Be So Good They’ll Think This Later

The writer Ambrose Bierce was a notorious cynic and curmudgeon. He was also fearless and hilarious and a father. At some point in his life—we’re not clear on the details—he went through a painful split with his wife and the mother of his three children. Beneath his hard exterior, he was a sensitive man, and although we don’t know what happened, we get the sense that it was an enormous betrayal. Was it indefinitely? Worse? Again, we don’t know. 

Years later, his own son Leigh was in trouble in one of his own relationships. “Finally, and apparently in desperation,” a biographer notes, “Bierce talked to his son with more than usual severity and brought him to reason by recounting some happenings in his own life. What these happenings were is unknown but when the relation was over Leigh Bierce, shaken emotion, burst into [a friend’s room] and said, with intense feeling ‘My father is a greater man than Christ. He has suffered more than Christ.’”

Surely, this is an exaggeration but the point stands: Who knows how long Bierce had been misunderstood by his family? Who knows how long he had hidden his pain or his side of things? None of that mattered to him. Doing what was right was. He didn’t need to be vindicated. He didn’t need credit. He didn’t need to be appreciated.

And neither do you. Your job is to be the parent they need. Your job is to be a saint. Saints suffer if need be. They’re not afraid to be misunderstood. They don’t need to be appreciated. They need to do what’s right. They need to serve their cause. 

Maybe eventually you’ll get the kind of belated respect and appreciate that Ambrose did. Maybe you don’t. That’s not why we became parents. That’s not what motivates us. 

We’re here for them. That’s it.

P.S. This was originally sent on August 25, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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