By David Hegg
Years ago, Nike came out with their iconic slogan urging the increasingly obese populace of our fair country to get off the couch and start exercising. To make it possible to do so, to just start some form of movement, they exhorted us all to “just do it.” Just start. Just try. Just face the fact that you’re going to get tired, stiff and feel some pain. Get over it and just do it!
Given that I’ve raised three children who are now adults making good contributions to society, and given that I’ve been promoted to the lofty rank of grandfather, I want to rip off Nike and exhort all you dads out there to “just do it.” Just step up, forget about being your kid’s homey, stop being afraid they’re going to hate you at some point – spoiler alert: they will! – and get after doing what dads are supposed to do.
Here’s a starter list.
First, the most important thing you can do for your kids is love their mother. That’s right. Your respect for you wife sets the model for how they will understand marriage and family and a host of other relationships they well have in life. From you they will learn – either the right way or the wrong way – how to deal well with conflict, how to forgive, how to live sacrificially for the good of others, and a host of character traits necessary to live successful, purposeful and helpful lives. Just do it.
Second, realize that growing up under your love and care is the most important opportunity they have to understand how the world works, and what it takes to be a person who will make this world better rather than worse. You have the privilege of being their teacher, their mentor, their life coach. Through your life and your teaching, they will learn how to live a meaningful, successful life, unless you are careless, selfish and immoral in your own life, in which case they will learn how to ruin their lives, too. So, Dad, think right, live right, and lead them in the right path. Just do it.
Third, put your kids in situations where they have to learn the value of foundational personal character traits. There is no substitute for integrity, so model it yourself and insist on it from them. Teach and model the reality that working hard is a virtue without which there will be no success in life. Show them the foundational value in being honest no matter what. Teach them about friends and friendship, about the necessity of loyalty and the toxicity of gossip and misplaced anger. Put them in situations where they must practice discernment and be ready to sharpen this most necessary skill through correction and instruction. And force them to persevere rather than quit when the going gets hard. Dad, just do it. Your kinds will thank you in the years to come, and so will the society that surrounds them.
Lastly, instill in them a respect for those in authority. Start with the recognition that the only answer to the question “why is there something rather than nothing” is ultimately found in the existence of an almighty, all-knowing, personal, loving, and forgiving God who has created all things and has revealed how life is to be lived in this chaotic world. Teach your kids that we’re all accountable to God, and to the positions of authority around us. Teach your kids that, because God exists, life has meaning and purpose, and that satisfaction will never be found through selfishness or the myth that they can create their own reality. Teach them that basic right and wrong are not up to them, but flow down through human history as every generation recognizes the natural laws that our Creator has infused into every moment of time. Dad, don’t let your kids grow up thinking they came from a primordial ooze, that life actually has no purpose aside from happiness, and that if things get too rough and unhappiness too thick, they can always just pull their own plug. Rather, live out the reality that each of your children is a unique creation, endowed with value because they were wonderfully designed by the Almighty.
Dad, you’re your kids’ super toy, their greatest hero, and the most influential teacher they’ll ever have. That is, unless you abdicate that privileged position in favor of your own selfish desires. So, in that case, don’t do it. Instead, join the rest of us who are rooting for you, and counting on you to step up in love, integrity and good ol’ fashioned perseverance and parent your kids as though our future depends on it, because it does.
I speak for grandparents everywhere when I tell you, be the father your kids deserve and your country is counting on. Happy Fathers Day!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.