Patriarchs have been getting a lot of bad press due to the many excesses of patriarchy. Although patriarchy still holds sway over many parts of the world, more democratic ideals have been taking over in the US and most of the West. Even though patriarchy is waning, there is still a great need for patriarchs. I say this, because I’m approaching the age that people consider patriarchal.
I think a well-grounded patriarch, as well as a matriarch, are essential in social structures like families. The wizened older person can play a role in any “nuclear” family. The family may be headed by a female and a male, a single parent, or same-gendered partnership. The patriarch and matriarch may be grandparents; aunt and uncle; or other highly trusted family members or friends. Today, I’m mainly thinking about patriarchs or father figures.
Once in awhile, a family member or friend approaches me for advice. It’s an honor to have others request guidance and support in major life issues. I try my best to offer them the best, well-grounded support possible.
I realize that a person who comes to me doesn’t want me to take over their decision-making responsibilities. Most of them know that I’ve “been there, done that”. They want to know how I felt, made my decision, and have lived with that decision. I can only nudge someone to think more carefully and to consider all the consequences of their actions. After all, people will do what they want to do, regardless of my desires. I just hope that I give them the most helpful, positive advice. Often, all they really want is some measure of comfort and security.
In the cases of family and friends, the father figure represents the stability and needed structure necessary to help the family cope in our chaotic, messy world. A father figure is a mindful thinker who utilizes strategy and organized coordination in his approach to living.
When we think of father figures, we picture a person who lives by rules and regulations, hopefully not too dogmatic. A father figure is important in the lives of young children. Kids do need the security of a defined structure as a way for them to learn how to set safe, wholesome boundaries.
In his role as an authority, the father figure will sometimes need to assert that authority. The best patriarch will administer fair admonishments and punishments without inflicting psychological or physical harm. The most effective father figure can bring a child in line by giving the child “that look” of stern intention.
Best of all, a father figure is a man people can depend upon. He is available to provide love and support. A good father figure has paid attention to his own mistakes and failures enough to learn from them. He also understands his successes. When has he done the truly right thing and what did he learn from those experiences?
The wise father figure knows that other people will and must make mistakes, too. He understands that he sometimes has to step back and simply observe the actions of family and friends. A youngster learns by goofing up. If the mistakes are made when the person is young, the father figure can gently point out the lessons to be learned from the missteps. If the mistake warrants punishment, the wise father figure knows how to sternly reprimand a child without fostering resentment and fear.
A father figure is full of heart-felt love, but sometimes he must exercise mind over heart. When there are difficult choices to be made, mindful, compassionate thought and actions must be made in an assertive, self-confident manner that reflects focus and self-control.
The father figure may sometimes act with dominance and authority. If he acts out of a position of strength and perception, he knows that authoritarian dominance must be sparingly exercised. He isn’t afraid of conflict, yet he never encourages it.
You know you’re in the presence of a wise father figure when you see that he has humbly earned recognition, respect, and deep love. The father figure is the man who “rides loose in the saddle and has a gentle hold on the reins.”
If you are fortunate enough to have a wise father figure in your life, you have been blessed. If you are placed in the role of father figure, be prepared to be your best and do your best.
I am at that stage of life. I have reflected on the subject of father figures. Now, I hope I can utilize my own advice.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that we have many mythical father figures like Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt. We must remember that they were only human. The same holds true for our own, personal father figures.