Each Father’s day, millions of cards — complete with gratuitously sappy messages that no human has ever uttered — are purchased and shared. Millions of electric razors bought… soon to become landfill. Millions of “Happy Father’s Day” wishes to anyone with facial hair — including, sadly, Aunt Bessie.
But this Father’s day, may I suggest a new activity? It is not sappy. It does not support or contribute to a culture of consumerism. And it is entirely free.
I suggest that we raise our expectations for every man, every boy, every “Future Father” in our lives.
In a few generations, men went from Frederick Douglass to Homer Simpson. From Harry Truman — the only president since 1897 who did not have a college degree — to present-day politicians who come replete with academic achievements but whose character is consistently lacking. (Click here or here if you wonder why I put Truman in that list.)
I’m tired of weak men pretending to be strong. Men who sacrifice nothing then criticise those who do. And if I’m completely honest, I am tired of my own tendency toward this same weakness. I need help raising my own expectations.
“The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer… a cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform… these are marks, not of superiority but of weakness.”Theodore Roosevelt
Strength of character, conviction, honor, and duty still matter. In fact, they matter more now than ever before. They matter because those qualities are in such incredibly short supply.
Honor is rarely celebrated in our media. What is? Backbiting. Tearing down. Raw power. Winner-take-all. Anti-intellectualism. Dominating the weak.
This is classic “small ball” gamesmanship. (Which, incidentally, describes these men perfectly).
Some of you saw my recent post about raising an oh-so-rare Black Boy Valedictorian (find it here). Many of you were encouraged. Some asked for advice.
My unsolicited advice to all is to raise your expectations for every male in your life. Every. Single. One.
What would the world look like if every boy/man behaved as if they believed that intelligence was more important than grades. If character more important than wealth or power. If risking failure for a purpose larger than oneself was the highest aim. And if protecting the weak was worth sacrificing all. (Read this paragraph again while thinking about a male in your life.)
Our world needs males to become authentic, other-serving, honorable, men. This must become our collective aim.
Here’s the Game Plan:
- Don’t apologize for males or save them when they stumble. Instead, ask them what they learned. Then insist that they rise.
- Radically avoid diminishing messages which are now everywhere. Let them know that you see a man of honor. Require them to see it too.
- Never accept low effort. Never, never, never-ever praise their grades or other external measures. Measure them by their effort… by their character. Not by money, not by looks, not by accomplishment.
- Give young males (and all kids) freedom to learn from failure. Abandon all learning models that reward conformity and punish risk-taking.
Though a boy starts lowly, we will now expect him to triumph over a “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
“…there is genuine heroism in his struggle and something of sublimity and glory in his triumph. Every instance of such success is an example and a help to humanity. It, better than any mere assertion, gives us assurance of the latent powers and resources of simple and unaided manhood. It dignifies labor, honors application, lessens pain and depression, dispels gloom from the brow of the destitute and weariness from the heart of him about to faint, and enables man to take hold of the roughest and flintiest hardships incident to the battle of life, with a lighter heart, with higher hopes and a larger courage…”Frederick Douglass
So, leave the sappy Father’s Day cards in the grocery store isle. No need to spend money on items he won’t use. Instead, let’s make this Father’s Day the start of a different expectation for our males — especially our “Future Fathers.”
And I write this with myself in mind.