Responsibility wasn’t something I took to learning very quickly. It seemed I never got to be responsible for anything I wanted to be responsible for, only things others told me to take care of. Still, entering adulthood I believed it was best to own your mistakes if and when you make them. This belief was reconfirmed many, many times throughout my Air Force career. Everyone messes up on occasion, and most mess-ups aren’t catastrophes we can’t recover from. When we fail to recognize and understand the truth and depth of our responsibility for situations however, we’ll continue making similar mistakes.
No one wants to make mistakes, despite the learning value in reflecting on them. We really hate making the same mistake. And we REALLY hate making the same mistake over and over again. For those of you continually making mistakes as you try to Dad from a distance, grasping at straws to understand why, this blog entry is most definitely for you.
Responsibility and Manhood
I read a clever quote somewhere a number of years back. “Youth is wasted on the young.” It’s a laconic version of a quote originally attributed to George Bernard Shaw. Here at middle-age, its wisdom rings truer than ever. We all spend varying degrees of time trying to understand that this whole thing: the universe, life, existence… it isn’t all about us. It isn’t about any other single individual either. As individuals, we can determine what our life is about. We can chase money and success, we can become an expert, we can create through art, architecture, design and programming, or any number of other pursuits. Life seems to demonstrate that our success ultimately depends on how we impact other people. Indeed people are often best-remembered for the way they made people feel.
Taking this level of responsibility changes behavior, but it also forces us to analyze our present circumstance and reconsider how we got here. This can be quite painful. If you find it hard to forgive yourself for your wrongs committed along the way, please remember: those actions and words came forth from within the confines of your state of awareness at that time. You cannot go back and fix those mistakes, but you can try to prevent recurrence of those mistakes from now on. I hope you will.
Our concepts of manhood range as broadly and widely as the denominations within Christendom, I imagine. Still, I think the majority of us would agree on more than a few common traits and characteristics of what we identify in men. Respect for self and others is always a consideration in my book. These two are readily apparent in men that take responsibility for their interactions with others. I believe, in fact, that one cannot know one’s self if they’re not willing to accept responsibility for their life. Obtaining this self-knowledge requires depths of honesty and objectivity a sizeable number will never be comfortable with. In my experience, all there is to fear is a clearer picture of yourself, and moving closer to overall truth.
Responsibility and Fatherhood
It isn’t just you anymore. This might be the first time you ever realized none of this was about any one of us. If you’re reading this, then I imagine from the moment you laid eyes on your child, your life has been driven by what you believe is in their ultimate best interests. Your responsibility now includes that of an infant, wholly dependent upon you and Mom to survive and thrive. The love you show (or don’t), the examples you set (or don’t), and the way you live your life will have a tremendous impact on their own perspectives on life.
Never lose touch with the gravity of that responsibility.
Your child will shape our future in some way. Their success will also be heavily determined by how they interact with and impact others. You and their mother will be their primary examples for how to do this. Their most important, and personal example will be the way you interact with and impact them. Remembering this, treat them as you want them to treat you: with love, respect, honesty and kindness. Isn’t it more likely that’s how they’ll treat other people? If that is how they interact, is it a fair expectation of how they can expect others to treat them?
It gets really deep, guys. We end up talking about how they learn to form expectations, and how those expectations affect them through life. Have you ever heard, “As expected,” or “People rise to the level of expectation”? If a daughter watches her Dad beat and verbally abuse her mother, what will she likely expect of men? If another girl sees her Dad treat her mother with love, kindness, respect, devotion and gentility, what will that girl likely expect of men?
Responsibility – Putting Perspective into Play
If along the way you’ve remembered things you wish you’d have done differently, you can put this perspective into action right away. You must forgive yourself. Whatever you said or did, you chose to do or say that within the limitations of your awareness at that time.
If the issue in question is something you can make restitution for, make it. Acknowledge they way you wronged the person, express remorse if it is present, and humbly ask forgiveness. If you’re having a moment like this at present, then I encourage you to act on this guidance right now. Call the person. If possible, meet with them for coffee and make the experience as authentic, and cathartic, as it can be for both of you. You may not get healing, or even a warm reception for your efforts right away. You can’t control any of that. If you want to take responsibility for your life, then start where you might do some healing through the act.
There is more to this than would be appropriate for a blog entry. If you would like to know more, please send me an email and we can discuss these things in further detail. Until next time, remain committed to being the best Dad you can be for your kids, NO MATTER WHAT.