently divorced, and people who’ve been happily married for a long time. In other words, people should know a lot about marriage. He had them watch the tapes and they guessed who would be together in 10 or 15 years and then they tracked it and compiled it. Their average was 53.8. That’s only 3.8 above chance. You could get the village idiot, just, you could get a collie to do that, and to have a 50 percent chance of getting it right. Now if you’re like me, I like to synthesize down to the simplest common denominator. What’s the prime number? How does he do it? Listen to this, because you’re in this story, I’m in this story.

Dr. Gottman says, and everybody agrees, this is basic stuff, there are 20 emotional states that we can experience at any given time, anxiety, fear, anger, happiness, on down the line, and they look for that when these couples are discussing controversy in their life, in the relationship. He’s narrowed it down to what he calls The Four Horsemen. If you have any four in any relationship, this didn’t, this is not just with your wife, this is any relationship you’re in, he calls them the four horsemen, you’re in trouble.

Out of the Four Horsemen, number one is defensiveness. This is one trait of a fool in Proverbs where they become uncoachable. You can’t tell them a thing. Number two is stonewalling. This is very indigenous to the male. You just get where you don’t want to hear it and you go, well, fine, and the wall comes up and your attitude is, you know what, I’m inside my little castle and I’m the boss here and you ain’t coming in. Three is criticism. Dr. Gottman says this is more indigenous to women. They want to discuss every detail of the problem. Men will hang in there for three sentences, and they’re done. But number four is contempt. And contempt is when you, it’s hierarchical, is when you speak down to somebody; you place yourself on this plane and they’re down there. He goes on to say, even out of the Four Horsemen, there’s one that if you’re swimming in those waters, you’re dead. You know which one it is? Contempt. Contempt.

I tell you when I read his study, I was convicted in my heart because I have held people in contempt. I used to have people tell me, Jerry you just write people off, and I remember when I was in youth ministry, we were in a staff meeting with a bunch of my peers and our boss was there the vice president of ministry. One of the guys that was a colleague of mine was a people pleaser, a sweet hearted guy, but he made, in my opinion, weak, wimpy decisions and that we all had to pay for. Me, at that point I had the heart of a stone dog. I wasn’t a super predator. I couldn’t shoot you and sit on your body while it was still warm and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I could write you off into oblivion and not think much about it. It was funny because I was friendly, and I was everybody’s friend, but I had a streak of contempt in me. Do you know what contempt is at its core? It’s pride and self-righteousness. I undressed this guy in front of the staff and in front of our boss and he couldn’t stand up to me because, you know, technically I was absolutely right, and my boss called me the next day.

When we walked out of that meeting, my colleague’s reputation as a person stood because he was a great guy, but as a professional, it was shredded. My boss called me in my office the next day, and he said, Jerry, I’ve got a word for you. I’ve been thinking about that meeting yesterday. He said, I had a good opinion of so and so when I walked in there, and when I walked out, I had a bad opinion of him, and you put that in me. Now, I started holding him in contempt. I said, oh, you loser, why don’t you take responsibility for your own bad attitude. I didn’t say it, he was my boss. I thought it. He said, Jerry I’ve got a message for you today. He said, I’ve noticed you’re sharp, you really are, you’re fearless, and you’re almost always right, but I’ve noticed son, you have a habit of going through life being right and you’re leaving a trail of dead bodies behind you.

That didn’t bother me that much because I was trained by an Airborne Ranger. My father was an Airborne Ranger and he told me; all you have to be is right. He didn’t have the other part down because nobody ever taught him. I thought, if you’re right, you can do anything you want, just you’re right. He said, I’m going to tell you another thing and this is what put the dagger in my heart, he said, the day’s going to come, Jerry Leachman, when you’re going to have a fall and no one’s going to rush to help you up boy. And fear came over me. I thought instantly in that moment I’d rather have friends than money. You know you’re going to have a fall in life, or several falls in life, and I thought of that movie It’s a Wonderful Life at the end when George Bailey got in trouble and his living room was just flooded with people. The funny part, even the bank examiner trying to take him down, threw some money in the in the basket, and a little card at the end of that movie says, he is never poor who has many friends.

I mean, it was a dagger in my heart, it was a life-changing rebuke. The Bible says a slap from a brother is better than a kiss from an enemy. I knew he was right. I said, I got to get off the phone, I thank you for calling me today. And I prayed a prayer, and I was dialing my colleague, I said, God I don’t want a busy signal, I don’t want an answering machine, please just grant me this; have that man pick up the phone. He picked it up, hello. I said, so and so, it’s Jerry. I’m sure he was doing this, bracing for more. I said, you’ve been in my office? He said, yeah. I said, you know where the furniture is? He said, yeah. I said, I want you to picture me right now. He said, how? I said, I’m on my knees by my desk asking you to forgive me. If there’s one thing I don’t want to be in this world, it’s alone. I fear that more than anything else. I’m truly convinced when you go to hell, you’re alone in the darkness alone. There’s no fellowship. I love hanging with the bros. I do. That guy forgave me that day and the Lord gave me a secret lifetime assignment and I know it’s from God, I’m not one of these guys that says God told me to cook an egg today, but every now and then, God does speak to you, and you know it, and the Lord said, you will serve him the rest of your life. You will become a servant to that man and to the best of your ability, anything he puts his hand to, you make sure any connections you have, any resources you have, he succeeds, and I’ve secretly done that because the other part, and he said, and don’t you ever tell him I put this mandate on you. Now I do it because I want to, and I’ve been able to help him in some wonderful ways through the people I know. We’ve become dear friends.

Contempt. You know, the only anecdote for contempt is repentance. The great thing about repentance, it’s our job to repent and it’s God’s job to give us a new heart, and I did. I got a new heart. I’ve stopped holding people in contempt. You read that story where the town whore comes walking in a dinner and begins to weep all over the feet of Jesus in Luke chapter 7. And they said, if Jesus were a prophet, he’d know what kind of woman that is, and He rebuked them for their lack of hospitality. He said, when I entered your house, you offered Me no kiss, you didn’t wash My feet, you didn’t anoint My head with oil, look what she’s done. You know, when I read that story, I realize this. Jesus didn’t hold that woman in contempt, but those Pharisees did, and I was a Pharisee.

I tell you, when I read Dr. Gottman’s study, Holly and I sat down, we’ve been married 35 years, and I said, why are we even together, because I know when we were first married, I was so prideful, so ignorant, so stupid, so cocky, just like Peter, always trying to give the Lord advice, remember his young days? And then he totally failed. He denied Christ three times, he was humiliated. He saw himself the way he really was. I’m convinced he went through a season of depression too. But man, when he got reconciled, he got it right. He became the greatest pastor that ever lived. And I apologized to my wife for ever holding her in contempt. I’m telling you men, just today, I don’t want anything from you, but if you have contempt in your heart, I know every minister in the world’s after you about your struggle with sexual temptation, that’s the hot item today, but I’m going to tell you, contempt will take you out of every relationship out there. Jesus didn’t hold her in contempt at all. We have to repent of our pride.

Well, we’re down to a few minutes. I will tell you this. I just read a review from the Harvard Business Review, if you think this stuff’s religion, it’s on why leaders fail, this isn’t theory. This is why they fail. They interviewed leaders in business that failed. The first reason, four reasons, they synthesize it down to the first one was they were authoritarian, controlling, demanding, not listening to those around them, not willing to flex or adapt due to input from others. Two, they became autonomous, aloof, lonely, isolated, having few relationships and no accountability. Three, they became arrogant, feeling and acting as though they were Superior, critical of others, belittling others, and when they were threatened, they responded with powering up through the use of shame, guilt, and fear. And four, they committed adultery. Isn’t that interesting? That’s nothing but contempt right there.

Jesus Christ said judge not lest you be judged for whatever measure you give will be the measure you get. And He said if you’re going to judge people, you know what He called people. He said, you’re a hypocrite. You need to look at the speck in your own eye and stop being contemptuous. When you sum up the sayings of Jesus, there are 500 sayings of Jesus, you know what I mean? He said 500 things they figured out, some things twice, maybe He said some things once. When you take all those sayings, you only get three categories of people according to Jesus. The first category, people who are wasting their lives. When you waste your life, you give yourself to either a man-made God or you can give yourself over to evil. The second person is someone who sells their life. They sell out. They’re chasing money. They’re chasing just things that don’t really last, they have no legacy. Somebody, something, someone will put a price on your life, and you can sell yourself to that entity. Many, many people sell themselves believe it or not. You know people like this. Maybe you are somebody like that.

The final category according to Jesus on how you could spend your life is you can just give it away, just literally give your life away. That was George Bailey and that’s why he had all those friends. He gave his life to them, and he didn’t even know he was doing it.

You know, when I think of people that have been in that third category that I know, there’s a man from Harvard I meet with, he was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard, and we meet at the same Silver Diner where I meet with Tucker. As we’ve met there, we’ve become very good friends with a black woman in her 60s, and her name’s Dorothy, but everybody calls her mom. You know why? She’s had foster kids in her home and she is a black woman in her 60s that waits tables at the Silver Diner in the Washington D.C. area and my friend David and I have become very good friends with Mom through the years. She saves our table; she waits on us. The other day I was in there and my friend David, the guy from Harvard, asked her, he said Mom, how many foster kids have you had in your house through the years? You know what she said? 70. He said out of the 70, how many have you helped get into college, and she thought for a second, and said, 32. Now, she waits tables at the Silver Diner. You know what? Success, is what you do for yourself, but significance is what you do for God and others, and I know a lot of tremendously successful wealthy people that are absolutely insignificant. Dorothy is someone I stand in awe of. I almost never speak about Dorothy at a gathering where somebody doesn’t come up and hand me money and say next time you’re at the diner give this to Mom and she’s very humble about it. She doesn’t toot her own horn about it in any way.

Two more addendums and I’m done. The other person I’ve seen in my life that has gone from contempt to giving his life away to becoming significant was my kid brother, Brad. He was a blue-collar guy, a former alcoholic that got his life cleaned up. He died two years ago at an orphanage in Guatemala pouring concrete. He used to tell me, he said, you know, Jerry you go around and give talks and everything, he said, I can’t do anything like that, I’m just kind of a working guy, but I feel God’s pleasure when I just serve, and he would go on mission trips, on these crews where they just work and serve. The mission team with my brother said he was pouring concrete up on the third story of this orphanage, you know, out of those hoses that pump it up, and he had some kind of heart attack where he just, he dropped the hose, and he held his hands up, and he said, I’m ready. This mission team feels like he saw through to the other side. I’m telling you the Lord is near and he was dead within three minutes.

Can I tell you, at his funeral, there were between six and seven hundred people at my brother’s funeral and on top of his coffin they had a pair of construction boots and a hammer. I didn’t know he knew six or seven hundred people. And a wealthy man from his church, a banker in the city of Pennsylvania where my brother Brad lived, came up to me, he said, you know, my brother was also a part-time janitor at the church, but I’m not ashamed of him, I’m proud of him, honest to God. You know what this Banker told me? He said, I’d come in my suit to the elder board meetings, and I’d see your brother buffing the floor and he said, I just kind of envied him and I never knew why. I said, I can tell you why. He said, why? I said, he was free and you’re not. My brother achieved a freedom and literally gave his life away. The man in Luke stored up in his barns, said I have many goods for myself, I’ll take my ease and kick back, but Jesus said, the Lord said to that man, you fool, so it is with he who’s not rich with treasures in Heaven.

Here’s my last addendum. You know, Jesus said people that give their life away, you give your life away to God, you know when you’re giving your life away, it’s impossible to be contentious toward anybody because you’re their servant. You don’t think you’re better than anybody and you’re free from the bondage of consumerism. He said people that give their life away, Jesus said, shine like lights in the world. He even said in the midst of a crooked and a perverse generation you shall shine like lights.

You know, my wife Holly is Scottish. She’s from The Cahoon Clan and I don’t know if you realize it, but they can be kind of warlike. The Cahoons, the Americanized version is Calhoun, was her maiden name but the Scottish version is Cahoon. They’re the ones that started the war with Rob Roy. Real good plan. She told me a story that in the olden days of Scotland at Eventide when the light would begin to fade, the old Lamplighter would come down the streets there in Edinburgh with a gas flame on a stick, with a flame on a stick and he would light up the gas lanterns one by one as he went along. There’s a saying in Scotland about the old Lamplighter that goes like this. You don’t always know where the Lamplighter is headed but you always know where the Lamplighter has been, because wherever he’s been, he leaves a Trail of Lights behind him.

You can see where Dorothy’s been. You can see where my brother’s been. I wonder if anybody can see where you’ve been. May God bless us each and every one.


Add grace and understanding to your day with words from Richard E. Simmons III in your inbox. Sign-up for weekly email with the latest blog post, podcast, and quote.

Fill out the form to receive wisdom in your inbox from Richard E. Simmons III.