I am writing this on Father’s Day…2015. But this is not the only day we need to think about the vital role of fathers: in our lives, in our world.
Congratulations to all those men who are celebrated today in their vital role as fathers – whether biological or adoptive fathers, or “fathers” to those they mentor, befriend or lead.
We need so much from you; we are also supporting you to give it. Most of all, we need the example that you can give of how real strength emerges not from “might” but from insight, self-responsibility and tenderness. With that, care for others comes. And oh how we need that.
Please take the time needed today to check your priorities and what most deeply motivates you. We need to trust that personal gain means less to you than making thoughtful choices – not with your money only, but with your time, attention and care. No one else can make those choices for you; they are yours alone. But they matter to us.
You live in a world crowded with other people. Perhaps you work with colleagues and live with a family, a community. Or perhaps you live alone. Wherever you are, we need you to regard other people with a lively, meaningful interest that matches or exceeds your self-interest. This is the only reliable path to self-respect as well as happiness: caring for others, opening your eyes and ears to their reality, being curious about others’ lives, appreciating what they do for you, and forgiving them for being every bit as human as you are.
Listening is not something we regard as a top masculine attribute, but open-minded listening isn’t gendered. We can all learn it, learn to “take in”, pause, reflect – and perhaps loosen up or abandon some of our least helpful knee-jerk responses or defences. Careful listening heals; it also expresses love. Relationships flourish where people of all and every age feel heard, understood, and unconditionally accepted.
It’s impossible to think about careful listening without also thinking about careful talk. In a world where so much talk is itself critical, destructive or violent, we beg you to discover what a difference you can make just through routinely speaking with warmth and respect, not asking yourself who “deserves” that, but choosing it as a way of life – because you can. You will grow in stature. You will grow in character. People will trust you. In treating others as you long to be treated (in speech and action), you will add so much wellbeing and peace to a world which desperately needs that. That would be a gift to us “beyond words”.
We love and sometimes envy the physical strength that comes with your gender, but only when it is used to support others: to protect, create, play, heal, build and rebuild. We also love your ingenuity, enthusiasm and passion: we want more of that. Much more. We need you to share that through living a new vision of justice and dignity. That means freely offering respect to others, in order to be increasingly self-respecting. Self-responsibility is key here: never blaming; always learning. You are “growing” yourself while you are also influencing any children growing with your care. What do they need? What do they want? What would your “ideal father” provide – not least in inner steadiness?
You can do, give and be that – and more.
Is this vision too exalted? I don’t believe so. We learn it by living it. We don’t expect you to be good at “everything”: no one is. We love it, though, when you are willing to try something different…even when you fumble and fall. Fumbling and falling are part of learning to live from the heart, but so is noticing, making right what is wrong, learning from mistakes, saying sorry every time that’s needed, and rising with hope to each new day.
Have there ever been more children without fathers in our world, or with fathers who have abandoned them physically or spiritually? I don’t know. What I do know is that “fathering” with intelligence and dignity, with commitment, trustworthiness, appreciation and profound respect has never been more urgently needed. It takes time. It takes self-sacrifice. It takes constant and committed thoughtfulness. It takes (and gives and gives) love. But what could matter more?
Blessings, on this Father’s Day. Blessings, every day.