We’ve often heard the truism: actions speak louder than words.
I would add, however, that the next best thing after observing real life examples – whether of greatness for inspiration or infamy as a caution – is to read about them. This is one of the best reasons, apart from sheer enjoyment, for reading good biographies. But don’t take it from me. See what Eric Metaxas, who gave us the excellent and widely acclaimed biographies of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, has to say in his recent and terrific Seven Men: And the Secret of their Greatness (Thomas Nelson, 2013):
“You can talk about right and wrong and good and bad all day long, but ultimately people need to see it. Seeing and studying the actual lives of people is simply the best way to communicate ideas about how to behave and how not to behave. We need heroes and role models” (xiv).
Yesterday, on Christmas, my wife gave me more evidence for why marrying her was the best decision of my life: she gave me the book Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness (Thomas Nelson, 2013), written by Eric Metaxas, the same man who gave us the excellent Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery and Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I’ve already thrown myself into this delightful book, meaning there are more posts about it to come, but I wanted to waste no time in sharing this wonderful insight about fatherhood and the calling of true manhood. As someone whose biological father went missing in action early on in my life but who has received a hundred-fold and more in my heavenly Father and good men who have modeled true, servant manliness to me, this passage resonated with particular force:
“There is something vital in the idea of fatherhood and it gives us a clue to the secret of a great man. But we have to point out that a man needn’t be an actual father to bear the traits of every good father. Two of the men in this book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John Paul II, never married or had children. Even George Washington, who married, never had children of his own. And yet we Americans call him the father of our country. And in the case of Pope John Paul II, the root word from which we get ‘pope’ is papa – father. Being a father is not a biological thing. If we think of the fatherhood of God, we get a picture of someone who is strong and loving and who sacrifices himself for those he loves. That’s a picture of real fatherhood and real manhood” (from the introduction, xviii).