“Father” or “father.” Capitalized or not. What images or ideas come to mind when thinking about what a father is, what a father does, and who we regard as great fathers?
Some think of God or the Creator. Others may recall the Father of some ideology or science. Still others may think of the “Founding Fathers” in some context. Bottom line, the label or title of father carries some notoriety. I ask you to reflect, to look inwardly, and to recognize what all of these “father figures” have in common? Power. Authority. Leadership. Success. Creativity. Courage.
I can really only speak for myself, but in addition to these images, I think of my own father who possessed many of these characteristics. No, he was not perfect, but he garnered my respect as a father. I believe this is true for many of us, as we think about our own imperfect fathers. Then, I must reflect on my own experience as a father, and what it truly means to be a father. I have learned that I must let go of how I see myself and pay attention to how I am seen by my child. In doing so, I am brought to a new and original definition of fatherhood that I must treat with respect if I am to honor the concept of fatherhood. In sum, the person who calls me father or Dad, ultimately determines my primary role and responsibility.
A good father responds to the needs of their child and anticipates the needs for their growth. Beyond that, my child has helped me understand that being a father automatically puts me in the company of other fathers by association, including the most powerful Father. In other words, fathers are assigned a certain level of responsibility, respect, and authority, even when it’s not necessarily deserved or earned. As such, particularly on Father’s Day, I am compelled to ask other fathers, how are you leveraging the privilege and power that comes with fatherhood not only on behalf of your child but with regard to leadership and influence in the broader community. More specifically, when was the last time you talked with other men and/or fathers about their responsibilities to promote peace and nonviolence? What are you doing as a man and/or a father to end violence against women or against other men who don’t meet the elusive definition of masculinity? If there is some level of power or authority associated with fatherhood, and I believe there is, now is the time, more than ever, for you to wield your influence.
I’ll put it this way, as a father, you never want your child to wonder if you love them. In the same vein, collectively as fathers, how do we let the world know that it is loved? The challenge for us then is how to extend the love we have for our families to the broader community.
Let’s embrace the new and original definition of fatherhood as brought to us by our children. Let’s address their current needs and respond proactively to their anticipated needs as defined by our children. This is our charge. It is not enough to have power, authority, leadership, success, creativity, and courage. We must leverage our energy and will collectively on behalf of and in response to our children.
Imagine a a world where all of the “fathers'' banded together, in the spirit of new story creation, on behalf of all “children” with respect to the interconnectedness of all life! Could we end violence against women? Could we resolve issues of homeless and hunger? Could we redefine manhood with emphasis on building and giving rather than destruction and controlling? Could we rebuild the self image of a young man who is contemplating an act of violence?
Imagine that! What a Father’s Day celebration that would be!
Happy Father’s Day!
Stephen Niamke, MPT Hubs Coordinator