‘Pater’: Shows Up & Leads

Group Effort for FireAccording to William Bennett, the Latin term for father is “pater,” which means “the one who shows up and takes responsibility.” This comes from a series of recent interviews and pod casts hosted by Family Life highlighting “The Book of Man” by William Bennett.

Today we are ten days from Father’s Day, 2016, and we continue to examine Dad’s role in the family and how he (we) can “step it up” for our spouse’s and children’s benefit.  Today’s quote:

To me, having kids is the ultimate job in life. I want to be most successful at being a good father. — Nick Lachey

Within the introduction to “The Book of Man”, Mr. Bennett states:

The purpose of this book is to explore and explain what it means to be a man. In these pages you will find a variety of sources that offer a coherent, defensible, and appealing notion of manhood. The selections range from ancient to modern, and in sum they carry timeless instruction…For boys to become men they need to be guided through advice, habit, instruction, example, and correction. It is true in all ages.  Someone once characterized the two essential questions Plato posed as: Who teaches the children, and what do we teach them?

For me and my siblings, we had the blessings of a strong family – Dad and Mom loved each other and provided a great example of not only making marriage work through the thick and thin, but to show real joy at spending their lives together.  It may be rarer to find these days, but I’m grateful that I got to witness their commitment and joy first hand — I also believe it was one part of helping me make my marriage work each day, too (of course, I take nothing away from my wife’s support, grace, and compassion at putting up with me!)

From a parenting standpoint, I have to say I learned a lot from my Dad and Mom, but I also learned a lot from direct observation of other families, hearing what coaches, teachers, and spiritual advisors had to say, and by reading the Bible.

Scouting provided a practical learning lab for developing my own technical skills like cooking, camping, surviving, etc. but also for leading others by caring about their needs and helping them overcome obstacles to get things done.Allamuchy winter 2011 017

Since that time in my teen years of getting practice dealing with adults, I’ve begun to recognizing that there are, indeed, some percentage of the male population who’s maturity is nowhere close to their biological age. I have seen the ripple effect of “man-boys” who shun responsibility and “grown up behavior” throughout society (and to some extent the “Church” which is increasingly a building filled with women and children as some sort of proverbial life boat for a sinking ship of culture)

Mr. Bennett summarizes this succinctly:

Men are missing from the lives of women and children today in increasing numbers. Almost half of all babies born in the twenty-first century in the United States are bone out of wedlock…Many women are left on their own to wonder: Where are the good men? Where are the fathers?

Some of the call outs to address these questions include:

  • cultural shifts
  • personal irresponsibility
  • perception of fatherhood as burden instead of priviledge
  • failure to recognize the virtues and rewards of marriage and fatherhood
  • shifting child rearing responsibility to organizations, away from parents (i.e. day care, kindergarten, sunday school, youth group, children’s church, vacation bible school, public or parochial schooling, college in lieu of apprenticing, et.al.)***
  • too little interest in education and intentional preparation of boys for manhood

***NOTE: in themselves, these organizations are not anti-family or necessarily inappropriate tools to be used, thoughtfully, in the process of raising our children, but if we “give over” our control and responsibility, we may have gone too far — throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

CSB imageThis last bullet point is not a new phenomenon, but one that has been around for generations.  While it falls to fathers to prepare sons for manhood, I believe men have to confront one of two stumbling blocks.  Some have to care enough to try (own the responsibility), and others have to overcome their own past failings as a man to realize that they are capable, by God’s grace, to lead their sons to become something greater or nobler than we’ve accomplished along the way (accepting that as imperfect as we may be, we are not absolved of our obligation).

We never fail when we try to do our duty, we always fail when we neglect to do it. — Robert Baden-Powell

IMGP6812 (2)Dads who need some help, guidance or support can find it in a number of places.  Christian Service Brigade is a Men’s Ministry whose goal is “building godly men of today and tomorrow” — they help men grow, while helping boys become prepared and equipped, too.  Of course, there are other programs out there for dads and sons like Trail Life USA, Royal Rangers, Calvin Cadet Corps, and more.  Find a program that fits you, and get involved ASAP.

James Freeman Clarke was a nineteenth-century American preacher and author. One of his essays is found in “The Book of Man” and I’d like to provide some highlights as an encouragement of the critical mission that Dads and Moms must undertake.

Manliness means perfect manhood, as womanliness implies perfect womanhood.  Manliness is the character of a man as he ought to be, as he was meant to be. It expresses the qualities which go to make a perfect man: truth, courage, conscience, freedom, energy, self-possesion, self-control,.  But it does not exclude gentleness, tenderness, compassion, modesty.  A man who is not less manly, but more so, because he is gentle.  In fact our word “gentleman” shows that a typical man must also be a gentle man.

By manly qualities the world is carried forward. The manly spirit shows itself in enterprise, the love of meeting difficulties and overcoming them, the resolution which will not yield , which patiently perseveres, and does not admit the possibility of defeat.  It enjoys hard toil, rejoices in stern labor, is ready to make sacrifices, to suffer and bear disaster patiently. It is generous, giving itself to a good cause not its own; it is public-spirited, devoting itself to the general good with no expectation of reward. It is ready to defend unpopular truth, to stand by those who are wronged, to uphold the weak.  Having resolved, it does not go back,  but holds on, through good report and evil, sure that the right right must win at last. And so it causes truth to prevail and keeps up the standard of a noble purpose in the world.

The opposite of true manliness as described by the author is chilling when we consider recent headlines of young men who take advantage of women instead of protecting them, and fathers who attempt to defend these actions.

But as most things have their counterfeits, so there is false manliness which imitates these great qualities, though at heart it is without them. Instead of strength of will, it is only willful; in place of courage, it has audacity. True manliness does what it believes right; false manliness, does what it chooses to do. Freedom, to one, means following his own convictions of truth; to the other it means thinking as he pleases, and doing as he likes. The one is reverent, the other rude; one is courteous , the other overbearing; one is brave, the other foolhardy; one is modest, the other self-asserting. False manliness is cynical, contemptuous, and tyrannical to inferiors.  The true man has respect for all men, is tender to the sufferer, is modest and kind. The good type uses its strength to maintain good customs, to improve the social condition, to defend order.  The other imagines it to be manly to defy law, to be independent of the opinions of the wise, to sneer at moral obligation, to consider itself superior to the established principles of mankind.

A false notion of manliness leads boys astray.

Further, the author reminds us of our need to cherish women for their strength and G0d given, beautiful design.

True manliness differs also from the false in its attitude to woman.  Its knightly feeling makes it wish to defend her rights, to maintain her claims, to be her protector and advocate.  False manliness wishes to show it superiority by treating women as inferiors. It flatter them, but it does not respect hem. It fear their competition on equal levels, and wishes to keep them confined, not within walls….but behind the more subtle barrier of opinion, prejudice, and suppose feminine aptitudes. True manliness hold out the hand to woman, and says, “Do whatever you are able to do; whatever God meant you to do. Neither you nor I can tell what that is until all artificial barriers are removed, and you have full opportunity to try.”  Manly strength respects womanly purity, sympathy, and grace of heart. And this is the real chivalry of the present hour.

Husbands, Fathers, I urge you to take the next few days to think, pray and recommit yourself to your family.  Father’s day can be about getting a present, but it would mean more to you and your family if you focused on stepping up your game as you head into the next 364 days until Father’s Day 2017.

I want to give my kids the world, but I also want them to appreciate everything, to succeed, to be good people, to enjoy life. This is my most important role. If I fail at this, I fail at everything. — Mark Wahlberg

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