Hard truths revealed at ‘The Gathering’
American best-selling author, producer and motivational speaker Minister DeVon Franklin teamed up with countryman and actor Dondre Terrell Whitfield to lay out some hard truths that they said needed to be heard at “The Gathering”, the sixth annual conference of Global United Fellowship. And they both called for husbands to be men and not just males.
Whitfield characterized a grown male as someone who generally looks to be served; he said a man is a male who generally looks to be of service. And he said husbands have to be men looking to be of service.
“Sisters, when you date a grown male, you will know, because he will look to serve himself first,” said Whitfield at the week-long conference held at the Atlantis resort.
While Franklin said too much emphasis is placed on Ephesians 5, which speaks to wives submitting, he said it’s really about a husband’s love.
“It’s important for us as men to get back to sacrificing and service and truth. The only way we can navigate this flesh and honor our commitment, and not cheat on our wives, and not do one thing and say another, is to be able to communicate with each other.”
Speaking to the many leaders present at the gathering, he told them that they, too, have to have someone to talk to, and if they didn’t they might be positioning themselves to fall to the very danger they’re trying to resist.
“It’s not a sign of weakness to say, ‘Hey I just delivered this sermon, I need some help, because what I wanted to do after the service was not what I preach about.’”
He encouraged them to create a safe space. The author of the book “What Men And Women Need to Know: The Truth About Men” said he addresses the idea of safe spaces in his most recent book as he said everyone needs to have safe spaces to talk.
In the wide-ranging discussion he and Whitfield engaged in, he told the gathering that too often in the church, when people are honest, church members judge them, which he said in turn disincentivizes anybody from being honest.
“And we wonder why we’re losing our power and our influence. Because people come in the house and they don’t feel the truth. They feel the truth in the world. We have to change that by being honest,” said Franklin.
“It’s very easy for us to stifle God’s voice, because God’s voice is in us. It’s very difficult to silence your brother’s voice because it’s outside of us,” Whitfield reminded them. “We need that loving accountability. We have to be intentional about saying let me go inside and figure out what’s going on that I need to restore and resuscitate and then get some loving accountability around us to make sure we’re being held to that standard.”
Franklin, who spoke during the Thursday, July 11 evening worship experience, initially spoke to the gathering about his personal struggles as far as his expectations and what he considered his success or lack thereof. He referenced his recent film “Breakthrough”, which was produced at $14 million but did not pull in the money it was expected to when it made about $50 million worldwide. He said he went to the studios, who said they weren’t interested in renewing the deal.
Franklin spoke to turning to God and asking him what his plan was for him after he had brought him to Hollywood and it was not turning out according to his mind. Franklin recalled God telling him that too often people have expectations and try to get him to do things the way they want him to, instead of letting him do it the way God wants to.
He spoke to attending a business meeting where they don’t even discuss movies, they just have conversation and at the end, he said, the people he met with said they were doing the deal. To which he asked if they’d heard about “Breakthrough” and he said they told him they didn’t worry about the success of the film, they simply wanted him and they believed in him.
“I went to the meeting with the other studio and mind you, in my mind, because my expectations were not met, I’m thinking that they’re thinking that I’m thinking what they’re thinking. I’m saying I’m going to this meeting – they called me before the movie came out, they had an expectation of what the movie was going to do, the movie underperformed relative to my expectations, I bet it underperformed to their expectations, and as a result they’re not going to want me, now I’m going to have to shut down my company,” he said.
“God says I see your performance. Get your hands off the result. Place your faith in the process.
“God said what is yours is yours,” said Franklin. “Someone here is upset – not because God is not doing it, he’s just not doing it in the way you want him [to]. You’re so focused on the result you’ve actually missed the only thing in your control – and that’s the process. How often do you get mad that the result isn’t what we wanted? But God says you don’t have control over the result. I do. The only thing you can control is the process that leads to the result. If you manage the process well, let me take care of the result and remembering my words – all things work together for the good of those that love him and live according to his Word.”
Addressing his book “What Men And Women Need To Know: The Truth About Men” and its message about how men struggle between love and lust, he said he was initially not inclined to write it because men don’t like to look in the mirror, and he said it’s dangerous to write a book about what they need to do better.
“But you know when God tells you to do something, most of the times he tells you to do it, you know it’s him because you don’t want to do it. So, I went ahead and wrote this book and I talk about the necessity of lust to live a truth. No matter how much the spirit is in me, I still live in the body of the flesh. And, if I’m not aware of what the flesh wants to do, and not suppress that, I will find myself doing things that work against the spirit, because I’m not being honest about the struggles I have,” said Franklin.
Since his book came out, he’s been on a campaign and engaged in a show called “Truth Talk” on Instagram Live – during which he talks the truth with different guests, one in Whitfield, whom he’s spoken with on “Truth Talks” and pulled onto the stage to lay out even more hard truths for the gathering.
He said “Truth Talks” is important because rarely do two men talk honestly and openly about the challenges of being a man. And in the public forum, they’re baring their souls – not to be salacious, but to teach.
“Have you listened to the songs that are out there? If artists are not pulling back on what they are trying to teach you, why do we pull back in the church about telling you the truth?” said Franklin.
As they engaged in their true talk, discussing challenges and issues with the intent of being honest about what they’re going through, Franklin said some people might get a little uncomfortable, but he reminded them to be quiet in their spirit through it, because he said too often, people don’t talk.
Whitfield proceeded to share about losing his friend who was like a brother to him, because he hadn’t looked out for him, but was rather seeking his own selfish pleasure.
The actor, an avid motorcyclist, shared how his friend wanted to learn to ride, took lessons, bought a bike and on his first ride on the freeway had an accident when Whitfield wasn’t looking, opting to engage in his beloved stunts.
“The toughest prison you will ever be in is the prison of yourself,” shared Whitfield. “God put me in position to look after my brother, and I indulged myself. In September, it will be 15 years. The pain is still as fresh. But out of that pain came purpose because I said I would never again leave my post. And I realized I was at the peak of my maleness and trying to figure out why this was so difficult, and it finally hit me, because you were not walking as a man. My father was in and out of jail my entire life, and not having a model I could mirror for manhood, left me in that space, so every day after that just came this process of me trying to find my way toward manhood.”
From that will come Whitfield’s book “Male versus Men”, expected to be released later this year.
“Tragedy can transform us if we allow it,” said Franklin who then went on to ask the question why the attractiveness of wives is not enough for men to manage the flesh.
“I don’t care how fine you are, because my wife is one of the finest I’ve ever seen in my life – it ain’t enough,” said Whitfield. “You’re looking at hunters. When a man says to his woman, I want to make you my wife, what he’s saying is he’s no longer going to go out here and hunt all over the reservation. Our home is our new reservation, and I gat to be allowed to hunt in here when I need to. I told my wife, babe my job is to keep me out of the street; your job is to make it easier. Help me. You help us.”
Meanwhile Franklin said men have to be aware, and that no matter how old they are, they have to safeguard themselves against themselves.
“Sex in marriage is important. A lot of times this is where the enemy does the most damage – because the person that you are married to, oftentimes can be the person that you are least honest with, the person you least communicate with, and the person you are least intimate with.”
Speaking to his marriage to actress Meagan Good, whom he married seven years ago, he said he had expectations of what it would be. He spoke to her having one good baked chicken recipe in her repertoire, and coming home every day to baked chicken. Then she left for a months-long job, during which time he would travel to see her and take care of his food. When the show wrapped up, she returned home. When he came home, he spoke to not smelling chicken when he walked into the house. He overlooked it because he said it was her first day back. The second day he walked into the house, he again didn’t smell chicken. He said he had unspoken expectations that cooking was something she was supposed to do, and the day it wasn’t done he got a little salty and cold.
“It got to the point where finally we had a conversation, because when I wanted to go cook, a sign was on the door. I said why is a sign on the door. Because it’s locked. We began to have an honest conversation and what she began to reveal is this, ‘I can feel your expectation and it took the joy out of it for me, because it went from something I wanted to do, to something I was obligated to do.’ What she was saying was do you love me as your wife because I make the chicken or will you love me whether I feel like baking chicken or not? And because your love feels conditional, even though I don’t want to – it makes it hard for me to give myself to you, because that feels conditional as well.”
He said her truth immediately got him to a place and he apologized because he came to the realization that by the time most women get into marriage that they have endured so much abuse – sexually, emotionally, physically, spiritually – and that so much of how people treat them, especially men, is conditional.
“If you do this, I’ll do that. If you give me this, I’ll give you that, so the idea when they come into a marriage is here’s the opportunity where I can heal from the abuse, and be loved just for who I am. And I had an expectation of marriage, and I hadn’t even asked her if I could expect that. How can we hold someone accountable for something they hadn’t even agreed to do? So I’m getting mad at her but I didn’t ask her in our marriage could I expect this? Are you okay with doing this? I just started judging her because she wasn’t doing it, and she didn’t even know it was an expectation until I started treating her a way that was against who I said I wanted to be as a husband.”
Franklin said he apologized as her husband and said he no longer puts the expectation of her cooking on their marriage. And that if she feels like cooking great, or if he does, it’s still great.
“I took the expectation off, and the sign came off the door, because there was no condition, and there was a freedom to be who she wanted to be without the obligation to do something she did not want to do.”
Franklin told the men in the audience that too often as men, they think their manhood is an excuse to be and do what they want to do.
“[For] real men it’s about service. And if we don’t start with serving our wives, how can we then serve the community? It starts at home,” he reminded them.
Whitfield said there were certain times in his marriage that he questioned why God sent him his wife, especially as his mother taught him to cook, and he could iron and care for himself from head to toe.
“I know he didn’t send me my wife to be a physical vessel. It finally hit me. If I can master dealing with my wife, I can master dealing with my life, because my wife is going to introduce certain parts of myself that aren’t good. She would challenge me in ways that the word can’t even challenge me, so if I can master dealing in that space, when I get out of here, you got nothing for me.”
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.