It took me awhile to understand being a father is easy but becoming a great dad is difficult. You don’t need a degree or license to become a father. Fatherhood rarely begins as you expect it to or unfolds as you plan. It is indiscriminate in its ability to reveal and demonstrate how ill equipped you are to run this race.
Fatherhood is a strange paradox—testing your resolve and commitment like few things can and providing joy like nothing else can. It may be the essence of clinging to the obligation and responsibility of being a father long enough to understand how becoming a dad creates a lasting and rippling impact on our kids.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge encouraged the nation to celebrate Father’s Day “identifying the need to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
Impact of Fatherless Homes
Something has gone terribly wrong over the nearly 100 years since Coolidge’s proclamation. More than 17 million (approaching 25%) of all children in the United States live in father-absent homes!
This is tragic in light of the fact that studies show that kids growing up in fatherless homes are more likely to:
- drop out of high school.
- suffer from poverty.
- live off of welfare.
- marry early.
- have children outside of marriage.
- commit a crime.
- abuse drugs and alcohol.
An Unlikely Source of Clarity
Being a father is easy. It’s becoming a great dad that is hard. My dad passed away nearly 14 years ago and there are not too many days that go by that I don’t think about him. I’ve grown in my appreciation of his commitment and journey to becoming a dad.
Many of you have read Tape Breakers and know the first chapter (An Unlikely Source of Clarity) is about my dad. In researching his story for the book and now talking about him and his journey since the book was released, I am so thankful that he demonstrated the courage and commitment to not only fulfill the “full measure of his obligation”, but learned how to become a great dad.
What Does It Take to Become a Great Dad?
My dad was a man of few words. He didn’t need to say too much because his example spoke volumes. If I could ask him today, “Dad, what does it take to be a great dad?,” here is what I think he would say.
- Love the Lord! “I came to faith late in life. My heart had been broken so many times I couldn’t imagine being loved fully and unconditionally. How could I be forgiven and embraced? Praise to God that He never wavers in His love for us. The discovery of God’s saving grace changed me from being an obligated father to a loving dad.”
- Love your wife! “The greatest gift you give your kids is a picture of what love looks like. There is not better way to do this than to pour your love into your wife.”
- Hug your kids and reassure them they are loved ever day. “My first vision of being a father was as a provider—safety and security. A dad’s love and encouragement changes everything. I got better at this.”
- Honor your commitments. “You may not like it, you may want to change your mind, but finish what you commit to. Life doesn’t owe you anything. Kids look at what you do much more than hear what you say. Always give your best effort and expect the same of your kids.”
- Be kind and give generously—be grateful for what you have and let it be enough. “I grew up with little and knew what it was like to be in need. I witnessed the sorrow of war, weathered the heartbreak of loss and experienced the pain of rejection. Don’t be afraid to give away what you can’t keep.”
Who do you want to be remembered by?
If you are a father or a mother, I pray your kids are on the top of this list. It provides focus, inspiration and motivation to run with courageous mindfulness of our impact and influence.
Yesterday is unimportant in this race. Today is what counts. Do the next right thing—right! If you truly want to be fondly and appreciatively remembered by your kids, do the next right thing whatever that may be.
I like a question Josh McDowell poses in “The Father Connection,” that helps you frame up how you want to be remembered. “I want to be the kind of father who ______________________.”
Finish Strong—Happy Father’s Day
Everyone writes a story with his or her race. For the kid’s in our lives, let’s run a race that weaves together a story bold enough and big enough that it changes their lives, inspires their hearts and unlocks bold and courageous possibilities in their lives.
Today is a great day to find the starting line and embrace being the hero of your race—On your mark!
What is the best advice your dad would offer? I'd love to see your comments below.
Some of My Favorite Books for Becoming a Great Dad
The Father Connection: How You Can Make the Difference in Your Child's Self-Esteem and Sense of Purpose (Right Your Wrong) by Josh McDowell. Josh provides simple and principle counsel that can be easily applied.
Friday Night Lights for Fathers and Sons: Schedule a 10-game winning season to help develop your son into the man God intended him to be by Mark LaMaster. Great resource for building your relationship and connection with your son.
Finishing Strong: Going the Distance for Your Family by Steve Farrar. Steve is one of my favorite writers. This is one book amongst his many are outstanding guides and resources for men as husbands, fathers and leaders of their family.
The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers: Becoming the Father Your Children Need by Ken Canfield. This book was written in 2001. But the principles are timeless and supported by extensive research.