Do Unto Others

Yes, I know there are some men whose presence is more damaging than their absence, and shame on them. What these man-child types seem to have forgotten is they chose to bring a life into the world. That means their childhood was over when the child’s childhood began. I’m sorry if they can’t golf five nights a week or play on three softball teams or drink until all hours of the night or take the next promotion, but there needs to be a level of sacrifice here. I suggest that the demise of our once-proud civilization and American way of life will come from men abandoning the commitments they had made as husbands and fathers. That commitment begins with the decision to conceive. Not when the man finds out the woman is pregnant. Not when he “can’t believe this happened.” It’s not when he commits the most intimate act with another person and elects to gamble about the outcome. He needs to get it through his head that he has just put the possibility of a new life before the importance of his own. According to “Getting Men Involved: The Newsletter of the Bay Area Male Involvement Network,” children raised in fatherless homes account for:

* 63% of youth suicides (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census)

* 90% of all homeless and runaway children

* 85% of all children who exhibit behavioral disorders (Source: Centers for Disease Control)

* 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, pp. 403-426, 1978)

* 71% of all high-school dropouts (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools)

* 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers (Source: Rainbows for All God’s Children)

* 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept. 1988)

* 85% of all youths sitting in prisons (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992).

These are staggering numbers. Shouldn’t people be taking parental responsibility more seriously? In Matthew 18:5, Jesus emphasized our responsibility to children: “Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whosoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Pointing Fingers

And we shouldn’t be comforting ourselves into thinking this is only a low-income, society-gap problem. It happens just as often in well-off, upper-middle class homes as it does in financially challenged homes–often more frequently.

Recently, actor Michael Douglas made remarks in an interview on NBC’s Today show. His son, Cameron Douglas, 31, pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to distribute drugs. He was sentenced earlier this year. Michael Douglas admitted he was at least partially to blame for his son’s troubles. “I’ve taken blame about being a bad father–if being a bad father is working your butt off trying to create a career at one time,” the actor told the audience. “I’ve also confessed that I was in rehab 20 years ago. Look, my son was a drug dealer, and he’s been trying to kill himself for a while, and I can’t condone his behavior, so I think the court recognized his drug addiction as well as the crime that he committed. And it’s an adequate, I think, amount of time for anybody to spend in jail, and the best part of it is, he will be able to start his life afresh.”

Isn’t that convenient? Now that the storm has passed, simply assess the damage, and put a new roof on the house. Just start “afresh.” What possible baggage could there be? Pretty slick, Mike. He not only lets the rest of the world accomplish what he could not with his son, but continues to defend the choices he made in making his career the top priority.

So let’s put the cards on the table. If a man is a father, he should be a husband. If his wife or ex-wife makes being a dad difficult, he should persist. He owes it to his children to do right by them, and they need to see him try. He created them, and the problems between him and his wife are not for the children to anxiously work out while he keeps one hand on the exit door.

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