Monday, March 14, 2011

What Can Happen When Too Many Dads Choose Comfort Rather than Courage

Courage (n): The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger and pain without fear.

A few days ago, I had a chance to visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and it was quite a disturbing experience. Now, I have certainly watched my share of movies and PBS specials about the horrors of the Holocaust, but I had never been this close to it. The exhibits were appropriately stark and designed to engage all of one’s senses.

You know, it wasn’t until I was in college in the 1980s that I became aware of terms like “situational ethics” and “moral relativism.” I even heard some folks on campus posit that there were no absolutes when it comes to right and wrong, only competing preferences. Well, I can’t imagine anyone completing a tour of the Holocaust Museum and maintaining that perspective. When men, women and children are being brutally murdered and used for grotesque experiments, and when even their hair is being “harvested” to make pillows and lamp shades, it tends to focus the mind. Make no mistake. There is right and there is wrong. Absolutely…

Given my role at NFI, I have an “occupational hazard” of always considering history, even history as unsettling as the Holocaust, through the fatherhood lens. As I viewed the many pictures of fathers, often taken just moments before they and their families were murdered, I could not help considering how horrible it must have been for them. It is the essence of good fathering to protect, but these dads could not. Nonetheless, although they were overpowered, they refused to abandon their wives and children. They were courageous.

Interestingly, there was another group of fathers who are too often forgotten, but who were complicit in these crimes. They were the millions of fathers in communities across Europe who watched their neighbors get rounded up, but remained silent. They knew that absolute evil was happening in their midst and, yet, many did nothing. They lacked the courage to take a stand.

It’s been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and especially good fathers) to do nothing. It is also worth remembering that each day every dad must choose between courage and comfort; for to be courageous is never comfortable and to be comfortable is never courageous. The Holocaust is a poignant and painful reminder of the consequences for any society when too many dads choose comfort and too few choose courage.


  1. Had you lived in Germany in 1939, would you have stood up to the Nazis when they took your neighbor away even if that meant you would be taken away as well and your children would be deprived of a father and face homelessness and starvation because they now lacked any income source? Your dismissal of moral relativism points to the fact that you probably don't understand the concept. While, theoretically, there may be absolute right and wrong, in practice, the choices faced by people are seldom so simple.

  2. Whether one stood up to the Nazis or not does not change the fact that what the Nazis did was wrong. No one ever said courage was easy - that is why it is courage. Some of the stories I have read about people turning a blind eye to what was happening in Europe during that time are horrifying. To dismiss that history by saying their choices were not "simple" is a bit ... simplistic. And the reality is that there were some who did stand up and protect their neighbors. Those people made courageous choices - and that was the point of this blog post.

  3. Come on Vinnie, could anyone really argue that the Nazis were a bunch of swell guys? The crux of the argument, if there is one, is not whether the Holocaust was bad, it is that everyone should have stood up against the Nazi's to prevent it. Should they have? Sure. If everyone did that, the Holocaust never would have happened. Unfortunately, without strength in numbers, a neighbor's willingness to stand up against the Nazis would just make him, and his family, another victim of the regime. Would you sacrifice your family for the sake of another? That's the real question here.

    It's one thing to be self-sacrificing, it’s quite another to endanger your family through your decision. Since I've become a father, I'm much more cognizant of the effects my actions have on my family. To put this into a more modern, personal context; I abhor violence, especially against a weaker victim. In the past, I have intervened in violent situations (bar brawls, street fights and domestic disputes) between strangers. Today, I stop to think before putting myself, and subsequently my family, in harm's way. Is that selfish or have my priorities shifted to suit my new role in life?

  4. This is an exceptional essay. Thank you for posting it. The fate of humanity depends on both sexes, men and women (fathers and mothers), to have courage and to stand up against evil.


We welcome many points of view and great discussion. However, please be aware that comments go through an approval process. The blog administrators reserve the right to not post or delete any comments that are not appropriate (ie: comments with obscene, explicit, sexist, racist or otherwise derogatory language), impolite (ie: comments containing personal attacks, insults or threats), dishonest (ie: potentially libelous comments), or are spam. Thanks for understanding!