Sunday, June 18 is Father’s Day. While our modern society tends to celebrate this holiday with sales on gas grills and killer deals on power tools, there’s a lot more to being a father than all of that.
While I don’t have any children of my own, I do have a father, which I’m guessing is true of most people reading this. In honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to share and briefly reflect on some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned from my own father over the years.
As I would imagine is true of most children, I learned a lot from my dad as I was growing up, and I owe much of who I am today to his influence. One of these lessons, however, stands out above all the rest in my mind. The best part is that my dad probably wouldn’t even know to what I am referring, as he likely has no idea that he ever taught me this lesson, but years afterward, it’s still vividly clear in my mind.
The story goes like this:
One day, when I was very young, my dad and I were in our family’s living room playing with the ubiquitous, little plastic army men. We had a lot of the tan-colored soldiers, but only a handful of the green ones. Without fail, my dad would always ask us—as a joke—if we’d rather be on the green side or on the tan side, if we were fighting in that battle. All of us knew our part, and we’d respond that we’d rather be on the larger, tan side, after which we’d all laugh and carry on playing.
That winter day in the living room, however, something a little different happened. I asked my dad our usual question, but without even thinking about it, I changed the wording a bit. “Dad,” I asked, “if the tan guys were the bad guys and the green guys were the good guys, what side would you rather be on?”
I fully expected my dad to jokingly say he’d rather be on the larger, tan side, after which we’d laugh about it and keep playing, per standard practice. Instead, he looked at me and with uncharacteristic seriousness, he said: “I’d rather be on the good side even if I was the only one on it.”
I was dumbfounded for a moment, mulling over the words I’d just heard. My dad, the person who I knew had all the answers, had just told me that it was always better to do the right thing, even if everyone else was doing what was wrong. He’d told me that it was always better to do what was right even if you knew you were going to lose.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve paused to reflect on these words over the years, either to guide me in making the right decision or to rebuke me for making the wrong one. While I have without a doubt fallen short of this ideal far too often, it’s a principle that I hope will guide me for the rest of my life. It’s a lesson my father taught me.