Seeing Good Men

[ 9 ] Comments

by jendoop

manThere is a line from Avatar which has become a silly cliché that my kids joke about, but I still love it. When the two main characters feel a connection after spending time getting to know one another they look into each other’s eyes and say, “I see you.” It means not just that they see the physical person in front of them, but also that they see who the person is inside. For those two characters it was a romantic connection, but I’ve thought since watching that scene how infrequently we really SEE other people. After Nick’s forum question about what LDS men should strive to be I’ve thought about how little I SEE good men. Not that they aren’t there, but they are too quiet about their goodness.

Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman, said:

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

If a man is living a good life, faithful to his covenants, loving and nurturing to his children, responsible at work and trying his best, he is good. It is something HUGE to be a good man with morals and integrity in the world today! You good men can compound the good you are doing when you associate, sharing the goodness of family life with others through your conversations, actions, and the smile on your face after your wife calls at work. (You do smile, right?)

man and wife

Recently, I drove our minivan for the youth temple trip loaded up with 3 young men, two YM leaders, and my daughter and I. (Yes, the axles got a workout.) It’s a three-hour drive to our temple so in total we had 6 hours to talk on the drive. Stay-at-home moms like me don’t have a great deal of interaction with men who aren’t family members, so this drive was an insightful experience for me. I learned a lot about the professions of each of these brothers, but I also learned a lot about their families. It was endearing to hear one talk about his father who is deceased, and the other spoke of his family of 5 daughters and the atmosphere in their home.

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I reflected on my own husband and thought of what a good man he is. I wonder if people who interact with him every day at work know all that he does to have a good family. Do they know that our family has a good life because he’s dedicated himself to us, to having a faithful eternal marriage and raising his children in a faith-filled home no matter the cost?

Mormons have been taught that we’re not supposed to flaunt our blessings or talk too much about ourselves because that would be the deadly sin of pride. I don’t know if this is a gospel principle gone awry or a cultural idea from my Scandinavian heritage, but it doesn’t matter because it’s bunk. Whatever the reason is that we don’t openly talk about how much we love our families and have fun with them, or even the relief after we’ve worked out a problem, we need to get over it. Our voices and examples of loving intact families are needed. Children and adults from broken homes, or intact homes that are dysfunctional, need to know that happiness in family life is real and attainable.

When we show others how much we love and value our family we encourage others to value their families. When we show that we enjoy our spouse’s company we are encouraging our friends to seek out that enjoyment in their relationships. You might be tempted to say that we don’t need to tell others that families are important or great because they already know that. I’m sorry to say that in today’s society that isn’t true.

A few years ago I was a YW president in an inner-city branch. Most of the young women were converts and the only active member in their families. For one activity my counselor and I hung pictures of the temple on the board and taught the girls a simple lesson about eternal marriage. We thought the focus of the lesson would end up being chastity; our eyes were opened. The girls weren’t great at raising hands and waiting their turn to talk so about 2 minutes into my speech about how great it is to be married to one man forever, a girl blurted, “What’s so great about being married to one man forever? What about when he beats you? God wants you to hang around for that and take it?!”

She went on to explain to my counselor and me, who hadn’t lived in the inner city for long, that there is a pattern to adult relationships in her world. Man and woman find each other. Man treats woman well so they get married. After a few years they get sick of each other and the man starts to beat the woman. Woman divorces man and looks for another man who won’t beat her, knowing that eventually he’ll beat her too and she’ll move on again. The young woman told us this in a matter-of-fact way while the other girls nodded along. I’m grateful to her for sharing that painful view into her world. She focused a bright light into a dark corner of our society and I found a deeper appreciation for my husband there. She taught me how desperately our world needs the Proclamation on the Family. She helped me understand the women in our ward who had 4 children with 4 different men; they had been through so much and still clung to their children in the hope of one day finding a good man and having an eternal family.

After catching my breath and tucking in my tears, I told the girls about my temple marriage, and my counselor did too. The girls knew our husbands and admitted that they were good men, but they doubted their ability to ever find a man like that. For all they could see the only good men were already married at Church.

For those girls, and many women like them, I ask you, my good and faithful brothers, to pull your candle out from under the humble bushel you’ve put over it and put it on a candlestick so all that in this great house of fellowship can see that good men are real.

Let us SEE you.

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Photo credits: Stuart Williams via Compfight, Creative Commons License Sigfrid Lundberg via Compfight ,Stefano Corso via Compfight, lds.org

About jendoop

Jen writes, reads, paints, walks, prays, eats and sleeps. Paul is her co-conspirator in teaching these skills to 4 children.

9 Responses to Seeing Good Men

  1. SilverRain says:

    Thanks for this, Jen. I have clung to the knowledge that there are some good men out there, despite my experiences.

    And I’ll just leave it at that. *l*

  2. ji says:

    Certainly in our larger culture, but also within the Church to some degree, it is easier to mock men and to deny any goodness in men than it is to say a kind word, as you did. Thank you.

  3. Jendoop says:

    SR, They aren’t perfect, but good men certainly do exist. Usually they are quiet, humble, and silently sneaking into nursery to help :)

    You’re welcome ji. If you didn’t hear Elder Uchtdorf’s priesthood session talk it is filled with wonderful praise and encouragement for men.

    My friend Julie just posted this quote from General Conference on Facebook which goes perfectly with the OP:

    Elder Enrique R. Falabella said, “It is not enough to know the scriptures, we have to live them… Those who live the celestial principles found in the scriptures give comfort to those who suffer. They bring joy to those who are depressed, direction to those who are lost, peace to those who are distressed and a sure guidance to those who seek truth.”

  4. Lisa says:

    There are NO perfect men out there. There are many good men, though as you said. Sometimes we conjure up these romantic fantasies of how a good man should act and treat us when in reality we are looking for the perfect man. If our Heavenly Father works with imperfect, then so should we. Right? I’m married to a wonderful, flawed man…And I love him…don’t ask me why. ;)

  5. Liz C says:

    One thing I’ve loved in getting to know my brothers as adults (instead of as little brothers at home–I left for university when they were all still “little”) is getting to see the goodness and sweetness in their hearts. I know a lot of who they are has been influenced by the sweetness of our father’s heart. What’s interesting is that my grandfather (dad’s dad) is also a good, sweet man, but has lacked opportunities through his life to develop and express that goodness. My dad is so much happier, having used the principles of the gospel to expand his own capacities to serve and bless.

    I agree that too often, society really denigrates men (our family won’t watch shows that make dad into a buffoon, which cuts out most shows, sadly!). There’s this societal theme of generational hatred, and gender hatred, that really pollutes and perverts the amazing people around us.

    Good-hearted men, standing up and being unashamed, is a very cool thing. Good-hearted women to appreciate and support and work alongside them is a very cool thing. Good-hearted men and women working together to parent their own, or to help un-parented children, make amazing things happen in the world. I see so many opportunities around us to let boys develop their good hearts, to let girls see those good-hearted boys and know that THIS is a manly set of qualities… There’s so much potential!!

  6. I’m going to try hard not to sound arrogant or full of myself (there’s a better word for it, but it’s not coming to mind).
    I tend to be a little uncomfortable when my wife tells me of times other women are amazed at the work I do at home. From little things like changing diapers to big things like taking care of her, the kids, and the house while she’s recovering from back surgery, I hear of many astonished women going “my husband woud -never- do that”. It makes me sad and upset at the same time, and I know its something I need to work on. I wish there would be a conference talk to the men like there has been to the women on “getting all the education you can”, ‘cept for the men it would be an education in the workings of their own household. We need to do more to teach out men how to be “good” men. It’s not blurring the gender roles or identities, it’s finding ways to strengthen the home and be prepared for unfortunate possibilities in the future.

  7. Angie says:

    We are surrounded by some pretty awesome men in our ward. I love that they (and their families) focus entirely on what matters and leave the rest by the wayside. I am humbled and blessed and moved to tears by the wonderful men who teach my boys, who tie every lesson to preparing for baptism, for the priesthood, for making and keeping these covenants. I trie to mention as much as I can my gratitude for them, especially the ones who embrace with no reservation those of my boys who are a lot to take. I try to thank them for being in front, willing and at the ready to help. There are also many men in my ward who have the capacity for tremendousness, but who waffle, thinking that no one notices one way or the other. I try to tell them too how much they mean to my boys, that my boys see them and are blessed.

    And yet, I am completely flummoxed when someone compliments my husband. I try to say thank you. But what else do you say? He is high profile right now, because he’s the bishop, so I often, after expressing thanks for their support, try to tie some of their praise to his calling, to spread it to the other wonderful leaders we have, to tamp down any cult of personality that may seem to be brewing (things like “I don’t know if I can come to church if he’s ever released” really slay me) I grew up feeling like everyone else’s ‘Sunday faces’ were real and all my warts never could measure up, so sometimes I get wrapped up in not hiding our family warts (not that you can really hide 5 rambunctious children in the middle of sacrament meeting, though I have tried, oh how I’ve tried), in making sure there is no dew-eyed notion that everything is perfect over here. But it is good. We are incredibly blessed. How do I balance those very real concerns?

  8. templegoer says:

    Excellent comment Frank, and wonderful to hear about a good man of action.
    I came from the sort of abusive background spoken of earlier, so good men are a revelation to me. Even my father in law behaved in an unpleasant manner towards me, and we know from his colleagues that he was very pleasant at work. It can take a long time to work this through into a family system.
    My husband is a wonderful man, and not yet perfect. We have both come to realise that we deserve the best from each other, and address those parts of our behaviour that need to be more pleasing. It’s a hard learning curve, but also a marvelous one as we come to serve each other more accurately and work towards unity. But the joy of discovering that men can be good and behave well is always present with me.
    Our son is 17, and is a good man because his daddy has been a good man. We can see already that he is learning to be a good boyfriend and have every reason to hope that he will be a good husband and father. One of the things I love about the youth program and that is often forgotten is that it gives young men validation for being good, and develops that goodness. Young men often live in societies or communities that accept bad behaviour or even reward it. Raw ambition, selfishness, fecklessness and brutality are idolised. We have a young men’s program in our ward that has really hit it’s stride, and it’s been a joy to see boys from sometimes troubled backgrounds grow in their own esteem as they are given approbation for doing good.
    Since our neighbourhood and schools contain no other members, this will continue to be a tough call for my son, but at present he has non member friends who seek him out for the goodness and loyalty that he has, and I know their parents like to have him hang out with their sons because of this. I see his many flaws, but I know the goodness of the men around him has given him great ‘settings’ against which to measure himself. I’ve really seen what the gospel can do to change family systems.

  9. Bonnie says:

    My children don’t have a solid, positive male influence in their home, and they never have. I have made a point over the years of noticing and describing the goodness of the men my children have dealt with. Our present bishop is a saint, and I tell the kids so on a regular basis, being specific about what makes him so wonderful. They adore him, and in many ways he’s like a father to them. We discuss that he is a normal person at home, that he has foibles just as we do and that they just aren’t noticeable because he goes to his own home and lives his real life there, but that he serves with a pure and honest heart. It’s not the same as having a man in their home whom they can count on, who has an obligation to them, but it’s a close second. We also talk about what a good man my son-in-law is, and he does spend more time with them. He has been an incredible influence. I learned something from a single sister years ago, and that was to ask for help from men in the ward, here and there so that one isn’t a burden on anyone, that helped her children to have positive interactions with other men. I don’t do it as often as I might, but it’s because my children have those opportunities through Church service.

    We have had the discussion many times that my girls are at a disadvantage. There is simply no close second for a girl. We derive a good part of our feelings about our own gender from our opposite gender parent, so my boys have me, but my girls don’t really have anyone. We talk about it so that they understand this. They don’t have anyone to make them feel like princesses. I am there to make my boys feel like the lone ranger, but my girls and I talk about what it means to be a woman and they watch their oldest sister and try to imagine how men treasure women from that. It’s harder. Kudos to all you men who make your girls feel like princesses.

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