Arthur MacArthur was a vain and conceited man. He was a war hero at age 18 at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. From there he went on to become a colonel, then a major, then lieutenant colonel, and then held several other prestigious military positions. He was notoriously self-absorbed and ambitious. As one former aide would say, Arthur was the “most flamboyantly egotistical man I had ever seen.”
The truth is that we all have flaws. Every father does. Some of us have egos. Some of us have tempers. Some of us have problems with alcohol or substances. Some of us are closed off emotionally. Some of us have terrible anxiety. These are our problems and we’re struggling with them.
But the emphasis has to be on our problems. Because the rest of the quote above is fully this: “Arthur MacArthur was the most flamboyantly egotistical man I have ever seen, until I met his son.”
In this way, Arthur’s true failure as a father was not that he had an ego. It’s that he passed it on to his son, General Douglas MacArthur. Worse, he let the flaw gain steam from one generation to the next. Like his father, Douglas MacArthur was an incredible military leader who let his success get to his head. But he went even further than his father, to the point where he was relieved of command after attempting of his own volition to expand the Korean War to include China.
We’ve talked about this before: Being a father is a second chance. It’s a fresh start. It’s an obligation to work on yourself so your kids pick up where you’ve left off, benefiting from the struggle and progress you have made. You can’t pass them the baton of your weaknesses and flaws.
You cannot let them be worse than you.