Sunday, February 5, 2012


I like inspirational movies. There is something about seeing a character overcome a seemingly insurmountable obstacle or deliver an incredible speech that makes watching movies fun. The one thing that always occurs to me as I find myself getting motivated by the on-screen triumphs is that I really don't have much of anything in common with the characters or their undertakings. As pumped as I always get watching Rocky, I'm not a boxer. I had the same experience when I watched Warrior, which I recommend. I could easily list about a dozen inspirational movies that don't directly relate to my situation, but I recently watched a movie, Courageous, that inspired me to be a better father.
The movie revolves around a group of friends who, because of a tragic accident, sign a resolution to be the kind of father they believe God would want them to be. This is a Christian movie, so their resolution is drawn from biblical passages, but I believe the message is universal. When the main character, Adam Mitchell, brings up the idea of striving to be a better father, one of his friends responds by saying, "You're a good enough father." His response is that he doesn't want to be a "good enough" father. You don't have to be a Christian to see the truth in that. I don't want to be a "good enough" father either. I feel like my kids have the potential to be pretty remarkable people but they won't get there if I'm only "good enough". I need to do a better job of seeing myself through the eyes of my children. As Atticus Finch puts it in To Kill a Mockingbird: "Before Jem [his son] looks at anyone else, he looks at me, and I've tried to live so I can look squarely back at him."

These are two very different sources of what it means to be a father, but they both the nail on the head, and they both challenge me to evaluate my actions as a father. I'm not saying that I'm a bad father. In fact, I think I do a pretty darn good job a majority of the time, but a majority of the time isn't all of the time. There are days when I lose my temper with my children. There are days when I place other priorities above them. There are days when I simply want to be left alone. It is at these times that I need Atticus Finch and Adam Mitchell to remind me of the gravity of my role in my children's lives. I've had a lot of jobs in my life. As a soldier and a teacher, I have been in a position to have my actions make a tremendous impact on the lives of people around me, but nothing I did or continue to do in either of those positions will be as important as how effectively I function as a father for my children, and I'm glad that there people out there spreading that message.