Things I Learned from My Father

dad-and-baby This post is really a “part 2 of 3” type of post.  The first part was on Mother’s day.  In the earlier post, I revealed a little about how I came to be the person that I am.  You can find it here.  This post, I will expand on that, by explaining some of the important lessons that I learned from my father.  The 3rd part is what I learned from my wife, and will likely remain between the two of us.

Be Grateful

Our family has been blessed in so many ways, that even if I dedicate this blog exclusively to that topic, I could not begin to cover them all.  Even so, it appears to be human nature to notice something that someone else has, and you don’t.

My father made it clear from an early age that gratitude and thankfulness is the key to contentment.  He made it clear with his lessons, as well as his actions that striving for more should never be our motivation for doing more.

Courage to be a Man

It is becoming an increasingly unpopular concept to think that women and men are gifted differently.  I am not saying that women cannot do what men do and all of the other reactionary nonsense that some extremists actually believe.  But, my father taught me to use the gifts God gave us to do His work.  As a father, I can work with my children differently than Beautiful.  As a husband, I bring different gifts to the marriage than Beautiful.  To deny that is to rob our family of the gifts God has given.

My father also taught us that there is no shame in acknowledging these differences.  On the contrary, when it is done well, it is glorious and blessing to everyone.  Just because some people do this poorly, is no reason to believe it is in error. Rather it is strong motivation to be all the more dedicated to doing it well.  My older children can attest that when our family is in a stressful situation, it is usually because I have neglected this truth in some fundamental way.

Love is a Verb

If you were to form your definition of Love from anything most artists produce, be it music, movies, poems, etc., you would be convinced that love is purely emotion.  To be sure, there is an emotional element to it.  When I consider my wife, children, brothers, sisters, and parents, there is happiness, contentment, peace, comfort, compassion, etc.  However, those emotions are a product, they are not the source.  To give an example, when I turn on a light switch, I (usually) get light.  The light is the result of electrical current running through a circuit. The circuit does some work and light is produced.  Yes Dad, I picked that metaphor for you!

My father taught me that love must manifest itself in action.  If  it it is not doing something, it is not really love.  As I confessed in an earlier post, I love Milk Duds.  That love is completely self-indulgent, and not really love.  Let me make this simpler and hopefully clearer:  Actions that benefit me are self-indulgence (not a bad thing necessarily, but not love);  Actions that benefit others are love.

My father spent his entire life (that I knew him) in the service of others.  He loves his wife. he loves his children. He loves his grandchildren.  And he loves almost everyone he has ever met.

How to work Hard

This was a hard lesson for me.  My siblings probably have humorous memories of some of the ways I avoided work as a youngster.  I know my parents sure do.  In my defense, I need to point out that work is a four letter word.  But, then again, so is love.

I am sure I gave my father many of the gray hairs that make up his “crown of glory.”  I am sure he prayed many prayers on my behalf.  I am grateful for his efforts and his prayers because I did finally learn this lesson.  The funny thing is that I cannot begin to tell you how or when.  It just happened.  My father spent so much time and effort on me with this lesson that one day, it just took.  I couldn’t imaging slacking, or shirking or letting someone do work when I wasn’t.  If there is work happening, I want to be in the middle of it.

This actually created a funny growth opportunity for us when Beautiful and I were first married.  She is a night person and I am definitely not.  When I was ready to collapse at the end of the day, she was ready to clean the house.  God is kind and we worked through that period, but I remember to this day the first  day she surprised me with her desire to tidy, when I could barely keep my eyes open.

Right and Wrong are not up for Vote

This is a hard lesson for our democratic inculcated youngsters.  Some things should be voted on, but others are beyond a vote.  Assuming that the majority can come to the right conclusion is an Ad Populum fallacy.  Our democratic system is not about morality.  It is about representation that reflects what we, as a country believe. Having the majority believe it, does not make it right.  This is not a new concept.  Our founding fathers referred to this as the “Tyranny of the Majority.”

The important lesson from my father was that right and wrong are defined.  It is not up to me or even him to define them.  It is up to all of us to discover what they are, and to do our best to live accordingly.  Unfortunately, as more folks are persuaded that right and wrong a malleable concepts open to the whim of the majority, another important concept also suffers the same fate: truth.

Truth can Handle Questions

While I value all of my father’s lessons, this is my favorite.  I value it even more in this current climate that makes up our country.  You can no longer have an opinion that disagrees with the majority without being harassed online, physically, or some other way.

There have been people that have lost investments, jobs, or worse, because of their expressed views or even contributions to political organizations.  It is supposed to be illegal for that to happen in our country, but it has happened.  The scary thing for our children and those after us is that the trend will only grow because of the positive reaction the persecution has received.

My father taught me clearly that truth does not need to hide behind shrill voices, and half-truth catch phrases that mislead others.  Just read a few Memes floating around on Facebook and you will see what I mean.  Extremists on both sides ply half truths or outright falsehoods to make the other side look stupid.

Real truth can handle questions and probing.  It will stand because that is what truth does.  That was the principle behind freedom of speech.  If you allow people to voice their opinions, truth will eventually win out.  Not only can you not say something unpopular now in public, you have be careful about saying it anywhere someone might record it, because if it leaks to the internet, the rabid masses will consume you.

Yes, if you allow people to speak their minds, dumb ideas will be expressed.  It is also true that some of them will even catch on.  That does not mean that we need to start squashing ides.  Rather, it means we need to become better thinking and we need to equip our children to do the same.

My children are encouraged to ask questions because I was.  I learned a lot of things from asking those questions. More important than the facts, I learned some valuable principles.

  1. My father didn’t know all of the answers (even though he knew more than anyone else I knew).  If he didn’t know, though, he would do his best to find out.  Seeking knowledge is one way we become better thinkers.
  2. If a thing is true, when placed under the microscope of questioning, it will reveal new levels of truth to the intrepid explorer.  The beauty of a diamond is really appreciated when studied up close.  Truth is the same.
  3. Leaving a question unasked is like leaving a Milk Dud, uneaten.  It just shouldn’t be done.

I pray my children are learning those same lessons

Service in the Shadows

Many people are willing to serve in the spotlight, but it takes a truly great man to serve without recognition.  My father is a great man and many of you will never have the opportunity to know him, or know of his greatness.  My father has no desire to be famous.  On the contrary he is one those great men that will do the things that need doing that no one else seems to want to do.  People’s lives have been changed because of his service in this way, but they may never know it was God working through him that made that happen.

This is my favorite way to think about this.  Consider the first Continental Congress and the men that were in that room, putting their families and fortunes at risk because they put their name on a document that declared our independence.  Now how many of those men can you name without looking at the Declaration of Independence?  You are above average if you can name more than three.  Those men served and they are largely anonymous beyond their generation.

While my father has not been in a similar situation to put his family and fortune on the line for the greater good of the country, he has served and continues to serve for the greater good.  There are no publics works that bear his name, and no historical documents that subsequent generations will study in school, but he is every bit as great as the men who have.  Anonymous service has a great reward that goes well beyond plaques on buildings and ink on historical paper.  It is an intangible that satisfies deep down, and has a reward that no fame will ever approach.

I pray I will continue his work of Service in the Shadows to extend the blessing to a new generation.

My Father

Just like my siblings memories of the lessons they learned from my mother are likely different from mine, I expect their memories of lessons they learned from our father to also be different. As I mentioned earlier, my father is a great man.  Like my siblings and I, he had to figure out some parenting on the fly.  He is not perfect, and neither are we.  However, he is the greatest father I know and I am grateful to be able say he is mine.

God bless you Dad and thank you for putting up with me.  I will always love you.

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