The Father As Protector

by James B. Stenson

How does a man act to protect his wife and children?

Let’s approach this question by first examining a man’s masculinity, the distinctive character of any normal adult male.

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Men are different from women. They are wired differently, think differently. They have instincts and attitudes and physical strengths that empower them for tough-minded, sacrificial service to those people who count most in their lives, starting with their families.

All the special features of an adult male’s personality, developed from boyhood can be coordinated toward a single great purpose in life: protection.

These male attributes include muscles, will power, stamina, competitive drive, aggressiveness and assertiveness, mathematical and abstractive powers of mind, love for strategic planning and manipulating physical reality, strong sense of fairness and ethical conduct. 

Nature, it seems, endows men with the physical and mental powers they need to protect their loved ones. The instinct to protect from harm lies at the core of a man’s masculinity, and it is an immensely powerful force.

This fatherly protection works in several different important ways.

1. First of all, a family man devotes his manly powers to protect his wife from anyone who would threaten her. It seems to be a natural instinct among males, to protect the women in their lives – wife, mother, sisters, daughters – from outsiders’ aggression. For instance, if a man were standing next to his wife in a crowd and some male stranger turned to speak loudly and angrily toward her, the husband would instantly rise in rage to her defense. Adrenaline would rush through his blood, his muscles would tighten, and his first impulse would be to rearrange the aggressor’s face. No self-respecting man would stand by and let anyone treat his wife with disrespect. He would take swift action to defend her.

Peace, it is said, is the condition we enjoy when other people just leave us alone. Throughout history, the father of a family would protectively stand in the doorway of his home and say, as it were, to the whole world: “Leave us alone.... Leave my family alone.”

 2. Related to this physical protection is another aspect of a man’s protectiveness, one that fathers today often fail to understand. A man permits no one to threaten or upset his wife – and this includes their own children. A hugely important part of a father’s job is to defend his wife against their children’s rudeness, insolent disobedience, and impulsive aggression. This protection counts most to his wife when the kids are small (under 7) and later when they enter adolescence. A man will permit no one to disrespect his wife, including – and even especially – at home.

3. A man also defends his family through what he earns in his work.

That is, he doesn’t just provide for his family; he protects them from poverty. He shelters them, takes care of their needs for a roof, food, and clothing. While Dad has a job, the family feels secure. Even in a two-income home, it seems, children sense that Dad is the main provider, and therefore the family’s main protector.

4. Moreover, he protects his children from forces that threaten them here and now: drugs, bullies, criminals, unjust aggressors of all types, and potential disasters arising from their inexperience and impulsive mistakes (like dashing out into traffic or playing with matches).

For instance, if a father glanced out his living room window and spotted a male stranger chatting with his small daughter, coyly beckoning to her, he would swiftly lunge into defensive action. He’d race out the door, stride aggressively toward the stranger, then confront the man and demand to know what he wanted. With muscles taut, he would stand between his daughter and this potential aggressor, physically shielding her from harm.

Another example: When his teenage daughter is being picked up for a date, a father goes out of his way to size up the young man she’s going out with. He wants to meet him – insists on meeting him – to look him in the eye and intuitively size up his intentions and his worth. A father senses a duty to assess any young male who approaches his daughter. An unspoken message seems to pass between them: “She’s my daughter. Treat her nicely, kid, or else....”

5. But most of all – and this is crucially important – a father protects his children by strengthening them so they can later protect themselves. In the lives of his children, he asserts loving leadership toward responsible, competent adulthood.

It is a father’s mission, the challenge that brings out the best in him, to form in his children the powers and attitudes they will need to succeed in life, to strengthen them so they in turn can later protect themselves and their own loved ones. So, in his children’s eyes a great father is a lifelong leader and teacher. His protective, empowering lessons about right and wrong live on in the inner lives of his children, long after they’ve left home for good, and indeed long after he has passed to his eternal reward. A great father never stops being a father, for he lives on as a great man in the hearts of his children.

This article was excerpted from Father, the Family Protector by James B. Stenson, available from Scepter Publishers or through his Web site, www.parentleadership.com.

 

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