“The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard has been set so pitifully low.” -Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs
Yes, everyone is well aware that despite all the good men in history who have left a good name for themselves (along with plenty of quotable quotes, with many of them being strong military leaders or respected writers), there are enough deadbeats, scoundrels, and cads to cast a negative connotation on the word “man”. Women are expected to be saints and givers; sadly, men are expected to be… well, not a lot is expected of men anymore. But not all good men are long gone.
In the aftermath of Father’s Day last week, the Internet was full of freshly published articles about the modern man, father, and husband. Two in particular really got my attention. The first one reviewed the history of TV dads from Leave It to Beaver, to Married with Children, to Parenthood. It brought out the fact that in the 1950’s, dads were too perfect, in the 1990’s they were often portrayed as bumbling idiots, and now in the 2010’s, TV dads have finally began to look more like real dads. See http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/37758834/ns/today-entertainment/. (Though I would argue that the 1980’s were good to TV dads…)
The other article that really got me thinking was one I found on Stuff Christians Like, http://stuffchristianslike.net/2010/06/the-wild-difference-between-a-mothers-day-sermon-and-a-fathers-day-sermon/, which explained how many fathers in Christian churches feel miserable on Father’s Day Sunday because the sermon is about how men need to step up to the plate and be better fathers, while the Mother’s Day sermon provides nothing but praise for women.
I definitely see how good men often don’t get the praise they deserve. Like Zack Morris once said on Saved by the Bell when Jessie declared that all men are jerks, “Hey, don’t judge us by our worst specimens.” What can we do to enhance the minority of men who are truly good fathers, husbands, and hard-working citizens?
My guess is to call them out on their goodness when you see it. It seems that if we as a culture began to celebrate the men who are doing right, it would be more of an incentive for those who are just half-way doing it, seeing there is praise and appreciation for being a “good man”. But when the goal is simply to be better than Charlie Sheen (both the actual person and his fictionalized character on the totally lame yet successful sitcom Three and Half Men), there’s a certain lack of motivation to become a better man.
In an age where stereotypes of men who are drug to church by their wives end up jumping in a 15 passenger van for a weekend trip to their nearest major sports arena to learn from a former NFL player at a Promise Keepers conference that they should spend more time with their kids instead of watching sports games and that they should share the household responsibilities with their wives and stop looking at pornography on their home computers, then they go back home a changed man for a month, then repeat the process each following year, there are still plenty of men in America who actually already are indulging themselves in being the husbands and fathers they need to be. There are actually good men in America who don’t have to be reminded to be good. Because they are already aware of the reward in being a respected man who lives for his family, not himself.
Celebrate the good men in your life. They may instantly brush aside your compliments or seem embarrassed when you do, but inside it means the world to them. Of course with good men being the coveted gem in a parking lot full of gravels, my guess is, you already do.