Seeing Good Men
There 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?)
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.
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.