Sunday is America’s most complicated holiday.
The way you feel about Father’s Day is directly tied to the man that comes to mind when you hear the word “Dad.” For some of us, it’s just another Sunday, because our father-figure was absent. For others, it’s complicated, because the Dad we experienced didn’t give us much to celebrate—he may have been abusive, demanding, or distant. Still others will celebrate a good man, knowing just how rare a blessing that is.
No matter the baggage you carry (and we all do) from the man you know, or didn’t know, as “Dad,” Sunday can be a special day. It can be a time to give attention and gratitude to a man worth celebrating, be he a biological father, a step-father, or a father-figure.
A few years ago, I wrote a book called The Five Marks of a Man. It resonated with men from all walks of life who were ready to leave boyhood behind. While it wasn’t written specifically for fathers, I find that the five marks are just as relevant when applied to that role.
As you read through the marks, I challenge you to think of a man who has embodied at least one of them in your life. No matter his biology, he has been a father figure for you. This Father’s Day, make the choice to celebrate him. Give him a call. Send him a text. Buy him a beer. Let him know how his fathering has impacted you.
Fathers have vision
A father sees the potential in us that we have a hard time recognizing in ourselves. Proverbs 22:6 tells parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he grows older he will not depart from it.” You have to have vision to see what a child can be and you have to have vision to paint a picture of the future and work toward it. Dads push us to move; to take the risk. They encourage us, believe in us, and pick us up when we fall.
Fathers take a minority position
Fathers are teachers and we need teaching to do things that don’t come naturally to us. The majority will naturally do what is easiest. If you want to do what is unnatural and difficult, get ready to be in the minority. My Dad would never cut in line, even for good reasons or when invited to stand beside a friend. He has modeled what I still do today.
Fathers are team players
Because a father views themselves as part of a team, they willingly invite others to join them. They take the time to teach a trade or skill to their “children,” and make investments of time and effort to help the next generation succeed. The best Dads I know are a healthy part of multiple teams, especially a band of brothers that he calls friends. My friends have helped me to see things in myself that have helped me to be a better Dad. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul in thinking that you don’t need to spend time with friends for restoration, support, and enlightenment.
Fathers are protectors
In George Floyd’s final moment of life, he asked his Mom for help. That broke my heart on multiple levels. It also revealed that he didn’t have a father figure to cry out to. A father protects those around him—physically, financially, emotionally, and relationally. He puts himself on the line to ensure others are cared for, safe, and honored. A father stands up for those who are ignored, forgotten, or mistreated, and they teach others to do the same.
A father isn’t afraid to work in order to provide for others. That includes an occupation, but it goes beyond that. A father will give his sweat equity to push you forward—if it means helping you move apartments or getting you to that job interview on time. Many parents think they get to stamp out when the kid turns 18, graduates from college, or enlists in the military. Not true. Everyone wants someone to work for them. Everyone wants to be well led regardless of the age. My kids are in their 20’s and still need the right word from Dad at the right time. They still need me to organize family fun. They still want me to be a financial backstop. My work hasn’t ended over the years, it’s merely shifted.
If you’ve had a man stand in any of these roles in your life, you have been fathered. In the midst of our world, it has never been more important to excel at the role of “Dad.” The time has never been more ripe to celebrate the men who are doing their best to get it right.
Happy Father’s Day.
Every other Friday, thousands of people get unfiltered encouragement and challenge from me delivered to their inboxes. If you were helped or challenged by this, subscribe for more at the bottom of the page or at briantome.com. To quote the great John McClane… “Welcome to the party, pal.”