Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Ideal Man

There is good and bad things about idealism. Good ideals capture our imagination. For example, everyone wants to go on vacation to a place that looks picture-perfect and so when people go on vacation, they only post their best pictures. Mommy bloggers have presented a picture-perfect image of crafty DIY motherhood. This has both entranced readers and disgusted them. Jesus said “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) Some have discounted this as obviously impossible. I say that the Father is the ideal and we should strive for the ideal.

The bad about idealism is when it is used to hide from reality. People often hide by painting a picture of perfect bliss beneath which they live a dual life. Idealism can cause disenchantment. People often express disappointment with my church because the people don’t live up to the ideal that is preached from the pulpit. Every girl who has wanted to marry a “prince charming” has had to face the reality that men are imperfect and women aren’t princesses.

This post is about the ideal man. It is for those who want to live the ideal not for criticizing people who are less-than-perfect. Without ideals, we would never prioritize good, better and best. With ideals we put our effort towards tasks that match our priorities.

The ideal man is a father. For those who have not yet become fathers, there are latent characteristics that will develop in that particular environment. A father leads in love and righteousness and protects his family. Leadership is only possible in men who have confidence in the process by which growth and failure lead to success. Righteousness is a word that describes the virtuous life of someone who is honest, true and obedient. You can trust a righteous person because they are fly a straight path. Job was a “man [who] was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1)

The ideal man is spiritual. He has faith that has developed as a response to the trials and challenges of life. I like this description of Jon Schmidt, the piano guy, “He is a model man, friend, husband and father. His faith is like an endlessly rushing river that carves out obstinate shores of despair and flows around imposing rocks of doubt. He has the gift of faith. Moreover, he is extremely gifted in one of the most transcendent human qualities: empathy.” He is one example of the ideal man. Men develop spirituality as they prioritize the the subtle senses of faith, hope and love over those things that can be seen, measured and quantified. 

The ideal man provides the necessities of life for his family without pushing them aside in his pursuit of wealth and prosperity.  This requires keeping a balance between relationships with people and measurable success. Relationships develop slowly and often it seems easier to abandon a relationship than to courageously solve problems and weather storms. Patriarchs in ancient times like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob often had difficult family situations to deal with but they followed God and did their best. We honor them for their strength and dependability. Fathers today are patriarchs in their own homes and extended families and deserve respect in that role.

The ideal man improves as he becomes aware of his short-comings. The same can be said of the ideal woman. When we are willing to face the reality of our weakness and bring all our resources to bear on a problem, that reality will shift. It may not result in an immediate alleviation of pain but over time growth and change occur. I have found that one big benefit of marital commitment is that there is time and grace granted to each spouse to grow and change. I have felt frustrated at how slowly improvement develops and also relieved to see that even the seemingly baked-in realities do shift eventually.

The ideal man is able to sacrifice his strength for the prosperity of his wife and children and others around him. This ability is an indication that men can be and are unselfish despite their natural tendencies to defend their personal interests. Thomas S Monson has said, “To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellowmen. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.”

The ideal man teaches about God through his actions. Teaching about God comes after learning about God. Men and women learn about God by studying his word and applying the principles Jesus taught when he lived on earth. Teaching by Example in the Savior’s Way is the title of an entire manual found here. From the introduction, it says, “The Savior’s way of teaching came from who He was and the “power of the Spirit” that He carried with Him (Luke 4:14). The key to teaching as the Savior taught is to live as the Savior lived.” Ideal men have a power that they carry with them because of the way that they live.

Ideal men discipline with care. They don’t just let things slide by unnoticed. They are careful to keep everything going in the right direction which means that they do discipline at times. “in discipline a father must exercise particular care, lest there be anything even approaching abuse, which is never justified. When a father provides correction, his motivation must be love and his guide the Holy Spirit.” (Christofferson) My husband is careful when he disciplines. He never lets his emotions run away with him. He is cool and collected even when he is angry. This allows him to reason with and correct our children in love.

I know that men have been particularly belittled in the entertainment industry. Men do not need to accept this indoctrination which is intended to weaken their self esteem. Men have the ability to choose to follow our Savior Jesus Christ and develop the power of the Spirit that he exemplified. The path of our Savior requires courage to press on in the storm, humility to face the reality of our weaknesses and faith to believe in the possibility of true joy and fulfillment in our personal relationships. I encourage you to fly a straight path like Job and prepare to teach about God by the way that you live.

If you liked this post you might also like The Lord's Pattern for Families

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