Monday, June 16, 2008

A Perspective on Fatherhood

I read these remarks on fatherhood this morning and wanted to share them. I want to say clearly that these are NOT my words, but I do not want to cite the source.

Whether it be in business, government or just every day conversations, the speaker is too often dramatically more important than the validity of the content s/he is delivering. This is a topic that we should all evaluate strictly on merit and that idea is what I am trying to promote by keeping these remarks anonymous (though many of you may know exactly who said them).

The remarks I read are based on three priorities for excellent fatherhood (and parenting in general). I am citing just this core in lieu of the entire speech.

The first [priority] .... – as fathers and parents – [is] to instill [an] ethic of excellence in our children.... And that means meeting those expectations ourselves. That means setting examples of excellence in our own lives.

The second thing we need to do as fathers is pass along the value of empathy to our children. Not sympathy, but empathy – the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes; to look at the world through their eyes. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in “us,” that we forget about our obligations to one another. There’s a culture in our society that says remembering these obligations is somehow soft – that we can’t show weakness, and so therefore we can’t show kindness.

But our young boys and girls see that. They see when you are ignoring or mistreating your wife. They see when you are inconsiderate at home; or when you are distant; or when you are thinking only of yourself. And so it’s no surprise when we see that behavior in our schools or on our streets. That’s why we pass on the values of empathy and kindness to our children by living them. We need to show our kids that you’re not strong by putting other people down – you’re strong by lifting them up. That’s our responsibility as fathers.

...the final lesson we must learn as fathers is also the greatest gift we can pass on to our children – and that is the gift of hope....not idle hope that’s little more than blind optimism or willful ignorance of the problems we face. I’m talking about hope as that spirit inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better is waiting for us if we’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

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