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On this Father’s Day — my first in the Dad Club — I wanted to tell you a little something about my own dad. I thought about this for a while. There’s a lot of great things that I could say on this topic. Everything I know about being a man — a Christian man — I learned from Dad. Everything. So how do you pay an appropriate tribute to someone who taught you everything? Well, rather than run down a litany of every crucial lesson and pearl of wisdom he imparted, I thought I’d concentrate on the most important thing he taught me. The most important thing, hands down. To be honest, I only recently realized what it was. This was a lesson that he didn’t say or preach, he showed. He lived it. He dedicated his life to it.

The lesson is this: Love your wife. Give her everything. Put her ahead of everything and everyone. Put her before your job, before your ambitions, before yourself, even before your kids. Especially before your kids. God first, then your wife, in that order. Always. This is how you become a good man and this is how you will be a good father. Love your kids by loving your wife, love yourself by loving your wife. This truth, that I saw and still see him live by every single day, is the greatest gift he gave me. And he never said it. I mean, he told her that he loved her, but he never specifically gave that speech I just gave. My dad is not a big talker but he can give a hell of a speech (or a lecture) when he needs to, yet he never made a speech out of this. He didn’t have to. He simply lived in service to my mom and put her first all of the time. Kids will try to play their parents against each other, but that trick never worked in our house. They were always united and they always made their marriage the priority. We came to understand this at a very young age. When we were little I think it annoyed us. When we got a little older we learned to respect it. Then, once we really grew up, we thanked God for it.

I think great dads teach their kids the most important things through what they do, not what they say. After all, it’s nice if your dad comes to you and says “son, one day you’re going to get married and, when you do, make sure you love your wife forever.” Nice sentiment, but that’s all it is if the old man never followed his own advice. What does it even mean to “love” your spouse, or to love anyone for that matter? What does love look like? How does it act? What does it do? What is it, exactly? Is it fleeting and conditional? Does it ever die? Is it unstable? Is it something you simply “fall into” and then, just as suddenly, out of? The world has come up with its own answers to these questions. My dad, on the other hand, showed me the right answers. I think some men don’t realize that this is THE most important thing they can do for their sons: Show them love. As in, SHOW them love. Show them what it is.

And that’s why I said I “recently” realized my dad’s most important lesson. I always knew that my dad loved my mom, but it wasn’t until I got married, and especially once I had kids, that I came to fully understand: This love is the key to everything else. I worry about being a good father to my kids. I want to give them a good life. I want to protect them — mind, body and soul. I want to guide them. Well, my dad showed me how. Give them a stable home, give them a father who loves his wife, and give them a family that is bound by that love. If I can give them that, they will have an advantage that millions of people never had. They’ll have the same advantage I had. It’s the one my dad gave me.

I can thank him for it by living it.

Happy Father’s Day.