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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

What it means to me to be a good man: What my father taught me

< in preparing to write responses and essays on topics like these, I usually try to essentialize. I head straight for the dictionary, look up all the words I can, and try to find one, succinct, profound answer; a statement that, if left alone on the page, would say enough. In this case, that method would be fruitless. I think a lot about the man that I want to be, and I’ve never been able to find one attribute or quality that supersedes all others. Being “masculine” is not the same as being a man.

When I think of a real man, I think of my father. After his death a year ago, I often think of the impression that his life has made on mine. Let me tell you a little bit about him. My father was not an imposing man; I outgrew him in High School. For roughly the last decade of his life, he spoke in a quiet, raspy whisper, due to damage incurred during an operation. Since I was nine years old, my father stayed at home and took care of the household duties after being laid off. My mother was the primary bread winner. My father was an engineer, and eventually made his way into the business world, but if he could have done it all over again, he would have made costumes, which he often did for my sister and me.

My father was also a man of unalterable integrity. Having joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his late 40’s, his spiritual beliefs and values were something he found strength in. It was this basis of love and respect for mankind that formed the core of his life, and shone through in everything he did. Whatever tasks or assignments came his way were fulfilled quickly and thoroughly. He always went the extra mile, remembering friends and birthdays and anniversaries that the rest of us had long forgotten. He was a pillar, and a true leader in our home, but he did so with humility and quiet strength. His capacity for kindness seemed limitless. We didn’t always agree, but we always loved each other, and this bond meant more to me than I may understand in this life.

I want you to reflect on that first description of my father two paragraphs ago, and the impression you had of the man I described. Now look at this last paragraph. Which set of qualities do you think more defines a man? Some would have you believe that a man is made by his looks, by his interests, or by his career. In the end, should any of those things matter?

A good man is one whose inward beliefs match his outward actions. It is strength of character and integrity that define him, and lend him dignity and power in his daily work. This coupled with humility and an eye towards the well-being of his fellowmen makes him more than just a man. These are the kind of men the world needs. These are men who change lives for the better. Yet we often find it more difficult to flex our spiritual muscles than our physical ones. But I know I’ll keep trying. I know I’m not there yet, but I’m glad I have someone to look up to.

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