Updated: October 26, 2011 12:24AM
There is an oft-quoted passage of Scripture in the Bible that says, “Honor your father and mother, so that it may go well with you and you may enjoy a long life.” This is known as one of the Ten Commandments given by God to His people, and it is the first commandment that comes with a promise from God. If one honors properly their parents, then God promises an improved quality of life as well as an extended quantity of life.
Truly it goes without saying that a child should always honor or respect their parents. However, what of the instances when parents fail miserably to perform even the basic duties of parenthood? How does one honor and respect a parent or parents who abdicate duty, neglect and even abuse their children? What do we say to the child who suffers this course in life?
Our society and culture celebrate parenthood at least twice a year. In May we celebrate Mother’s Day and in June we celebrate Father’s Day. These expressions are to remind us of the important roles that parents fulfill in our lives. If one experienced great parents, it is easy to celebrate them or their memory. On the contrary, if a person feels hurt, neglected and abused by parents or a parent, then it becomes far more difficult to “raise the roof” in celebration of those types of parents.
Far too many persons in our modern culture fall into the latter category through no fault of their own. As they stand on the brink of another Father’s Day, no doubt their minds turn to sadness instead of joy as they think about the present or past role their parent fill or filled in their lives. They wonder, what would my life been like if my dad were in my life? Would I be different? Would my life be better? These are and remain legitimate questions for those who are in such a dilemma.
To those whose fathers have abdicated and abandoned them, I say that even in your difficulty, find the room to forgive. It is necessary to do so that you can be free to love and cherish your children. Bitterness at the root ruins the entire tree.
Focus on others needed
With respect to fathers in particular and parenting in general, our culture is reaping that which we have sown. How long did we think it would be in terms of generations that we would begin to visualize the devastating effects of living our lives consumed with selfish greed and ambition? Our modern world focuses much more on self and less on others than perhaps any time in human history, and we pay a steep cost as result.
Our children see our effort to advance our lot selfishly, often at their expense. We work to provide them with what we think they need and fail to give them what they need most: our presence and guidance.
Not only has our selfish behavior due to ambition resulted in our absence, but selfishness also results in the massive number of children growing up without the presence of their fathers.
I congratulate every father who stays with his children, even when staying with the mother as well is difficult. In addition, I would be remiss not to mention the courageous fathers, who in the absence of their presence in the home, make every effort to engage themselves in their child’s or children’s lives with excellence. However, I am sad to conclude that both of you are now in the minority.
Take time to do more
In saying this, I cannot help but remind myself of my own failures as a father, wanting so badly to get the ever elusive “do over.” No matter how I chase the past in order to correct it, it always gets away from me. Consequently, my efforts are better spent connecting with my children on a deep and meaningful level now, with a passionate desire to be all that I can for them, for they are now and will always be my greatest contribution to this world.
Furthermore, I must honor my own father, who despite incredible odds stacked against his success, stayed with my mother as a young couple and raised me with a value system that included faith and family as priorities. Like so many young fathers today, the pressure of his circumstance could have turned him into the “running man,” but instead, like a piece of coal becomes a diamond, my father became a dad.
So, men, as we think of how we can change our world for the better, let us celebrate this Father’s Day without the expectation of what we receive as important, but the knowledge that what we give is indispensable. For example, not long ago I took my youngest son to his first NBA game. In spite of the ridiculously priced hot dogs, popcorn and soda, the best gift I ever received was when my son turned to me and said, “Thanks, Dad, this is the best time I ever had.”
So bring on the colorful socks, slippers and exotic ties; they cannot outlast the look on the face of a grateful child. To all dads I wish a happy Father’s Day.