Each man should decide his belief system, and how that relates to each aspect of his life.
Most of my life, I thought I had it all figured out. Get a job and make it a career. Find a wife and build a family. Throw in a few friends and you have a life. Everything I was taught and everything I saw growing up told me this is how it was supposed to be. All this boiled down to a simple theme: Keep your head down, conform, and do what you’re supposed to. For the majority of my life, that is exactly what I’ve always done, and it didn’t matter the subject. I grew up in the deep south, so if it was traditional there. I followed it to the letter. Religion, politics, work, child rearing, what I ate, who I liked and loved.
As a man, I thought it was supposed to be that simple, and easy to control. What I didn’t count on was opening my mind to other possibilities. Over the last few years of self-examination and expanding my knowledge, I have learned one very important thing–I didn’t know squat! I have always been the guy who did as he was told and obeyed my superiors. If it were my parents, teachers or employers, I was always the one that would do it exactly the way they wanted, without question or complaints.
I never allowed myself to explore other ideas or ways of doing things if it wasn’t traditionally accepted thinking–then it was wrong. If you didn’t agree with that, you were an idiot. I still hang on to too much of that now, but it’s getting better. I would say that over the last three years, I have changed and grown more than I did in the first thirty-six. Some would say for the worse but for me it has been for the better. What did I do?
1. I Stopped Asking Permission— I don’t mean I borrow the neighbors hedge clippers without asking or take vacations without letting my boss know. It means that when I want something out of life, I quit waiting for the approval of others to go after it. What I realized is that the only way someone can have a negative influence on my decision is if I allow it. The authority for our lives rests solely with us because all of the responsibility also lay at our feet. Quit waiting for someone else to tell you that you’re ready.
2. I Stopped Saying I Was Sorry— Yes, if I hurt my wife’s feelings, I say I am sorry. If I run into someone when I am not paying attention, I say I’m sorry. What I don’t do anymore is tell someone I am sorry when I don’t agree with them. I no longer apologize for my opinions, I don’t apologize for coming to a different conclusion that the traditional belief system told me I should. I don’t apologize for raising my children to believe in a way contrary to what society may say is proper.
What we have done to ourselves, and, more importantly, our families, is allow them to be carved into something that outside forces say they should be. If any of my sons doesn’t want to play sports, I am okay with that. I am not going to apologize for allowing my sons to be their own people. I will never make excuses for raising men who care about everyone and believe that each person, no matter of religion, race or sexual orientation, should be treated as equals. I will not be ashamed of doing things differently.
3. I Stopped Caring—This has been the hardest for me, because I did care entirely too much as it turns out. I cared what people thought about every decision and action I took. It permeated every aspect of my life, from what I did in my free time to how I interacted with my children and wife. I certainly care about all the same people I always have, however, I no longer care if they don’t like what I do or say.
That doesn’t mean I go out of my way to be rude or try to provoke anyone; it just means that my opinions and beliefs aren’t controlled by anyone else’s feelings. If you don’t like it that my family wants to do something outside of “normal,” that’s on you, not me! Dad’s, we have to stop letting society raise our children and dictate to us what is acceptable for the individuals we are tasked with helping to grow into well-rounded adults.
Each man should be deciding his belief system, and how that relates to each aspect of his life. From how we deal with coworkers and bosses, to how we raise our children and relate to our mates. I certainly haven’t figured out all the right answers, and what is good for me and my inner circle certainly wouldn’t be right for everyone else. What I have learned is this, the only one that can decide what you believe has to be YOU, it has to be about what you’ve learned and examined not just what you’re told.
This isn’t about rebellion or bucking tradition just for the sake of being different. This is about growth, learning and evolving as men. The power in your life shouldn’t be wielded by anyone else; our success shouldn’t be defined by the opinion of others. You are the only one responsible.
Photo: Flickr/ Bianca de Blok