“Be You Fatherly”

Friday, January 31, 2020 12:26 PM | Ariana Horn (Administrator)

Commentary on The Urantia Book, 

Paper 140:5.15-20

By Claire Thurston, UUI Board Member

January 23, 2020

I had always interpreted the statement “Be you perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” to mean that we should try our best to align our human wills with God’s will.  Even though we recognize our human imperfection, if we would listen carefully enough in meditation, prayer or worship, we might discern the best path for a choice or solution to an issue and attain momentary glimpses of God’s perfection.

I was surprised to discover in re-reading Paper 140 in The Urantia Book, that there are further instructions—that the definition of perfection is to love others with a fatherly affection as well as a brotherly affection.  To live the golden rule is the acme of brotherly love, “a worthy achievement,” but only one component of the “perfect” love that we are to attempt that borders on divine attainment.

Jesus goes on to describe the four supreme reactions of fatherly love in four of the beatitudes.  Psychologists have only recently, since the mid-twentieth century, begun to study the impact fathers have on child development, instead favoring to study the primary role of mothers in childrearing.  This new research (see Select Bibliography below) gives new context to fatherly love and sheds light on the meaning of these beatitudes.  In this interpretation, it is crucial to understand that “fatherly love” is a way of loving that any gender can express.

First Beatitude of Supreme Reactions of Fatherly Love

Happy are those that mourn for they shall be comforted

Mourning is an emotional attitude of tenderheartedness—being sensitive and responsive to human need, a quality our current culture would associate with mothers, however research now shows that father’s influence includes developing empathy.  If one considers that father and child were never merged in pregnancy, that their very separateness would force them to work harder to ‘get inside each other’s shoes,’ then the impact on empathy development may become clearer.

Second Beatitude of Supreme Reactions of Fatherly Love

Happy are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy

Mercy is active and dynamic—one of the aspects of empathy development includes truly experiencing feeling as if you were the other person, which leads to trying to help and/or expressing forgiveness quickly and deeply in order to relieve suffering.

Third Beatitude of Supreme Reactions of Fatherly Love

Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God

Peace is not pacific or negative—in the father/child dynamic, the child is more likely to experience their own center of self in relation to the father’s center, which creates a healthy sense of autonomy. The father’s influence also helps his child have more internal control, lessening impulsive behavior. New fatherhood research also shows that fathers wait longer to intervene when a child is attempting a new skill and feeling frustrated, which helps with delaying gratification.  All of these factors foster self-control, decision-making and moral development.  An active and positive peacemaker is someone who is leading through values.

Fourth Beatitude of Supreme Reactions of Fatherly Love

Happy are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Happy are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.

On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Adam’s hand stretches across the expanse towards God’s hand.  Father’s separate presence challenges his child to reach for ideals.  These ideals, such as righteousness, help his child believe in a world of possibility and significance.  A sense of the world’s significance inspires the desire to contribute—and combined with moral motivation, it inspires the desire to stand and fight for values.  A strong inner connection to one’s individual potential enjoined with true empathy, leads to the strength of character needed to defy injustice despite persecution.

This new data on the father’s role has not yet become mainstream.  But when it does, the implications will affect every aspect of society, from the father-child relationship itself, to marriage, family, the workplace, social ills, culture, and the law. Untold discoveries become possible while a wide range of social problems will gain improved treatment and prevention.  But most importantly, a clearer understanding of human fatherliness will lead to a deeper connection to the fatherly love of God and Jesus that we may share with one another.

Select Bibliography

Bernadett-Shapiro, S., Ehrensaft, D., and Shapiro, J.L. “Father participation in childcare

and the development of empathy in sons: An empirical study.” Family Therapy. 23 (1996): 77-93.

Hoffman, M.L. Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for caring and justice.

Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Koestner, R., Franz, C., & Weinberger, J. “The family origins of empathic concern: A 26-

year longitudinal study.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 58 (1990): 709-717.

Lamb, M.E., Frodi, A.M., Hwang, C.P., Frodi, M., & Steinberg, J. “Mother-and-father-

infant interaction involving play and holding in traditional and non-traditional Swedish families.” Developmental Psychology. 18 (1982): 215-221.

Mischel, W. “Father-absence and delay of gratification.” Journal of Abnormal and Social

Psychology. 62 (1961a): 1-7.

Mischel, W. “Preference for delayed reward and social responsibility.” Journal of

Abnormal and Social Psychology. 62 (1961b) 116-124.

Youngblade, L. & Belsky, J. “Parent-child antecedent of 5 year olds’ close friendships: A

Longitudinal analysis.” Developmental Psychology. 28 (1992): 700-713.

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