I have got to say this. I am shocked at how many men today seem to think it’s okay to abdicate their responsibility to their family. I seem to be assessing so many men these days who are naval gazing and narcissistic, constantly complaining about how everyone has done them wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not minimising genuine mental illness, psychological distress, grief or post traumatic responses. I’m talking about men who seem to think that they are the centre of the universe and who seem preoccupied, obsessed even, with looking at their own needs before that of anyone else, including their own children.
There’s a part of me that genuinely wants to say to some men, “Man up!”
I know that those words can sound destructive or argumentative, but I don’t mean it in a derogatory way. I mean it in terms of a call to arms, a challenge to step up to the plate and show your courage and mercy, your sensitivity, compassion and commitment.
I know that we passionately seek equality, which is a very good thing, but if you marry a woman and have children together, and for whatever reason you leave or are asked to leave, you must remember that you made a commitment. You are obligated to provide for your family, especially your children, come hell or high water. There is a noble calling here, men, something primal and essential to what makes a man a real man.
That obligation, I believe, is even more important if your wife’s income earning capacity is limited because SHE sacrificed her career and ability to earn a comparable income for YOU and for the CHILDREN you had together (which is still happening the majority of the time these days, with the average woman still earning 70 cents in the dollar compared to her male colleague who does the same job).
Maybe I sound old fashioned? Maybe it’s the fact that my dad was a military man and his commitment to his family, his incredible ability to always put us first, no matter what, has shaped me on a visceral level. But one of the things I learned from my dad is that there are times in life where you choose to sacrifice your own well being for that of your family, be that a wife and children or some other form of family (and by the way, I see many, many more women making such sacrifices for their husbands and children than I do men and they are to be acknowledged and applauded for this).
This kind of sacrifice flies in the face of a modern paradigm that says not only can you “have it all and have it now,” but that you “deserve” to have it all and have it now. Well I’m sorry to be so blunt, but “what a crock!” You don’t actually DESERVE anything in the scheme of things. That’s a very modern, Western idea and it is fundamentally flawed as a world view.
A Sacred Commitment
It resonates with me on a very deep level that a commitment to your wife and to your children, should you have them, is something sacred. And in honouring that commitment, you teach your own children something quite profound and possibly something that will make this world a better place, simply through how you choose to live your life.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Ghandi.
As a final bonus, when you honour this kind of commitment, no matter how arduous and challenging it may be, you develop resilience and strength within yourself as you come to appreciate the true meaning of what it means to serve another before yourself.
Throughout my life, the ONLY leader in my immediate circle of work and colleagues who has truly impacted me in a profound way, is a man by the name of Laurie McIntosh. Laurie sacrificed a career and incredible earning capacity to serve rural communities in Australia. He was my manager, or leader or mentor if you like, for five years.
On a bitterly cold day in outback New South Wales, where I was a student at a small community college, Laurie did the most amazing thing.
As I walked in to a lecture room early in the morning, to sit for a final exam, I noticed how extremely cold the room was. The other students and I were too stressed and distracted by our upcoming exam to attend to the dying embers of the fire, choosing instead to rub our hand together briskly and shiver in the cold, sterile room.
Laurie, who happened to be passing by, noticed the cold room and the dying fire. Without hesitation, dressed in his business suit, he put his laptop and folders down, went outside into the bitterly cold weather, gathered some firewood and brought it inside. He quietly went to the front of the room and within minutes had the fire roaring. He made no eye contact with anyone, did not draw any attention to his act of kindness, or interrupt our concentration as we focused on the upcoming exam. He simply smiled as he went about his task.
Once he had provided us with a toasty warm fire, he left the room just as quietly as he had entered.
We all undertook our exam in the comfort of a warm room, very thankful for this man and what he had done for us, when he had much larger, more pressing demands upon his time. After a long semester of lectures, the most profound thing we learned was that a true leader is a servant.