Santa Clarita Signal • Opinion Column • Ethically Speaking • June 18, 2016 weekender
(Originally published June 17, 2012)
The Ethics of Fatherhood
David W. Hegg
Over my years as an adult male I have worked at many different jobs, especially during college, grad school, and our first years of marriage. I worked on a farm, on a loading dock, as a framer, for a funeral home, and in a hardware store. I’ve worked in the financial industry, and owned two small businesses. I currently teach at the college level and pastor a large church. Along the way I have had to do many things that were difficult, beyond my abilities, and just plain no fun. Like many of you reading this I’ve been mistreated, misunderstood, opposed, humiliated, scorned, and exhausted in the workplace. But I always had an advantage. My dad taught me how to work, and how to think about work.
My father was a plodder. He was good at a few important things but his success in life was due to the fact that he never quit, and always knew why he was doing what he was doing. He taught me that work was a privilege, not an entitlement. And it was never about the money. It was about the work. Money was just the happy bloom on a healthy plant.
Dad believed work was a gift from God, given to us for the purpose of bringing about a vast array of good things. Work produced discipline, perseverance, and strength over time. Work was the laboratory for creativity, personal growth, and service to others. Work was both a physical and intellectual exercise that kept body and mind growing and invested in life. Work was a privilege.
This theology of work was just one of the many things my dad poured into my life. There were many, many more. He taught me that the most important thing I could do to be a good dad was to have a great marriage. I remember him saying “The greatest gift you can give your kids is to love their mother.” He also taught, with his words and actions, that a disciplined life will bring the most satisfaction and the most significance. And he never, ever considered it to be true that quality time could be a substitute for quantity time. Most of what he taught me came as we were walking, or working, or driving. He never planned our sessions. They just flowed out of our life together.
Dad died several years ago after a long and agonizing bout with Alzheimer’s. As they say, it was a very long goodbye as the disease took his mind, bit by bit, long before taking his body. The surprising thing is how often I still hear his words rattling around in my brain. More and more I realize that his father power has been deep and far reaching in my life. I am my father’s son. And I also realize that my job as a father is among the most important things I will ever do.
Every job I’ve ever had came with a set of standards by which my performance was to be measured. In every case there existed rules that governed how I worked, how I was to accomplish my tasks, and what the reward would be.
Being a father is no different, except there is really only one rule. Give your life for your family. That’s it. Fathering is all about seeing your wife and kids as more important to you than you are to yourself. It is about joyful sacrifice to make sure they have all they need. It is about leadership that looks to their best future and makes it happen, even at personal expense. It is about doing the hard things, the right things, the necessary and essential things. And mostly it is about sacrificially loving your family to the place where their success becomes your greatest significance. That’s father power, and our country needs all we can get. Thanks dad.