Do You Have Presence-or Are You Merely Present?
I am often asked what the greatest contribution a dad can give his son or daughter, and of course the easy answer is unconditional love. A great man once said that “If enough love is poured into a child’s life-you can do everything else wrong and they will still turn out fine. But if you’re deficient in unconditional love, you can do everything else perfectly and still have them grow up with problems.”
“When you love someone, the best gift you can give them is your presence.
How can you love if you are not there?”
I couldn’t agree more, but there is something else that is equally important and noteworthy. A crucial contribution that while impactful on your kids, could easily be applied to your spouse, neighbors, employees, etc. It is the difference between merely being present in their lives or having presence in their lives. The distinction is enormous and yet so many of us fail to recognize it, let alone embrace it and practice it.
The greatest gift God gave children was the ability to “live in the moment.” Watch a child playing with Legos or watching a Disney movie or dancing around the back yard in youthful joy and exuberance-blind to anything but the here and the now. How most of us wish we could shut out the world and focus on the activities of a single ant for an hour. The beauty of that innocence is matched only by the power of being able to enjoy the “now” with no worries about the “when” or the “then.” A child has no past and future. Only the now, matters.
I was speaking at a men’s conference recently and someone asked me to define “presence.” Personally, I think it has many different meanings to many different people based on unique factors and family dynamics, but to me-it’s the ability to be in the moment with them when those moments call for it. A child has the innate ability to close off the world to whatever they’re doing. Sadly, adults are often too distracted to be authentically in the moment and engaged. Their mind is often elsewhere, and kids pick up on this-and feel deprived and a shade lonely, despite their dad being right next to them. The ability of adults to “turn off the noise” is crucial to having presence in anyone’s life but especially the lives of their children.
I took great pride in attending all of my children’s basketball games. I made the sacrifices necessary to live up to those commitments and the memories will forever be my dividend. However, I remember one incident vividly—during a TIMEOUT—when I was returning a quick text or email, my daughter looked up at me in the stands from the huddle and I could read the single word on her flustered lips that brought me back into the moment. “DADDY!” Our kids, perhaps better than anyone, know when we are exuding presence-or are merely present in their lives.
When you’re present, you can fully experience life. When you’re present, you stop projecting into the past or future. When you’re present, you let go of the limiting beliefs and stories you have. When you’re present, you’re aware of your thoughts and emotions. When you’re present, you’re in a position of power to change anything. The power of presence dwarfs everything and while it doesn’t displace love in importance-it surely has no equal to augmenting and enhancing that love.
I’m divorced-like half of America, but despite my absence-my children have full confidence and comfort in my awareness of them, my engagement with them, and the unbreakable bond born of commitment and focus. They go to bed at night knowing they’re constantly on my mind and forever in my heart. They feel my presence even when I’m not present. To me, that is the greatest gift that any father can give their sons and daughter.