A close friend who has known me from childhood recently told me that it was impressive to him that I was already a father, that I was married and taking care of my family – day after day putting my family’s needs and wants before my own.
Well first of all I certainly find many opportunities to put myself first. But I know what he’s getting at. Yes – as a husband and a father I regularly, even daily, put my family first. But my first internal sense was that this was not necessarily a praiseworthy thing, because deciding to take responsibility forces you to take responsibility.
I came to embrace some profound beliefs about manhood and responsibility a few years ago, and I have allowed these convictions to guide my life decisions since. So I got married at 23 and became a father at 26. I made some BIG decisions early on that have fundamentally determined what the next few decades of my life are going to consist of. In making those decisions I embraced the responsibility of loving a wife and raising a child (or children, Lord willing).
But those decisions, in a way, have forced my hand. Short of being a completely delinquent father and husband, I have to be responsible day after day. I think that’s a good thing. At the very least, it’s a good thing for me. It has the effect of pulling me out of my insular selfishness in which I would otherwise happily wallow. I would never say that marriage and fatherhood are the only ways to get boys to grow up and take responsibility. Lots of guys do a fantastic job of shedding boyish behavior and embracing responsibilities without getting married or having children, but then again lots of other guys don’t. So even if it’s not the only way, it does usually help.
One last caveat: without a desire for and commitment to responsibility, marriage and fatherhood will not create a man but rather burden a wife and child with an irresponsible guy, so that’s not a good idea if anyone is considering it.