My Father's Lessons on LIfe and Living
Father’s Day is coming up and I was trying to think of how to explain all that my father has taught me about life and living. So many times, as an indignant and idealist child, I would yell at him, “That’s not fair!” He always replied the same way to this accusation. “Get used to it, life is not fair.”
He did not mean this in a cruel or callous way. He meant to tell me that just because I perceived something as being fair, did not mean that events would happen that way. He wanted me to learn that I would have to accept unfairness happens. Acceptance that life is not fair has helped me survive.
The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith
are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest
men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Even as he taught me that unfairness happens, he also taught me to live in a way that did not contribute to the unfairness. He did not write the above tenets, but he taught me them every day of my life. Life is not fair, but that does not mean we do not need to be. He taught me integrity in the face of adversity. He taught me to be true to myself and take pride in who I am. He gave me the tools I needed to remain steadfast in my convictions. He taught me that criticism is constructive and an open mind is essential to learning.
The knowledge of God’s love for me was my father’s finest gift to me. This knowledge is the strength that allows me to remain faithful to who I am. It is the solid ground that keeps me from drowning in the world. The love of my father taught me the love of God. In this I am truly blessed as a child.
He also taught me how to have fun and to laugh. When we were kids, he was always building something for us. We had a giant swing set, complete with sandbox and sundeck that he built for us. I can remember one winter it snowed and we were jumping off the sundeck into the drifts. One winter he built us an ice skating rink. One day when the ice had started to melt we discovered how much fun it was to skate and jump from one ice-island to another.
We fished; I cannot remember a time that I didn’t know how to fish. I was fishing before I was in kindergarten. Once I landed a 36” pike! I remember running through the forest with it, going home to show my father. Life seemed so simple when I was young.
After all these years, I can say I like who I am. Many people do not understand why I do much of what I do. I am naïve, crazy, and just plain stupid. My life is often a paradox. I can see that certain actions will not help me be more successful financially, but I keep on course. Friends will tell me that someone’s treatment of me was not fair. They don’t understand why I don’t get back at others. They don’t know that I am remembering a lesson taught to me by a great man. Life is not fair.
Here are some of the other lessons he taught me:
"Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." (Marcus Aurelius Antonius)
"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." (Abraham Lincoln)
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes." (Charles R. Swindoll)
"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams." (Ashley Smith)