Does anyone besides me watch classic television? There is something about old black and white television shows which make me feel calm and uplifted. Perhaps I enjoy such entertainment because media revered the father’s role back then (rather than making men the punch line); dads were respected rather than mocked. No matter how much society and the media try to downplay the importance of fathers in the lives of their children, little ones (children and teenagers alike) will always need their fathers; dads will always be important. A few bitter generations and liberal media will not blot out the need for authentic father love.
If you are a dad, want to be a dad someday, or are a woman desiring marriage in the near or distant future, consider how important a father’s influence is to the development of your children’s future relationships. Fathers are far more central to their children’s emotional (e.g., academic, spiritual, mental, etc.) growth than is commonly believed.
- Dads model adult behavior and integrity. Eric’s dad worked for a company for thirty years and, while working, went back to school to get his degree in finance. He made wise decisions with his money and taught Eric the value of working hard and making prudent choices. His dad lives 3,000 miles away from us, but I see the effects of his influence in my husband’s life every day. My dad also worked for a company for thirty years and I remember him coming home sweaty and occasionally covered in fiberglass. He put great effort into his work and went above and beyond to keep the women in his department from having to do any heavy lifting. Even now, he leaves home long before the workday begins to make sure he is not late. He does not waste time while he is out making deliveries and he gives his employer a solid day’s work. Something else which I appreciate about both my dad and Eric’s dad is their friendliness towards others. They have a warmth about them that I find quite valuable. Parents teach us through their actions and it is easier for children to grow up, goof off, make excuses, exude selfishness, and display laziness if they observed those behaviors in their dads. Eric likes to say, “Marriage is for adults,” and good fathers teach us what it means to be an adult.
- Dads show us how to treat our partners. Before Eric became interested in marrying me, it was important to him to find out what kind of a relationship I had with my dad. Much to his glee, he discovered I have a loving and respectful relationship with my dad (i.e., Daddy, Pappy, Papa Bear, Paps, etc.). We laugh together, can talk about everything under the sun, and I find it important to treat my dad with respect. Nothing makes my skin crawl like a young lady mouthing off to her dad. As close as Dad and I are, I know our relationship would have suffered had he mistreated my mom. Sure, they argued as any married couple does, but he never laid a hand on her. He did not leave the house for days at a time. They laughed together. He hugged her. He clearly loved her through the good times and the rough times. Seeing that behavior modeled for me taught me that while marriage partners struggle sometimes, it is important to apologize when you are wrong. It is important to show affection, and it is important to keep pressing on regardless of disagreements or stressful seasons. Most married couples are tempted to quit at some point or another, but Dad (and Mom) showed me that love and marriage could last if you refuse to quit.
- Dads teach us how romantic partners should treat us. My dad has been tender with me throughout my entire life, with very few exceptions. There were certainly a handful of times my behavior caused him to be firm with me, but as a way of life, he spoke to me gently and communicated that he loved me. As I grew and began dating, I came to expect the same treatment from the men in my life. Disrespect never felt like love to me and I am quick to communicate my displeasure if Eric speaks to me in an unloving way. The way Dad interacted with me is the way I expect to be treated now and often the way I discern love from Eric. Eric’s love does look different because of his personality, but I can recognize the basics of love and understanding a mile away; and, that is thanks to being treated with kindness, affection, and respect from my dad. Though the relationship from a dad to a son is different than from a dad to a daughter, a dad still teaches his son what treatment is okay and what treatment is not okay – when to stand up for himself, when he is being taken advantage of, and how a respectful relationship looks. Sons who have affectionate, emotionally open relationships with their dads often grow up to be loving and understanding husbands.
- Dads are our first love and our first best friend. Though I spent a lot of my teen years traversing the fickle maze of love, one truth saw me through all the drama. No matter how bad a relationship I was in, or how much I scared my loved ones, I knew deep down inside that I could not spend my life with a man who was not as wonderful as my daddy. Even when I tried to convince myself that my relationships were good – at the end of the day, I could not move forward with someone who did not have the same integrity as Dad. This is not to say that all the guys I dated lacked integrity – that is not true at all; but, of the boyfriends I had that did lack character, I knew in my heart of hearts I could never settle down with them. Daddies are a daughter’s first love, and a man’s first best friend – at least that is how it should be in an ideal world. From day one, they begin showing us what love looks like; and, because of this, a dad’s influence can teach his children to spot counterfeit love, or to believe lies about love.
- Dads have the power to instill (or strip) confidence. When a good man finds out he is going to be a father, some of his first fears include, “How am I going to pay for everything this child needs?” and “What if he or she needs more than I can give?” But, good men also realize that their children need time, attention, and teaching just as much as material provisions. When a dad prioritizes his family, the children can feel it. Even if a dad has to work loads of overtime, take tons of business trips, or lock himself away in his office to fill out reports, children can tell the difference between a dad who is trying to be available and a dad who is not. Dads, even the busiest dads, find ways to stay connected to their families. As my late mentor, Miss Betty used to say, “Children who know they are loved can get through just about anything.” Children who are loved, encouraged, prioritized, and allowed to make mistakes (without mom and dad swooping in to fix everything) are more likely to gain much-needed confidence than those who are not. Dads who want to instill confidence in their children should invest time and energy into their children’s upbringing and be confident themselves. Children learn what to believe about themselves from what their parents believe about themselves. A man can praise his children every day – “You are smart. You are beautiful. You can do anything you want with your life!” – but, if he is down on himself, his children will be affected. Confident, loving, invested dads are likely to bring up confident, loving, invested children.
- Dads can give us the courage to walk away from bad relationships. One trait we all share in common is the desire to love and be loved. When I see young girls in sad, unloving relationships, it breaks my heart because I know they are desperately looking for someone to care. Some dads love their children deeply, but are not sure how to express it. Maybe their dads were harsh and that is all they know. Maybe they are so afraid of their children going astray that they are overbearing at times. It is critical for fathers to begin a loving relationship of hugs, playing, and talking long before their children are old enough to go out into the world solo. My dad and I did not always see eye-to-eye on everything (especially boys), but he laid a loving and supportive foundation with me from a young age and that bond lasted through the temporary strains of rebellion and “finding myself.” Because I knew I was loved, no matter what I did, I had the courage to leave bad relationships. It is harder to leave a toxic partnership when you feel as though you have nowhere else to turn.
- Dads leave a legacy that stays with us long after they are gone. On April 29th, 1993, my family mourned the loss of our beloved Bob Franklin Jones. To my grandmother, he was Frank. To my dad, aunt, and uncle, he was Daddy (pronounced ‘Deddy’ ~smile~). To my cousins and me, he was Granddaddy. To my mom, he was Teddy Bear. To his friends, he was a constant source of jokes and entertainment. To strangers, he was a friendly smile and handshake. Though I was only ten-years-old when I lost my granddaddy, I saw his spirit live on through his children – their generosity, their willingness to help those in need, their loyalty, and their strong work ethic. The character he instilled in his children lives on and continues to live on in his grandchildren. There is no doubt that the life lessons he taught my dad, aunt, and uncle served them well in their relationships – all of them married (to the same person) for well over forty years.
For those who have not had a positive father experience, maybe this Father’s Day season can begin a time of healing, restoration, and forgiveness. As important as fathers are to our lives, they are fallible. By the time we are born, they have a thousand battle scars. If your dad was not there for you, he does not deserve your forgiveness; however, we must remember that we do not deserve God’s forgiveness, but He gives it freely to those who repent of their sins and put their trust in Him.
“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8, ESV)
Christ did not wait for us to repent before he gave His life. He obeyed His Father and died a horrifically painful death for a world of sinful people who hated Him. Forgiving your father may be the hardest act of giving you ever do, but it is God’s will for your life. It is always God’s will for us to forgive.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV)
We cannot forgive on our own strength, but with the power of God working through us, we can forgive and take steps to create or restore relationships.
My dad would describe himself as a nice guy with simple tastes. He is not quick to pat himself on the back, but I see him in a much different light than he sees himself. I see him as the man who read me bedtime stories when he could hardly keep his eyes open. As the man who played games with me – even the annoying games I made up. As the man who came to pick me up from Grandma’s every day after work. As the man who taught me how to drive without yelling at me. As the man who whispered, “I’m proud of you, Baby,” through his tears on my graduation day. As the man who helped me move, and then helped me move again, and then helped me move again. As the man who gave me away on my wedding day when he would have rather kept me a little girl. As the man who held back his tears as I sang to him at my wedding reception. As the man who is always available to talk whenever I need him and lightens my heart with just the sound of his voice. As the man who gave me his eyes and taught me how to treat people. As the man who continues to love my mother after forty-two years of marriage. Dad, you have never thought of yourself as a hero, but you have always been a hero to me.