What truly lies in the depths of the heart of a human being? What can really touch one’s heart? St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions that “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” What ultimately is most welcome in one’s heart is God, who gives us our being and life, and we long for Him whether we are aware of it or not. Our hearts recognize God with an innateness and reliability that suggests a deep and eternal connection with our Creator. It is only when the mind overrules the heart that inner conflict can occur. When the mind is actually in alignment with the heart, God’s will can be discerned within the person. We have heard Jesus say “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16). Those carrying out God’s will in their minds and hearts carry the fruits of the Holy Spirit in accompaniment to their actions and lives: Love, Joy, Peace, Perseverance, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control.
Those with violence, impatience, anger, and other disorders demonstrate that they are in conflict with God, who is Truth and Goodness personified, and often go so far as to even deny His existence in order to run away from Him and embark on the wide road to perdition and hopelessness.
With all this in mind, I would like to offer reflections on the role of men as husbands and fathers. Esteemed Ladies: I would not presume to suggest how to be a good wife and mother – my hope is there are ideas here that you may find applicable. Many men have expressed the wish that there would be a manual on how to be a good husband and father, so here is at least a summary of what that could look like:
A good husband and father:
- loves God, sees God in his wife and loves her profoundly, and passes that love to younger generations
- loves others and demonstrates respect for all people
- treats everyone with care, thoroughness and gentleness
- sets an example of patience and kindness, slow to anger, rich in compassion
- is a faithful worker and provider
- models self control – never raising voice or giving in to frustration/anger, etc
- remains blameless in relations with others
- behaves in a manner consistently worthy of respect
- does not love money but focuses on the true sources of happiness
- makes evident through his life the hallmarks of love, joy, peace, endurance, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance
I did not have such a father, and started early adulthood copying his toxic behaviors. At first I was a terrible “husband”, and was at least 50% responsible for wrecking my first “marriage” (eventually annulled). God entered my life and set me on His path through Baptism and the work of the Holy Spirit within my soul, but it took years for me to carry out His holy and perfect will with the beautiful wife and daughters whom He eventually entrusted to my care through Holy Matrimony. I fell woefully short in the initial years, but eventually matured and began to live out my vocation much better, and will continue to do so for my remaining years.
My father has been characterized by psychological experts as a psychopathic narcissist who had selected me as his primary target for decades. The professional advice I consistently received was to end all contact with him and his enablers. I finally managed, in the interests of my family’s sense of happiness and peace, to decisively and successfully put this sound professional advice into action, with forgiveness of my father in my heart.
I am sharing these personal details because I made the common mistake of blindly copying my father’s behaviors in my youth, while Jesus in His parables and Beatitudes became the perfect model for my emergence into humanity as God wills it. It took me a long time to overcome the initial barriers, and I found it absolutely necessary to completely detach and distance myself from all toxic relationships in order to be completely free to pursue wholesome, healthy and loving ones. Most importantly, this is what led me to truly be there for my wife and daughters, and allowed us all to grow in love ever more fully.
For those confronting such difficulties in life, I suggest applying Jesus’ advice: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). Keep the above checklist close by and written in your heart, work on it daily, and pass it on to younger generations. Anything that contradicts it should be immediately rooted out of your life, without any turning back or regret. It is important to know that it is NOT a sin to end toxic relationships, as long as there is forgiveness in your heart and a willingness to pray for those who have harmed you. Do this and you will please God and allow His love to flow through you to your loved ones.