Build me a son, O Lord,
who will be
strong enough to know
when he is weak, and
brave enough to face himself
when he is afraid;
One who will be
proud and unbending
in honest defeat, and
humble and gentle
in victory.

Build me a son
whose wishbone will not be
where his backbone should be;
A son who will know Thee,
and that to know himself
is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray,
not in the path of ease and comfort,
but under the stress and spur
of difficulties and challenge.
Here let him learn
to stand up in the storm;
Here let him learn
compassion for those who fall.

Build me a son
whose heart will be clean,
whose goal will be high;
A son who will master himself
before he seeks to master other men;
One who will learn to laugh,
yet never forget how to weep;
One who will reach into the future,
yet never forget the past.
And after all these things are his,
add, I pray,
Enough of a sense of humor,
so that he may always be serious,
yet never take himself too seriously.

Give him humility,
so that he may always remember
the simplicity of true greatness,
the open mind of true wisdom,
the meekness of true strength.

-General Douglas MacArthur

This poem hung on a wall in my room when I was growing up. It was actually carved in wood, wasn’t in poem form, and I never knew its author until just recently. I just remember reading it many times as I sat in my room growing up. I never really pondered it’s meaning until my father sat by me one day as I read it and asked me if I knew what it meant. As we went through it line by line, I got the feeling that this is what he expected of me, or at least…what he wished for me. This was to be my outline as a man-in-training. And I took it to heart to try to be this way. It became my father’s prayer…for me.

Looking back, as I’ve tried to live up to the wisdom of these words, I don’t think I’ve been successful in many of these…but I’m always reminded of these words whenever the right “learning moment” arrives for me. It’s as if the lessons come to my mind on their own, prompting me to live as a better man than I am.

As a father, I struggle with finding “what I want” for my kids…those worthy, lofty traits that any loving father would want for his children. I struggle with how to impress upon their growing spirits the importance of developing virtue and character while simultaneously dealing with the pitfalls of human weakness. Fortunately, I have thoughts like these poems, the scriptures, prayer and God to begin with. Immersing my children with these things is a start to that teaching process. “Train up a child the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart far from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

My father was wise and simple in his ways. He taught me to search for principles of virtue and good character…and to live them. I only hope that I can do the same for my own children, and, I pray, that they take that light as their own to be a help and strength to others.

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