Just Like Him
One of my college professor’s gave an assignment to write an essay entitled “The Influences of Those We Dislike and What We Can Learn from Them”. It would appear that it is often not the ones we feel “warm and fuzzy” with that can have the most influence over us. More often, it is the ones we dislike and whom we have conflict with that we can learn the most from. Lessons learned from these individuals are what shapes and molds us into the individuals we are today. As I pondered on this, I wondered who I might write about. Would it be my 7th grade literature teacher, my grumpy physical education teacher from middle school, or a former school bully or old boyfriend who ditched me? The more I thought about it, however, I knew I had to write about my father.
You see my father was a hard man with strong convictions and a no-nonsense attitude. He saw things only in black and white and as I saw it, he could not see all sides of a situation – only his own, the right way, of course. As a result, throughout my teenage years, I grew to dislike him very much. I believe I always loved him, but I didn’t like him at all. It was not until I married that I began to give thought to our relationship. I realized that I held deep resentment and unforgiveness toward my father, and also came to understand that this was negatively impacting my present interactions with others, my thoughts, and my attitudes.
Through prayer, revelation, and allowing myself to see the situation and my father through an honest and fresh perspective, I came to understand that our frequent clashes were due to the truth in what my mother and others often stated: “We were just so much alike.” I had a huge problem with that for a long time, but I now consider it one of the greatest compliments and here’s why:
My father was a man of high values and morals. His words still ring in my ears, “Sheila, always remember a man’s word is his bond.” He taught me if a man’s word was not regarded as much, then the man probably was not going to be either. And so the gift of honesty that was given to me years ago by my father is one I do not take for granted. I received that gift and try to make it a daily practice and way of life.
Unselfishness was another gift. Time after time, as a child, I watched my father give of himself to others, helping when many times they could not help themselves. It might be repairing their car or just sharing some turnip greens from his garden, but the message was clear and always the same – Be kind to others and help anyone who might be in need.
Setting priorities was another thing he modeled well. We always had plenty to eat and had nice clothes to wear. The clothes were not always the latest style or popular brand name, but I was adequately dressed and I was never cold or hungry. As a result of his wisdom and frugality, he never had a car payment and always paid cash. He put two daughters through college, and while admittedly college tuitions were much more affordable then, neither of us ever had a student loan. He taught me to pay as I go and to live within my means.
The list goes on and on. How odd that the man whom I disliked so much in my youth is the one I chose to wrote about for my essay who had influenced me the most. It is not until we can objectively stand back and look at the situation; and get our own biases, hurts and feelings out of the way that we can begin to see even those people through different eyes and understanding. So the next time someone says, “You are just like your father,” I think I will say, “Thank you, for by saying that, you have greatly honored me today.”
Russell Eugene Cothran
May 19, 1929 – June 20, 2015