For many people the two words “extraordinary” and “fathers” don’t seem to match up well, they’re like antonyms. Especially in the western world, due to rising feminist narratives, if anyone is going to be labelled as extraordinary, it’s going to be mothers. In other parts of the globe, fathers would be called extraordinary due to their socially preordained authority, rather than their actual greatness.
Fathers and Leaders
Leadership is not for everyone, as Simon Sinek emphasizes. It comes with the sacrifice of the Self so that others can flourish. The same way, Fatherhood is not for everyone either. To demonstrate the parallel: just because somebody manages people doesn’t mean they’re leaders. Likewise, just because someone has kids, doesn’t mean they fulfil the role of a father.
The Broken Image of Fathers
With the help of globalisation, digitalisation, advocacy on gender equality, and human rights activities, more and more personal stories of abuse and injustice have been brought to the public. Consequently, it has become difficult to maintain a positive image of men in the 21st century and this tendency doesn’t exactly serve the reputation of fathers. Too many mistakes have been made. The hurt is deep and forgiveness is hard.
However, this isn’t the only song in the album.
Because there are fathers, who did not and do not abuse their children and spouses.
There are fathers who remained and remain faithful.
There are fathers who stayed when they could have just left.
There are fathers who are emotionally present and devote time to their families.
There are fathers who sacrifice their lives for their loved ones.
Unfortunately, these kinds of stories don’t receive extensive media coverage and attention. But there is a need to make extraordinary fathers and father figures visible, not only to balance the excessively demonised picture of men, but also to encourage new fathers, that they can be extraordinary after all.
The stories we tell matter
Using the power of stories, we can throw light on good fathers and create a narrative based on gratitude.
One such story is of Malala, a young girl whose name gives hope and inspiration to many children as well as young and grown adults. She is a fighter of every boy’s and girl’s right to education. However, she didn’t accidentally become a hero to the world. In her biography I am Malala, she often speaks about her father Ziauddin Yousafzai and how he empowered her, shaped her but also let her fly freely.
Justin Baldoni has been successfully acting out the stereotypically masculine roles Hollywood had given him. Many would agree, that he embodies the perfect image of strength, power and charisma. However, in his effort to not only be a good man but also a good human, he relies on his father’s teachings.
Or if I think of my own father, one of the most valuable lessons he taught me is about freedom. How we always have a choice, but it’s our own responsibility to investigate our options. A powerful method for increasing our pool of options is getting comfortable with exposing ourselves to ideas, opinions and environments that are outside of our comfort zone. Because the more we know, the more freedom we have to decide who we want to be.
Can we just take a moment and honour these and many more male parents, who in their own imperfections still managed to inspire us?
As a daughter, I want to thank all great fathers and father figures.
Photo Credit: Tim Mossholder via Unsplash