A couple of years ago, I wrote this post as a Father’s Day tribute. The point of that post is that Father’s Day is necessarily a celebration of masculinity. But here’s the fact two years later: being a masculine father is a subversive act, one that goes against the societal current. But it’s exactly what our children need.
The Current Trend: Be Nice
Each generation has its own unique challenges. As a result, there’s a sense in which being a father is harder now that it’s ever been before, because there’s a sense in which it’s harder to be a man now than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, men in years past have hard to work harder for less and have had much more difficult lives day-to-day. But they knew their role. They had to protect their family and provide for them. If their kids survived to adulthood, they’d done their job well.
But that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where every aspect of society, from the technology we use to the popular culture that we consume to the preachers that inhabit our pulpits to the politicians that we elect to the teachers that develop our children all have a similar message: men need to step aside, back down, and be much, much kinder. And, unfortunately, that message has created a generation of men who know how to be nice, but don’t know “to not be nice”. That wise philosopher Dalton explains below – Warning – the video is not child or work friendly.
The message of “be nice” or “always be kind” impacts fathers. It influences them to step aside and let their wives decide the direction of the family. It influences them to find their identity and their value in being nice, mannerly men. It teaches them to fear offending others. It makes them passive men and passive fathers. It results in them raising children whose primary goals are to be quiet, kind, and never, ever to bully.
To be sure, kind, obedient children who don’t traumatize others are a good thing. But if those are a child’s primary attributes (especially for boys), he’s likely on his way to being a statistic – one of the many men who deal with depression, existential angst, a lack of competency, and a sense that their life just doesn’t matter much. “All in all [they’re] just another brick in the wall.”
When being nice and mannerly are elevated to the exclusion of strength, courage, wildness, conflict, and danger, which happen to be the very things that make boys (and men) tick, boys and men struggle to find an identity and fail to thrive. And that’s exactly where we are as a society. When’s the last time you heard a popular voice encouraging your boys to be wild, to take risks, to do dangerous things that excite them. You will, however, hear that message directed to girls and women.
The Current Need: Be Subversive
Because being unabashedly masculine has been devalued (and often outright mocked or criticized), men and fathers have been pushed into a role that doesn’t fit them. But there are those who refuse to play that role. There are subversive fathers. They lead their families. They exhibit strength. They don’t play it safe. They aren’t afraid. As one of my friends likes to say, they “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”. Such fathers raise strong boys who take risks and do amazing things, including protecting the weak and punching bullies in the mouth, and they raise girls who grow up know they’re beautiful, capable, and loved.
“Society has influenced too many fathers to become little more than mothers who aren’t as good at it. Your kids need a mother. But they don’t need two of them. They need your masculinity.”
Men who insist on leading their families are subversive. They undermine a society that is far more concerned with female “empowerment” than actual family success. Men who are strong and courageous are subversive. They undermine a society that simply wants them to nice. Men who can shoot a gun, kill a deer, fix a car, or win a fight are subversive. They undermine a society that would rather have them dependent and mannerly. Men who don’t back down to mobs are subversive. They cannot be controlled.
Men who have a vision for their children and work to make it happen are subversive. Society wants them to let kids find their own way. Men who give their children freedom to explore and do dangerous things are subversive. That’s considered neglectful. Men who oversee their children’s friendships and, especially, romantic relationships are subversive. Society says that’s too controlling. The societal trend is for fathers to make sure their children stay safe physically but to give them freedom mentally and emotionally. Subversive fathers are just the opposite: they let their kids take risks physically, but they provide protection over their minds and emotions.
Our challenge on this Father’s Day: be a subversive father. The value of fatherhood is in the masculinity that we provide, just as the value of motherhood is in the feminine virtues and skills that a woman provides. And our children need both. Without mothers, our boys would turn into hard-charging cretins who run everyone into the ground and fight too much. But without subversive fathers, our boys turn into kind little fellas that simply can’t do much, and our girls grow up without someone strong in their corner, leading them to seek it out from the first boy who gives them attention. Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung too far to one side, and society has influenced too many fathers to become little more than mothers who aren’t as good at it.
Your kids need a mother. But they don’t need two of them. They need a man who will bring those things that men do best: teach their boys, through both their words and their example, to be strong, courageous, skilled, and connected to others. To teach their daughters that they are safe and protected, that someone is engaged in their life, that someone finds them beautiful, and that someone always has their back.
Gentlemen, Father’s Day is about you. It’s about celebrating what you bring to the table as men. We’re all at different points in our journey. We’ve all made mistakes and need to make improvements, so don’t let the past get you down. In these days, fathers must be subversive. Sure, teach your kids to be nice, but make sure that you teach them when it’s time to stop being nice and, just as importantly, teach them how to not be nice.
Being a father is the most important work on earth. Press on. Persevere. Don’t let go of the rope. Hang in and hang on. Never back down. One day you’ll breathe easy and smile big and be able to spoil your grandkids. Until then, Happy Father’s Day! This is the man’s life. Godspeed.
Because men everywhere need encouragement and direction, our message needs to be spread far and wide. I’d really appreciate it if you’d use the buttons below to share this article on social media. Together, we can help men find a better life experience. When men thrive, families and communities thrive. I hope you’ll join me. Godspeed.