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Fatherhood as a sacred responsibility every man is armed for

BY GEORGE EHUSANI AND YAW PERBI

Father’s Day is marked annually on the third Sunday of June in many countries across the world. It is a fitting occasion not only to celebrate the gift of our fathers (and husbands), but also to highlight some of the elements of the unique and sacred vocation of fatherhood.

As men ourselves, we take this opportunity to celebrate fatherhood and to encourage our fellow men that we are divinely equipped enough to accomplish what we have been called for.

The source of fatherhood

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In many religious traditions, God the Almighty Creator is recognised as the pre-eminent Father. God is the One to whom the title of Father truly belongs in an original and primary sense, because God is the Source, the Creator and the Sustainer of the Universe. Human beings are only called fathers in a participatory, imitative and secondary sense, since in some way through procreation, human agents do partake in the generative process. From this point of view, the fatherhood vocation is a profound and an inestimable privilege for the adult male. But this privilege comes with critical responsibilities that cannot be shirked on a wide scale without significant deleterious consequences for the entire society and for multiple generations.

For the purposes of this article, by fatherhood we refer to all men, fathers and fathers-to-be, biological and functional alike. Fatherhood is a profound phenomenon that calls for a great measure of accountability on those who knowingly assume the task, or those who have the task foisted upon them by circumstances. Fatherhood is a function, and not simply a title or a name. The father is the primary provider, the guardian, the teacher, and the role model of those who call him father. He is the source of identity, and enables the children to have a definite sense of self.

Fatherhood is characterised by love and tenderness, but also discipline, decisiveness and sacrifice. Fathers ideally possess an innate instinct to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of the members of their families over their own. Fathers teach their children the value of hard work, responsibility, integrity and perseverance. The father is the source of stability amid the chaos, and uncertainties of life. Indeed, fatherhood is a godly enterprise. The vocation of fatherhood is an invitation to live out the human potential for responsibility, commitment, deferred gratification, courage, and sacrificial (selfless) love.

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The state of fatherhood

Yet, the number one crisis of the 21st century appears to be the absence of the fatherhood role model. Many young people today are “fatherless,” not because they have no male parent alive, but because their male parent has either been completely absent from their lives, or they have been a source of scandal and trauma, and are remembered only with pain, regret, and resentment. Thus, often lacking in models of positive masculinity to emulate in their growing years, many young men are today struggling with a variety of character defects that amount to negative masculinity, including the psycho-emotional abuse of their wives, actual physical battering, and remorseless infidelity. Many young men have little or no sense of commitment to their families or responsibility for the children they have brought into the world.

Many children have indeed had their innocent minds defiled and their delicate sensibilities assaulted, as they watched their fathers beat their mothers or heard them vomit venomous invectives on the ones they called their wives. While many young men struggle with what they saw in their formative years, and sometimes have ended up exhibiting the same traits of negative masculinity in their own marital relationships, many young women on the other hand, have grown up with deep-seated resentment and hateful feelings against the male species in general, on account of what they saw as gross injustices and inequalities, or glaring imbalance in power relations between their fathers and their mothers. And it doesn’t help that in the effort to emancipate and affirm women and girls over the last half-a-century, positive masculinity has suffered both direct and collateral damage.

The global celebration of Father’s Day this year is a most fitting occasion to remind the men to spare a moment to reflect on the enormous privilege and the sacred responsibility that come with fatherhood, and to work towards overcoming the gross anomaly of toxic masculinity that contradicts all the lofty ideals of fatherhood outlined above. Far from being a bully, the husband who often doubles as father, is ideally “one who cultivates, nourishes, tills, and tends” the wife and the children.

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The male headship of families in our society is not something to be achieved through domination and coercion, but through a high sense of responsibility, commitment, and sacrifice. Today, experts in the Christian Scriptures hold that even the allegedly controversial statement of St. Paul in Ephesians Chapter 5, that wives should be submissive to their husbands, is (in the context of the entire passage and in the context of the teachings of Christ), not an endorsement of any form of misogyny, to be expressed in psychological abuse, wife battering or domestic terrorism. Instead, the husband is admonished to love, cherish, and honour his wife.

The supply of fatherhood

While gender-based violence (and such) tends to be associated with males’ abuse of power, perceived or real, a concomitant but often missed cause of such negative masculinity actually comes from a place of inadequacy. Hurting people hurt people, insecure people make others insecure too. Men who abuse others often do so from a place of feeling inferior or being too small in the head or heart to handle perceived or real threats to their person or towards what they care about. As we mark Fathers’ Day, we call on all men to know that they have all that is needed and have all that it takes for positive masculinity. You are enough, man enough!. Abusing others doesn’t make you a man; it actually makes you less of a man. Even less of a human.

In encouraging men to rise up to life’s challenges and to live out their God-given identity and purpose, the expression used in many contexts is “man up.” However, inherent in ‘manning up’ is the danger that one has to harness some ethereal resources and put forward a personality that is neither them nor theirs. We offer an alternative paradigm to ‘manning up’: man enough! You are man enough. Where you feel or fear a lack of wisdom or courage call to the ultimate source and intricate designer of fatherhood Himself: Father God. Being a good man isn’t just good for others, it is good for you.

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Conclusion

Finally, recognising that many young men today have not had the good fortune of being raised or mentored by exemplary fatherhood role models, perhaps individuals and organisations, and especially religious groups, who are sufficiently invested in the promotion of positive masculinity for the wholesome development of our society, must begin to take on the project of healing our youths of their traumatic experiences with toxic masculinity while growing up, and forming the boys particularly in the values and virtues of ideal fatherhood. Men, you are man enough. Happy Father’s Day.

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This op-ed is an initiative of the Ford Foundation Office of West Africa towards ending gender-based violence.


Rev. Fr. George Ehusani, Executive Director of Lux Terra Leadership Foundation, Lagos and
Dr.(med) Yaw. Perbi, Founder and Global CEO of the HuD Group, an International Human Development NGO, Accra

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Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.
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