A tribute to Dad: 5 lessons we’ve learned from our fathers


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Editor’s note: Tune into KSL or BYU Radio or listen to rebroadcasts of a BYU Devotional or Women’s Conference talk and you may recognize their voices. To many, Brad Wilcox and Matt Townsend are well known as engaging speakers and authors. To Whitney Wilcox and Sarah Townsend Davies, however, the two men, first and foremost, are their dads. With Father’s Day coming up, these daughters share five life lessons they have learned from their dads. Both Sarah and Whitney are reporters for The Universe. Matt Townsend is a popular radio personality and relationship coach. Brad Wilcox is a professor of teacher education at Brigham Young University. The following came from personal experiences.


Ever since I was a little girl, I have been asked the question, “What is it like living with a relationship expert?” Since getting married just over a year ago, this question has come up even more regularly as people have wondered what type of advice a marriage coach would give his own child. I have always felt such a special bond with my dad, probably because we are so much alike. I truly feel like we understand each other. Growing up in a house with a relationship expert and humorist has opened my eyes to the hope and peace that can come from continually striving to nurture relationships with the people you hold most dear. The following are the five greatest lessons I have learned from my dad’s example.

1.) We are all a little jacked up 

If you’ve ever heard my dad speak, you have probably been startled by the use of his favorite phrase, “jacked up.” It doesn’t matter if he is speaking to a room full of strangers on a cruise ship or across a pulpit to a church congregation; he uses this brutally realistic phrase. I think that is why so many people relate to my dad’s content — it is just so real! Coming from my dad, this phrase, “jacked up,” refers to the fact that all human beings carry around some form of extra baggage in their lives.  Whether the baggage is caused by past guilt, fears, addictions or secrets, he has taught me that “people whose hands are full of baggage have a harder time carrying the load of others.” When I was a teenage girl experiencing typical high school drama, my dad was always quick to remind me that the issues we had with friends weren’t because people were intentionally trying to be mean but rather because we were just simply “jacked up.” He would also remind me that people that hurt other people are usually hurting themselves. Learning this from a young age has helped me to always try to give people the benefit of the doubt before choosing to be offended.

2.) The space between us matters most 

My dad has taught me the power of relationships by sharing one of his favorite quotes by Noah benShea: “It is the silence between the notes that makes the music; it is the space between the bars that holds the tiger.”  So many times in life we become consumed in our own struggles, stresses and successes that we find ourselves taking those around us for granted. My dad would always point out that no matter how many people I have in my life, the real key to a good life is to focus on what happens in the space between myself and all of the people around me. My dad would always joke that “iron bars on the cages at the zoo are pretty important, but if the bars are spaced 10 feet apart from one another, then I would leave the zoo as quickly as possible.”  The same rule is true in our lives.  If I have dozens of people in my life and I’m not very close or connected to them, it’s time to stop gathering friends and start connecting with them. This life isn’t easy, and we need the companionship of those around us to draw on in both the good times and the bad.

3.) Live in the now 

My dad is known for encouraging his clients to say, “I’m in!” before each relationship workshop. What this means is that you are committed to living in the now, that you are present in the moment and ready to learn. My dad is so good at living in the now. My transition to college was a hard one. I went from high school, where I felt like I was a “somebody,” to a university with 30,000 talented, smart and beautiful people. I would often call my dad, discouraged and lost. He would lovingly point out that many of my concerns came from the fact that I was living out of the past or aspiring to create a great future.  Then he would gently urge me to “show up in the now!”  He would remind me that “right now, in this moment, is the only time you have to offer what you can to the world. In the now is where the peace resides and where we’re closest to God.”

4.) Become the change 

My dad has a real talent for identifying the talents and gifts in others. It is one of the things I am very most grateful for. At several stages while I was growing up, my dad would point out my strengths and help guide and direct me to which path I should take. Early on he recognized a passion and talent in me for writing and public speaking and even urged me to join the high school debate team. After I qualified for state in debate, my dad started joking that he regretted encouraging this talent because now he can never win an argument at home. I vividly remember when he challenged me to stop watching the rest of the world as it passed by and to develop my own talents and follow the advice of Ghandi, who said, “One must become the change he seeks in the world.” I am grateful that my dad, whose parents divorced when he was 8, didn’t just sit around sad because of the separation but instead became the relationship change he wanted to see in the world.

5.) Finding personal peace

The night before my wedding day we had a dinner with our closest family and friends. My husband and I still talk about how this was one of the most special parts of our whole marriage event. I remember looking out and being filled with emotion seeing that all of the people I loved most were gathered together in one room to support us. After dinner we had a program where we invited our siblings, bridal party and parents to give us their best advice. My dad closed out the night, and many were wondering what advice he would give to his only daughter.  It was priceless, something I will never forget. He started by expressing his complete love and approval for the amazing man I had found to marry. He then directed his attention right to me and said, “Sarah, your personal peace will never come from another person, not from your partner, not from the people around you, not from the power you possess, your popularity, prestige or profits. In the end your only sure and lasting peace will only ever come from God and his principles.” From that day forward, through every challenge we have endured, my husband and I have learned that we must look to God and live, and not solely rely on each other to find peace in our lives.




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