Sun Tzu was the general of an army in ancient China in 600 BC. I have heard about his writings for over 30 years. This Christmas I received a copy of the Art of War by Sun Tzu. It was exciting to read the book for myself for the first time. Many would argue he was a great philosopher and psychologist as well as being a great general. I was struck with Sun Tzu’s profound simplicity and wisdom in his comments about warfare and life.
Obviously warfare and family are two opposite ends of the spectrum, but the wisdom needed for success in both is much the same. Jesus said wisdom is proved right by her children. I will let you be the judge. Here are seven secrets for success for fathers distilled from the writings of Sun Tzu. Perhaps we could rename it “Success in the Art of Love.”
1. KNOW YOURSELF: The foundation key to success as a father is to know yourself and understand the importance of fatherhood. Lee Iacocca said, “There is no substitute for accurate knowledge. Know yourself, know your business, know your men”. The author of Good to Great” Jim Collins said to succeed you must, “Confront the brutal reality”. To know yourself is to admit your need to improve.
Sun Tzu the author of the Art of War said it this way, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster”.
2. HUMILITY: In knowing yourself you must stay humble. Humility is the key to becoming a great father. Humility is reality whereas pride is a lie. When you live in the lie you will destroy your family. When you live in the truth they will prosper. To prosper as a father you must allow your wife and children to take all the credit. Who knows but it might be the truth? By giving them the credit and not trying to take it yourself you are proving your own wisdom. John Woden said, “It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit”.
Sun Tzu the author of the Art of War said it this way, “He who advances without seeking fame, who retreats without escaping blame, he whose one aim is to protect his people and serve his lord, the man is a jewel of the Realm”.
3. INTENTIONALITY: If you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there. You must think carefully about what you want your children to become and then set goals for you and your family. Your children will become what you are. That is why your focus must be about changing yourself first. We must become the change we seek. Intentionality is everything. To win the battle for your children you must start when they are young. Too many fathers spend all their time fighting their teenagers when their time could have been better spent loving and playing with their toddlers.
Sun Tzu the author of the Art of War said it this way, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”.
4. COURAGE: To be a father is to accept the risk and uncertainty that goes with becoming a father, then run towards it. Yes, becoming a father is scary and challenging but a courageous father acknowledges the risk and embraces it. Benjamin Franklin said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”.
Sun Tzu the author of the Art of War said it this way, “Never venture, never win!”
5. DISCIPLINE: To love your children is to discipline them. If you love your children but do not discipline them you will destroy them. Former Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie said, “A whack on the bottom never hurt anyone”. All of my children have received a wack on the bottom from me when they were younger, some more than others. Aged from 33 to 22 years of age they are all doing well. Many times girls don’t need discipline. Boys almost always do, but the discipline, however you decide to give it, must always be mixed with loads of love.
Sun Tzu the author of the Art of War said it this way, “If he (the General) is generous with them (his troops) and yet they do not do as he tells them, if he loves them and yet they do not obey his commands, if he is so undisciplined with them that he cannot bring them into proper order, they will be like spoiled children who can be put to no good use at all”.
6. FORGIVE: Grace is the prerequisite to family life. Grace is another word for forgiveness. Sometimes you have to practice forgiveness as a father 7 times 77 times each day, and those days feel very long. You cannot have a successful family without practicing forgiveness. If you want to become a good father, you will have to study and practise forgiveness like a fine art. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, so did Sun Tzu.
The author of the Art of War said it this way, “It is easy to love your friend, but sometimes the hardest lesson to learn is to love your enemy.”
7. LOVE: Love is something that is very hard to sustain over the long haul. A man and a woman get married in a frenzy of love and then get divorced in a frenzy of hate and in the process most often destroy the ones they love including themselves. It is easy to fall in love, but you have to fight to stay in love. Sun Tzu, the author of the Art of War, realised that to be a successful general you must win the respect of your troops first by loving them as your own children. Discipline must come second and love must come first.
This what he said about love, “Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death”.
To be honest with you I am afraid to ask you to do all of the above because if you do you will be superhuman. You will be in the league of Captain America and Superman. I guess it doesn’t hurt to try. Even now my knees are knocking at the thought. That’s why we need to get help from above in the quest to be a great dad to our even greater children. Nothing like a challenge! As Sun Tzu said, “Danger has a bracing effect.”
Yours for the Art of Love