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A Father’s Legacy: Consistency

My dad worked at ADEC Industries for 40 years. He would have worked there longer, if not for the brain cancer that he is now battling. 40 years is a long time to work for the same company! This is something I admire greatly about my dad. It’s not so much that he worked in the same place that long, although I do think that embodies some extraordinary character traits.  His being in the same place so long is one of many outward symptoms of an inward consistency.

Consistency is a big deal for kids.

It creates a sense of stability and order. In a culture that somewhat idolizes spontaneity and free spirits, consistency and predictability get a pretty bad wrap. Although, pretty much anything related to a long term commitment tends to fall under the same scorn. As a son, dad’s consistency and predictability were a great blessing. I didn’t need the life of the party, I needed a dad.

Consistency will manifest differently in different personalities, so I certainly never want to box anyone into a particular mold of if you are consistent, you’ll work at the same place for 40 years. Not all of us will be Steady Eddie in the different circles that we walk in, nor should we all be. In our relationship with our kids, however, I would say that whatever way our personality comes out (and it absolutely needs to come out), there should be an underlying consistency that gives them an anchor from which to explore. I personally believe that this is a particularly important trait in a father (it is a great tragedy that this is also a rare trait among fathers).

I honestly can’t recall a harsh word coming from my dad’s mouth. This does not mean that he did not set limits and boundaries both for my sister and I and for others in his life. It just means that he enforced those boundaries with great self-control and very little emotional display.

To be fair, we don’t all start on a level playing field when it comes to the level and strength of emotions that we feel. However, this does not ever excuse the loss of control over our emotions. To a kid, a parent losing control of emotions is a truly scary thing. Parents are a kid’s rock and they yearn to know that there is firm footing.

My dad is the type of person that you know what you’re going to get when you interact with him. He is a problem solver. He is genuinely caring and wants to help when possible. He is principled. He is generous. When he says he will do something, he does it. When he is at work, he is at work. When he is at home, he is at home. When you are with him, he is with you. Whatever setting he is in, he is faithful to his role and duties within that setting. I can’t comment on what this means to others in his life, but I know that as his son, this has always been a tremendous comfort.

Gretchen and I both want to model consistency with our kids and I know that I long to pass on this treasure that I have been given. For us, and for everyone, the key is that our consistency fits within the framework of our unique personalities, gifts, and bents rather than being a carbon copy of my dad or anyone else. We want to consistently model our principles, passions and values in action.

The most obvious opposite to consistency is inconsistency and unpredictability. Another opposing trait would be hypocrisy. The most chronic and damaging form of hypocrisy that all of us are vulnerable to is knowing, mentally agreeing with and teaching certain principles or values, but acting inconsistently in accordance with those values.

We all struggle with this at times and I think we do well to periodically assess if our energy and actions are being directed to what we want to value. Gretchen and I seem to do this best on long walks. I always finish these walking conversations with a renewed and refreshed sense of clarity and purpose. If only we could do these more often!

My dad has always modeled this type of consistency of actions and beliefs. This has given me an amazing foundation to launch my life from. I feel like I have a less difficult time committing to and acting on my values than many who have not had this modeled for them. Giving our children a head start in rubber meets road areas like this should be a passionate pursuit for all of us and I know that I want to make sure and be intentional and diligent in this area.

It can be so easy to fall into habits or patterns that slide down the slippery slopes of convenience or enough to get by. I’m as guilty as anyone on this.

How do you model consistency?  What do you  find helps you to periodically realign actions and values?


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