What I taught my son about being famous and the cost of influence

Glen Henry is an In The Know by Yahoo parenting contributor. Check out his site, Beleaf in Fatherhood, and follow him on TikTok and Instagram for more.

A few years ago, I took a photo of my eldest son, Theo, with my iPhone. Apple picked up the photo and used it for a billboard posted all around the world. After the image went up, people started recognizing him, and someone at our church told him that he was famous.

Theo was very young at the time and asked me what being famous meant. When I explained it to him, I could see his chest start to puff out a bit as the first becomings of pride made their debut. I let him know then and there, though, that people knowing who you are means nothing if you don’t know who you are and what you’re doing with that fame.

Courtesy of Glen Henry

What we are called to do

Since then, our business and audience have grown, and we have prioritized teaching our children that at the center of what we do is what we are called to do. It’s not about how many people are watching or how much recognition we receive. It’s about holding onto our vision as we grow and change and remaining true to the purpose we have found in inspiring reconciliation, healing, fatherhood and family unity.

Our mission is to be the proof, to equip fathers, bring hope to mothers and inspire children. To do that, we have to remain grounded, humble and focused on being the kind of people we want to include on our journey.

Being in the public eye has its glitz and glamour, for sure, but it also has its mud and muck. A lot of people feel entitled to your time, your energy, your presence. They feel as though you belong to them, and as such, they assume you are theirs to hurt or tarnish when they deem necessary. People have a funny way of believing that, because they watch your life, they can relay an informed opinion on it. 

This becomes especially tricky when you’re talking about widely shared experiences like marriage and parenthood. People have sent us threats for how we parent. They’ve said disparaging things about my family and remarked on what we feed our children and how we express love for one another. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but does that mean they’re entitled to posting hateful comments or bombarding my email with messages about what a poor father I am? Where does one draw the line?

At the end of the day, I personally choose to ignore them. My assistant forwards hate email to the junk folder, while mean comments are chalked up to a deep displeasure that can only truly be caused by someone’s own self-loathing. 

Courtesy of Glen Henry

Finding healing

It hasn’t been all bad, though. We have fielded amazing messages from parents, children, couples, singles and more who have taken comfort in our content and found healing in our stories. We have also had the opportunity to work with amazing brands and organizations using their power to change the world.

In the last year alone, we’ve partnered with Michelle Obama’s When We Vote initiative to promote voter participation; with Thorn, which is leading the effort to talk about online safety, anti-human trafficking and child sex crimes online; and with Dove to promote men’s mental health, to name a few. We’ve met amazing creatives and other families who have become part of our community, both on- and offline, and have been able to start a business that supports our family while still providing opportunities to do the work we feel called to do.

I have come to realize that everything in life is give and take. There is never a time when nothing is wrong, or everything is bad, and that’s the balance of it all. For every dark moment, there is equal light. It’s about weighing the benefit and cost and deciding what’s right for you.

Courtesy of Glen Henry

We are all influencers

For now, this works for our family. Will it in five years? Who knows? For now, we are using this time to move in our purpose together and build a present and future we can depend on and thrive in. And the key to that is constant check-ins, respect for everyone in the family’s privacy and comfort, and an ever-present commitment to protecting one another while still challenging each other to grow, evolve and take risks where necessary.

I would encourage everyone who reads this to remember that, in some way, we are all influencers. Whether it’s large or small, we all have a sphere of influence, and it’s not about how the people around us see us. It’s about how we make them feel, and whether or not we feel true to ourselves while doing it. Whether you’re an online influencer or a community influencer, you have an opportunity to make a difference every time you share. Make sure whatever you’re promoting reflects the purpose you’ve been called to walk in!

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If you liked this story, read how dad Glen Henry taught his kids about grief.

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