My last letter to you was about fatherhood’s two faces: responsibility and opportunity to grow. I told you that responsibility is about the ability to respond to what’s expected of you. And then you asked me how in the world are you going to meet the super high, unbelievable, and most of the time, unreasonable expectations of people around you who claim to be your family but actually don’t care for you and Hannah, and your incoming baby.
Well, my quick answer is a resounding NO! You don’t have to meet their unreasonable uncaring expectations at all. But that would be another topic to discuss. Just ignore them for now.
What I was talking about was God’s expectations from all fathers. Now that you are going to be a father, you need to be aware of these things. Because after reading this letter, you will jump from theory to practice.
Father’s have many responsibilities. We will not talk about all of them; instead, we’ll focus on just four basic duties expected of a father.
- Protection — You are expected to protect your family from all kinds of harm. In order to do that, you need to assess your environment. Are they safe from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harm?
- physical harm is easy — is your house safe from diseases, thieves, physical pains, and unnecessary accidents due to poor household arrangements? Check it out. Do a general cleaning if necessary
- emotional harm — how close is your family (you and Hannah) from people who constantly criticise, condemn, insult, and belittle other people including you and Hannah? If in case you are living among them, how do you prevent or at least neutralize those emotional harm that may cause your family unecesasry emotional pain? Figure it out. But don’t engage in war!
- mental harm — attitude is very crucial to success, but it has two characteristics that may cause you problem: first, it is very contagious, second it is difficult to change. Now if you are surrounded by people with very negative attitude, how do you secure your family from being infected? Because remember, once you and your family is infected by the negativity of those around you, it would be very difficult to change and go back to your original mental state.
- spiritual harm — attitude are just outward manifestation of an inner belief. If the people around you do not believe in God or do not believe that there are universal, timeless principles that govern us all, that may pose problems. If they believe that they can control the universe, and that they can control you, that would be dangerous. If your surrounding dont believe in the virtues I taught you — virtues like honesty, discipline, forgiveness, patience, faith — that may create conflict. But if their belief is far different from ours, DON’T ENGAGE IN ARGUMENTS. That won’t help at all. Arguments dont convince people, behavior does. 😉
- Provision — Again, as humans, we have four dimensions: body, mind, heart, spirit. Those four dimensions have different needs:
- the body needs food, clothing, and shelter; the mind needs to learn and satisfy its curiosity; the heart needs love and acceptance, and the opportunity to love in return; the spirit needs meaning that comes from a higher being (in our belief system, it’s God, not money), and the priveledge to serve other people.
- Now, as a father-to-be, you need to start thinking how are you going to provide those things directly or inderectly.
- Food, clothing, and a decent shelter is the easiest part — but this one requires money.
- Mind comes next. Providing education requires financial sources too. But teaching your son the right attitude, doesn’t require money. And that’s even more important than any bachelor degrees, MS, and PHDs this world can to offer.
- Many fail in the “heart” part (have you ever heard of fathers who cant forgive their sons or daughters? They failed in the heart part of providing for the family) Let’s continue this in number three below.
- The “spiritual” dimension is probably the greatest dillema in our society now. Very very few fathers provide spiritual guidance to their children — the world has become too busy, that its fathers choose to prioritize money and status above all else. When I was younger, I also made that mistake to you. I prioritized “everything else” in my life, and forgotten what is expected of me as a father. Now I’m catching up. I hope I can.
- Love, Encouragement, and Forgiveness — All these three have already become very very rare now in our modern dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest, “matira-matibay” society. But these three are essential. If your own family cannot find these three in your own home, where else can they find them? Nobody offers them anymore for free! Well, of course there are few exceptions out there. But when I say it’s “very very rare” its really very very rare. I seee people everyday whose parents cannot offer them love, encouragements, and forgiveness, so these poor people demand those essentials from false friends, strangers, drugs, and alcohol. The result? Chaos! Pain! Regret!
- Belief Foundation — Did you know that our first image of God comes from our first image of our earthly father? Yes. That’s why when you told me few years ago about your doubt on God’s existence, it almost crashed me. Because I knew, that I failed on this part of my responsibility as a father: I was not able to provide you a clear image of God. First, we fathers, do that by setting examples, by our behaviors, by the choices we make; second, we reinforce those behaviors with words of explanation. If we fail on our examples, no amount of explanation will compensate.
- So prepare yourself on how are you going to give David the best image of the invisible God.
- Another things is your overall belief system. In my 13 years of working with “so called leaders” I observed that most of them don’t have an intact belief system. They don’t know whether or not to believe that integrity is an imperative in leadership. Because of that, they compromise everytime, they are not consistent in their decision-making, and because they dont know what they believe, they don’t know how to respond to difficult situations. The result? People stop trusting them! As a father, one of your responsibilities is to establish that belief system in your family that is intact — a belief system that cannot be esily shattered by arguments, and cannot be swayed by painful experiences.
There are many more responsibilities waitng for you as a father. We haven’t talked yet about discipline and specific instructions and training, and about how to treat your wife. We’ll get there later. For now, I want you to begin thinking about these four basic expectations you need to meet. If you have noticed, I began from the easiest (protection) part, to the most difficult one (belief foundation) to make it easier for you to apply them. The last two responsibilites are just an expansion of the “heart” and “spirit” issues in both the protection and provision responsibilities.
I pray that you find this helpful. May God bless you and comfort you, and give you streght as you put these teaching into specific observable actions.
I love you always son!