We are Men, Right?
We live in a world where society has broken into all sorts of fragments. As someone who is charged with getting a certain message out to life insurance producers in order to drive performance, the fragmentation of society is painfully obvious at times. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-fragment. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. I love the diversity of generations, personalities and thoughts — it’s invigorating. Everybody has been given different gifts for a reason.
I was on the phone today with a producer, explaining the concept of “personal branding” — that everything you let the world see about you tells a message. Now, back in the day of the gray flannel suit, everyone conformed and most everybody wore a corporate brand on their life. Now, Facebook, Twitter, Google, our clothes and our music are more easily known and affect how people view us. For someone who is meeting strangers and attempting to build credibility with them, he better understand his personal brand and he better understand the effect that brand will have on any given person. It’s one of the complexities that this world has brought that prevents us from going through the motions and having much success.
Not long after that call, I was running on a treadmill, listening to a sermon and the image of my son popped into my head. I started thinking about what we could do tonight after I picked him up from school that he’d enjoy. He and I love to do “Man Errands” together — you know: Home Depot, HyVee, Sports Authority and Starbucks. At that instant, my conversation with the life insurance producer met my thoughts on my son and WHAMMY!, we have ourselves a blog post.
When TD and I do just about anything together for the first time, he invariably asks a lot of questions about what we’re doing. Any of you with 4 year-olds know this phenomenon far too well. Once he’s gotten a suitable amount of answers, he completes his interrogation with this question: “we’re men, right?” Now, he doesn’t really ask me if we’re men, he gets that part. What he’s asking me is if the activity we’re involved in is part of being a man. Just about everything a kid knows about being a man comes first from his father. That said, what a father doesn’t supply a son will be searched for in other men. A boy’s quest for understanding manhood will be quenched; it’s our opportunity, our obligation and our privilege to fill this role. While I’m talking about fathers in this post, it applies to any adult who has contact with a child. Their understanding of the world is being built on the experiences we’re giving them.
So what’s your “personal brand” as a father? Your child sees everything. EVERYTHING. Are you teaching him he’s unimportant by brushing him off so you can do your own thing? Do you teach him love by showing him grace when he makes a mistake? Are you teaching him fear by punishing him for mistakes? Are you developing a thoughtful child by teaching him through his mistakes? Are you teaching him to be deceitful by critical of him? The list is endless. What we say and do WILL cause a direct effect on our children. In the Bible, Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” What are you sowing in your children?
One thing I’ve noticed is that people who are miserable in their marriages focus their love on their children and just “room” with their spouse. They think the child is better off for this relationship. But if you sow a relationship into your child where the parent-child relationship has more emphasis than parent-spouse and you’ll raise a child that knows how to do a parent-child relationship and no ability to love his spouse successfully. You want a happy, healthy marriage for your child, then make sure yours reflects that. If you want your spouse to have intimate friendships they can be themselves in, then develop intimate friendships you can be yourself in. If you want your child to be isolated and feel the emotional weight of the world on their shoulders, then live that way.
I know I’ve been talking a lot about love lately. I can’t escape it right now, it’s invaded every one of my thought processes. I want my children to love and be loved the way God loves me. I want my children to be indiscriminately patient and kind. I don’t want them to be envious, boastful or proud — so I tell them and show them that I love them because they’re mine. I want them to honor their parents, so I treat my wife with honor and my children with respect. I want them to not be self-seeking, so I try to be generous so that they don’t think about what they don’t have. I dont’ want them angry, so we work for resolution to problems and the underlying conditions that led to the problems. We reward truth-telling in our household — and a child learns the value of integrity when honesty leads to teaching while deceit leads to punishment. I want them to protect, trust, hope and persevere, so I show and tell them their value to me through giving them my time, my energy, my focus and my affection. I want him to be affectionate, so wrestle and hug and hold hands. I want him to not take himself too seriously, so I laugh at myself. And I teach them that the world doesn’t revolve around them by giving everything I have to God first, my wife second, and them third. Amazingly, they love being third on my list. My son values my love so much more when he sees me worship my God and love his mother. It gives me credibility with them.
I’m FAR from being a perfect father. But I ask my Father daily (when I’m with my kids, usually every 5 minutes) for His kind of love to be reflected in me. There are days I struggle as a dad and my wife has the grace to step in and cover for me. I try to do the same for her. I’m learning and growing. And when my struggles show, TD tends to gracefully say to me “dad, we’re all God’s children, right?”
I’ve directed this at fathers, but it applies to mothers, too: are you parenting with a purpose? Do you think about the qualities that you want your child to have? Do you think about how your life teaches your child about their identity? You can’t deceive God, and ultimately, you can’t deceive your children. We all love our children, but how we love them is every bit as important as how much we love them. We reap what we sow. What are you sowing?