The Greatest American Hero

“Fifty years from now it will not matter what kind of car you drove, what kind of house you lived in, how much you had in your bank account, or what your clothes looked like. But the world may be a little better because you were important in the life of a child. (Anonymous )

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

Heroes come in many different shapes and sizes. A hero is a person of great courage and dignity, who is admired for his daring and risky achievements. Most importantly, a hero is someone we respect and, perhaps, try to emulate.

I can still remember watching a T.V. program called “The Greatest American Hero.” It was about an ordinary man who was given a special suit which gave him superpowers. Unfortunately, he lost the instruction manual and, while he tried his best to use the suit for the good, he could never figure out how to successfully utilize the special powers.

Where Have all the Heroes Gone?

Children always seem to be searching for the perfect person to pattern their lives after. In our world today, I've often wondered if “true” heroes still exist. Like the man who found the supersuit but lost the instructions, the hero, who once was in abundance, is now vanishing.

Like the disappearing hero, dads have become shadows in dark rooms, leaving before sunrise and returning after bedtime. Instead of encouraging fathers to give of themselves, our society promotes better education, increased salaries, and material possessions–the list goes on.

Where have the heroes gone? Fathers all across the country have paid a price and the adversary has won a tragic victory, which no church, school, or therapy group can fully overcome. The “Absent Father” has emerged. For this reason, our children are now turning towards athletes, movie stars, and other children to pattern their lives after.

Time for a Revolution!

Now is the time for dad's to once again become heroes. As fathers, we need to remember that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is ourselves. Teaching them not only what we know, but letting them know who we are as well. Your family doesn't expect a superhero–just you with all your smiles, affirmation, leadership, and involvement. Reclaim that hero's role before all your children have left is a memory of you.

The Mark of a “True” Hero

The best way to become a hero is to give of yourself. The life-style you model day in and day out is much more powerful than what you say. Children learn from observing what others do, more than from what they preach. This is precisely why Proverbs 6:20 states, “My son, observe the commandment of your father….”

Your children will learn from you. This is not something you can stop. They'll pick up your good qualities as well as the negative ones. The result of those watching eyes is that children are like mirrors in that they reflect their parents’ life-style through their behavior. A wise man once said, “show me your children, and I'll tell you what you are.” Are you proud of what other people see in your children? In what specific ways does your life reflect the characteristics and values you hope they'll have some day?

One of the best illustrations of the importance of modeling comes from a saying printed on a refrigerator magnet entitled: “Children Learn What They Live.”

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty. If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient. If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy. If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence. If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith. If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself. If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.

My Greatest American Hero

My Dad has always been very special to me. I've often wondered if he realizes just how much of an influence he's made on my life because of his life-style. During moments when my Dad was unaware of my watching him, I saw a true man of God shine through.

Now that I am older, and my wife, Erin, and I have had our children, I have come to realize something very important. Unlike that man who lost the instructions to his supersuit, I have had the privilege of living with the “true” greatest American hero–my father. The prayer that I have for my daughter, Taylor, is that she has a father who models a true man of God–just like her grandfather. Thank you, Dad, for the wonderful gift of yourself. It will be remembered for a lifetime and generations to come.

In all that I'll ever do, my father's love will play a major part. There will always be a place for him deep in my heart. With each year that passes, I am even more grateful and proud just to call him, Dad.

On Father's Day, give your children a special gift. Become that hero of great courage and dignity, who is admired and respected for “daring and risky achievements,” who shares his life with smiles, unconditional love, leadership and involvement.

“For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice….” (Genesis 18:19)

Sometimes God gives us the best of friends–the true heroes–right in our own families.

In dedication of two wonderful fathers, Patrick Michael Murphy and Gary Thomas Smalley

Greg Smalley, PsyD
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Dr. Smalley previously served as the director of Marriage Ministries for The Center for Healthy Relationships. He is the author or co-author of twelve books concerning marriages and families, and currently serves as the executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

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