Throughout the month of June I’ll be sharing some “father” themed posts on the blog. There are three things I hope for of myself and of dads around the world this month. 1) I hope that we push ourselves to put away the distractions (phone, tablet, whatever…) and be more engaged with our families. 2) I hope that we find ways to lead our families into bigger stories. And 3) I hope that we realize how big a deal it is to be a father, and yet maintain enough perspective to embrace our humanity and forgive ourselves when we fail in our pursuits of #1 and #2.
My Many Fathers
I’m in my mid-30s (ok, really probably my late-30s…) and in my time on planet Earth, I’ve had a number of “fathers” who have poured into me and helped me become who I am. My Dad, who his friends call Roger (because that’s his name), and my kids call Pop, has been married to the love of his life, my mom, for 40 years. His dad, my grandfather, and the namesake of one of our boys, was a heroic sort of man who, sadly, passed away a few years ago. I miss him still. These two men in my life have been two of the All-time Greats. But there are other mature men in my life who have played the role of a father at times as well; mentors, leaders, counselors, friends… If you’re a guy, regardless of age, marital status, whether you have kids or not, I hope you have someone in your life who can play the role of father for you, especially if yours has passed or is absent. As I think about my “fathers,” I remember some of the things they’ve shared with me along the way.
Here are fourteen words of wisdom as passed along by my “fathers.”
1. Buy a plunger before you need a plunger.
This should seem obvious but think about how many times this advice has proven true in your life. Maybe it’s not a plunger but you get the idea, right? Be prepared.
2. Call your parents every week.
I suck at this one. I’ve gotten better but I don’t like to talk on the phone. I’d much rather sit face-to-face but since my parents and I live 750 miles apart, face-to-face doesn’t exactly come easily. So instead we use FaceTime. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for this piece of tech. Maybe you like Skype or Google Hangout better. Whatever form it takes, make it a priority to call – and not just on holidays or birthdays either. Just call. Just because.
3. Never wear a clip-on tie.
It only takes a few minutes to tie a tie. And the more you do it, the faster the process becomes. Clip-on ties are for children. You’re a man now. Tie the dang tie. And please… PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE… don’t wear a clip on bow tie. Go to YouTube. Watch a tutorial and learn to tie it properly. Not only will you get major style points but you’ll earn mad respect from everyone around you.
4. Compliment her shoes.
It tells her you’re looking at more than her “assets,” that you respect her independence and her attention to detail. Shoes are an expensive accessory. She deserves to have them noticed.
5. Never leave a pint unfinished.
I can only think of one reason to leave an unfinished glass on the table ::ahem:: but other than that, you don’t have anywhere you need to be so badly that you can’t sit still for a few extra minutes to finish it. Beer is made for stories, for laughing, for crying, for being there, being present. Why rush it? You won’t get these moments back.
6. You can tell the measure of a man by the measure of the things that bother him.
It’s okay to be bothered. Really, it’s good to be bothered by some things. The millions of orphans in the world, for example. Or, terrorist groups killing innocent people. But somebody taking your parking spot? Nope. A colleague talking trash about you? Not really. Get stirred up about important stuff and let the little guys fight over the other crap. It’s not worth your time.
7. Always stand to shake someone’s hand.
Because honor is HUGE. You want to received honor? Show honor. We tell our kids all the time, “You are honorable. Show it.”
8. Ask more than you answer. Everyone likes to talk about themselves.
My friend, Tom does this better than anybody I know. It’s almost a competition to see who can ask more questions about the other one. But he’s so darn good at it that I get sucked in to answering his question and before I know it I’ve been talking for fifteen minutes. Arrgghhh… Darn you, Tom!
9. Go with the decision that will make for a good story.
My wife and I decided a few years ago that more than anything we wanted our family to live a better story. We’ve shaped most everything in our life to be able to do this. There will be lots of decisions that you have to make along the way and most of the time you’re not choosing between something that sucks and something that’s awesome. Most often you’re trying to decide between two really good options. At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to choose one. Just make sure you’re writing a good story along the way.
10. When you walk, look straight ahead, not at your feet.
You’ve been given dominion over the earth. Why are you walking timidly? You are a conqueror, a king, a leader. What are you afraid of? Set your face to the world, man. You have nothing to fear.
11. Nice guys don’t finish last. Boring guys do.
Oh my gosh… This has been me. B-O-R-I-N-G. BOR-ING. No hobbies. No passions. Not willing to take risks. Not giving my life for someone else.
Kindness, mercy, compassion, meekness… these are all characteristics of the strong. The ones who love with their hearts out. The ones who ignite others to live for more. Be gentle. Be last if that’s your lot. Be quiet when you must. But by all means DO NOT BE BORING!
12. Do what needs to be done without complaining. It never speeds up the process.
Ever. And you look weak when you do. The more you complain, the longer you’ll be stuck in the mess. In fact, complainers tend to stay stuck in menial jobs. Nobody wants to promote a complainer. You don’t like the way management is handling it? Be a solution. Don’t agree with the methods? Hey, you probably won’t always be 100% on board, but I’ll bet there’s something you can champion. Focus on that and do it! If you make it a habit to support your leaders, I’ll bet you one day, you’ll be given the opportunity to influence the decision-making.
13. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
There’s always someone with more experience, more smarts, and bigger and better ideas. Challenge yourself. Grow. Learn. Remember… Don’t be boring. Ask more than you answer.
14. Women find confidence undeniably sexy.
The World Needs You
I love being a man, a husband, and a father. And I love the men in my life, both those who influence me and the ones I get to influence. You’ve been given strength. Become who God made you to be. Thank the men in your life who’ve influenced you. Be humble enough to show gratitude. And ask God to help you recognize when you can pour into someone else. The world needs better men. Let’s be there when they need us.