Lose weight. Work less. Be kinder to my family. Listen more. Take time to smell the roses. Enjoy sunrises. Read more. Exercise.
If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that freedom of speech is more important than ever. It’s taught me that there’s people from both sides of the political spectrum that prefer to use insults and smear to respond to things that cross their sensibilities (or insensibilities!). I’ve learned that there’s a huge movement against free thinking. There seems to be people, ideologies and movements that want to police your very thoughts and closely held beliefs.
2016 has taught me that there are people that are very well prepared to label uncomfortable facts as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’. 2016 has taught me that there are some people who’s default response to my beliefs, thoughts or ideology is to call me all manner of things, without actually asking, engaging or seeking to find out the why of these beliefs.
I’ve found that there’s a large swathe of people, like myself, who for too long have been polite. Perfectly rational, normal people who for too long have bitten their tongue, either publically or privately. People that have literally been too scared to voice conservative or libertarian viewpoints. Kind, hard working, compassionate people who have been scared to speak out on important issues because any dissenting view gets dubbed as racist, intolerant, bigoted, nationalist, unkind or uncaring.
2016 has taught me that there are people who passionately argue ‘against the rich’, but never say how much of their own personal income or assets should be ‘redistributed’.
2016 has taught me that there are Christians who worship a Jesus who’s big on acceptance but silent on all that horrible sin stuff, mute on repentance and uncomfortable with a Sovereign Lord.
2016 has taught me that there’s a stack of people who resent being told what to do. That there seems to be a class of people who make decisions based on good intentions, rather that good outcomes. It’s taught me that even within a so called Liberal party, there are people who want to placate and pander to illiberal policies and outcomes.
So if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that my opinion is worth just as much as anyone elses. It’s taught me that I’ve still got a voice, and I’m still going to use it. It’s reminded me that freedom of speech, freedom of thought and liberty are more important than ever. It’s reminded me that I will not be told what to think, or say, and I’m not going to be silent.
So my resolution for 2017 is to remove the shackles of politeness and timid silence. I don’t expect to ruffle any feathers or change anyone’s opinion. I’m not looking to cause a stir or be unkind. I’m just resolving in 2017 to exercise my voice. It’s probably the only exercise I’ll do!
You’re answer is probably the last 007 movie you watched!
I got the title of this blog from a news article. You can read it here. It talks of a teacher in America who, on Wednesdays, holds the ‘Gentleman’s Club’. On that Wednesday, he dresses the boys in shirts, ties and jackets. He teaches them things like how to shake hands, how to make eye contact, open doors and address adults. The take away quote from the article for me is this:
“I know a lot of them struggle because a lot of them don’t have men at home, so I just want them to grow up and think of the things that I teach them…A lot of my students perform well when they know someone cares about them”
A lot of them struggle because a lot of them don’t have men at home.
A lot of them struggle, because a lot of them don’t have men at home.
You can read the correlation between the outcomes for children who don’t have their biological father living at home. Do some reading for yourself, and investigate the family patterns of people who are incarcerated, have higher rates of illicit drug use or dependency, teenage pregnancy and mental illness. One of the strongest indicators for these is a child not having their biological dad living at home with their biological mother.
Sociologists and politicians, I’m sure, will have a lot to say about this, most of it claptrap. The solutions inevitably will focus around building a bureaucracy, programs, incentives, studies and commissions to support the drug dependent, the criminal, the mentally ill, the pregnant teenager.
Here’s what it comes down to for me however.
Self control. Specifically, a man displaying self control. This is probably one of the rare times feminists and I will agree, but for different reasons and different outcomes.
It begins with a man displaying self control around women. Around his girlfriend, the girl at the party, the girl down the road, the girl he sees every now and again. Self control that he doesn’t put himself in a situation where he could get her pregnant. Self control to stop way before that inevitable temptation starts, because honestly, once he gets that girl pregnant, his choices are limited, and his responsibilities increase. We know from the boys in the abovementioned story how much they suffer not having an active, committed, hands on dad at home.
It begins with the man who finds himself getting frustrated with his partner, and pushes her once. Then again. Then it’s a shove. Then it’s drinking, and another shove. Before he knows it, he’s lost control. He’s out of control, and the people who should be trusting in him for their safety and security fear him. His partner doesn’t know how long this good, or bad turn will last, and life is lived on eggshells. His daughter learns that this is how men are, his sons will have this destructive path imprinted on them. Because he lacked self control, his missus leaves, he’s involved with the courts, the police, the law. Who will teach his sons self control?
It starts with a promotion, and a payrise. It comes with a bit more prestige. A bit more entitlement. Maybe a business card, maybe a car. He finds he gets more fulfilment from work than his family, more adoration from the juniors than his wife, more respect from his peers than his kids. He finds himself surging in a tide of success, and his control at home diminishes. It becomes an annoyance. His influence at home becomes transactional, not relational. Who is there when his son needs loving guidance and firm direction? Who is there when his son loses his cool?
The path of a dedicated husband and father is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do. There is a delicate balance between just providing and influencing. There is an ongoing tension between taking the easy road, to loving guidance, to punitive discipline. There’s the unrelenting and oppressive lure of sexual temptation, available literally at the tap of your fingers. A man has access to instant credit. Gambling on his phone in real time. Endless entertainment on the computer or TV.
I started this article talking about the Wednesday Gentleman’s Club, and how one teacher influenced these precious boys just by meeting some BASIC needs – providing good clothing, teaching them to shake hands, teaching them to open a door. These are BASIC needs – needs these precious boys hadn’t received at home, because of an absent father. Because a man lacked self control, because he used a woman to gratify his own selfish desires, and now isn’t taking up the mantle of his responsibility.
The purpose of this article isn’t a critisism, it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to all the dads and fathers out there. It’s a challenge to the single guys. It’s a challenge to me. What is the Wednesday Gentleman’s Club in your life? Are you the one teaching your boys to dress like a man, talk like a man, shake hands, open doors address others with respect? Are you the one teaching your boys the enduring gift of self control? Are you practicing self control now, so you can teach it later to your sons?
I know you can’t be everything to your boys. I can’t be my son’s footy coach, on account that I can’t kick a footy to save my life. Here’s what I can do though. I can teach him to respect his coach. I can teach him to be a team player, to share the ball around, to win with grace and to lose with dignity.
Who will be teaching your sons about self control? Will it be you, or someone else. Will it be the boys in blue? A gang? A magistrate? Their teacher?
I firmly believe that as a society, we will be stronger when more men exercise self control.