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WHAT MAKES A GOOD MAN

GOOD MEN: Tom Matlack created a movement called The Good Men Project in 2009. He said, “My personal definition of being a good man means trying to make more good decisions on a daily basis than bad. It means showing up for my wife and kids even when it’s not easy. It means trying to help someone else out of generosity rather than greed. It means telling the deepest truth I am capable of. And it means forgiving myself when I fail. Because I still fail. If I make more good decisions than bad on any given day, that is a victory. And I sleep well.”

My dad was a good man, the kind Tom talks about. He was a good provider. He went to every band performance I ever had and my brother's football games. He took me hunting and for rides in his truck. He let me be his helper and taught me how to build. He didn't leave my little sister behind either. He showed up. He told the truth. He was a simple man with simple values, simple aspirations. He never quit on his family. He stayed by my mom's side until she died of cancer in my childhood home. My dad is the epitome of the saying, “If a job's worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Anybody that knew him would say he was a good man. Thanks dad, I miss you every day. 

If you're wondering what a good man might do or be, the chances are you are already doing it - it's the day to day striving toward living a good life that makes the difference. Here are a few thoughts I believe my dad would approve of:

BE COURAGEOUS. It takes courage to stand for what you know is right. It takes courage to stand in the storm of teenage drama. As John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” I’ve often thought it is the most important virtue.

TELL THE TRUTH. Keep your word. Be reliable. Be fiercely loyal to and protect those you love, especially her. Have faith in people. Don't diminish anyone - you won't make yourself seem big and strong by trying to make someone else small and weak. She's watching how you treat others. She's watching how you treat the server at your favorite restaurant, your wife, the janitor at her school, and how you let her treat you. Be mindful. 

HAVE VALUES YOU ASPIRE TO. Write them down. Talk to her about them and do your best to live them. Help her find her own. 

 

BE STEADY IN THE STORM. Be the voice of calm and reason in chaos, the calm port: bring a peaceful heart to her troubles. Radiate love for your family. See the goodness in her and others. Be grateful, gracious, and kind. Live so that she knows no matter what, you will be there. The love never stops.

NONE OF US ARE PERFECT. And perfect is not required. Children are resilient. We will make mistakes and come up short of our aspirations, raise our voices, and react out of anger. It's called being human. In her teen years, she will take your last ounce of patience and crush it, so be ready.

 

On another day, she will do something so profoundly beautiful you will remember why it's all worth it. 

But what we do when we make a mistake is important. She will notice if you take responsibility or try to hide from it. Or blame others. I came up with four rules. 

THE FOUR RULES OF MISTAKES: I already mentioned rule #1: We all make them. Don’t waste time beating yourself up or feeling guilty, do something about it.

Rule #2 is: Take responsibility. Don’t tell her you wouldn’t have yelled at her if she wasn’t being a pain in the something. Maybe she was, but if you regret yelling, don’t make it her fault. This simple act of taking responsibility builds character (yours) and demonstrates integrity. It also builds trust, the currency of relationships.

 

If she trusts you, she will forgive you when you make a mistake. If she doesn't trust you, she won't believe you even when you tell the truth. 

Rule #3 is: If you hurt someone, say you're sorry. Make amends if your mistake damaged a relationship. Offer a simple act of service as a way of saying, "This relationship is important to me." Make her bed for her, do a chore for her, tie her shoes, give her a flower. Nothing extravagant - a simple gesture to show that when you say sorry, you mean it. 

Rule #4: This final rule is the most important: learn something. Because if you don't learn anything, you will make the same mistake, over and over. And you might take the opportunity to learn from other's mistakes as well because you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

Mistakes are an opportunity for you to model many valuable life lessons. These lessons will come in handy if she takes them to heart because she's going to make many of her own. If you teach her these rules through your words and actions, it will be a gift she can take through her life. 

YOUR BEST: Get up every day and do your best, and that's what she will remember. Like I tell Elizabeth and Rachel, no one can ask for more than your best, and if you do that you will, like Tom Matlack said, sleep well. Good enough is good enough. Be gentle with yourself and with her. Strive to be a good man. 

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DAD POWER

I once asked Donna to tell me about her dad. Because her book is filled with stories of adventures she went on with him—climbing peaks in Vermont, backpacking trips, hiking trips, and more, I expected her to tell me about that.  But she didn’t. Not exactly.

 

Instead, she talked about the kind of man Frank was, and how he lived his life. She said he was a leader that inspired people, a “master of empowering us and our choices.” In her book, Donna wrote, “Dad always made time to listen". He listened, she said, "with an open heart." He was kind, devoted, and faithful, a powerful and vigorous man who lived life with enthusiasm and "infused me with confidence."

Frank didn't just give Donna his time and attention; he gave her who he was - a good man. 

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DAD STORIES

The Every Sunday Project is inspired by the life of an inspirational man and father, Frank Dearborn, and the relationship he created with his daughter Donna. When Donna left for college, Frank told her he would write her a letter, every Sunday. He asked her to write back and for 32 years they did. A letter every Sunday.

 

One day, Frank had a stroke and could no longer write, walk or express his thoughts. Donna visited him in the nursing home and told him stories to cheer him up. Stories about her adventures growing up with him in the outdoors. She began to write them down, and those stories became a book: “Every Sunday: A Father and Daughter’s Enduring Connection.” It is a true love story, the story of a girl who got the dad she deserved. To read more good dad stories, click below

Dads' last flight, October 18, 2021, Boerne Stage Airfield.  After all those decades, he still knew how to fly.

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