Since Sunday was Father’s Day, our Sunday School lesson was about fathers and fatherhood. Our teacher posed two questions to the class:
Ø What do you appreciate the most about your father?
Ø What would you have liked most to change about your father?
Most of the answers to the first question had to do with specifics. My dad taught me to be honest. He demonstrated integrity. He showed me love. He made me feel secure. Things such as this.
Answers to the second question varied from “I wish he’d been better able to demonstrate love” to “I wish he hadn’t been so stern” or “I wish he’d spent more time with me.” I was in the first category. I always knew my father loved me, and his inability to express it didn’t bother me too much, but it left my siblings all three seriously questioning whether or not he truly loved them.
As I listened to the discussion and the various answers to the questions, I thought more and more about a long-held opinion of mine. I think the most important thing a father can do for his children is to show them unconditional love.
This is not to say a father should not correct his children when they do wrong. Far from it. That’s an important part of any parent’s duties. But even as he spanks or grounds a child or metes out some other punishment, he should make it abundantly clear the it’s the behavior he disapproves and not the child. He must always reinforce his love for the child in all situations.
Many studies through the years have concluded that a strong, demonstrative, loving father is a primary factor in keeping teenage girls from straying into all kinds of bad and dangerous behavior. I totally agree with that conclusion.
The father’s influence doesn’t merely affect the physical world, either. It also has a profound effect in spiritual matters. Beyond teaching a child to pray or to tithe or the attend church or other such things, a father has a major influence on how a person perceives God.
Rightly or wrongly, we tend to see our heavenly father in the light of our earthly fathers. People whose fathers successfully demonstrated unconditional love have no problem seeing God as an unconditionally loving Father. Those whose fathers either didn’t show much love or tied the love to the child’s behavior usually see God as a whimsical being who loves them when they are good and doesn’t when they are bad.
If I did nothing else for my daughter, I hope I exhibited unconditional love so clearly she couldn’t fail to feel it. I think that’s probably the most important thing any of us can do for our children.
What do you think your father did very well or wish he had been able to do better?
If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
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