I know you. You want to be a better dad – the good father. But you’re exhausted trying to do it all. Could it be with all of your running around trying to be better—that you’re doing it for the wrong reasons?
In this post, I’m suggesting yes. You could be trying to be a “better dad” for the wrong reasons. Your motivations might be jacked up—and this is killing you. Let me explain.
“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” —Margaret Thatcher
Every dad I talk to wants to know how to be a good dad. But why do you want to be a good dad? Between the statistics of father absence and the number of disengaged dads who are just “present” enough to pass the US Census Bureau survey, I see you. Something’s missing from your fatherhood?
What’s missing from good fatherhood? We don’t know God.
When it comes to fatherhood, in many cases, we either want the wrong thing or we want the right thing for the wrong reasons. This is why you’re walking around feeling like a failure (you told us you felt like a failure in this survey).
At best, our motives will have us walking around exhausted while trying to do the right thing. At worst, we’ll use our “holiness” for manipulation of others just to get what we want.
When we really know God, we enjoy a daily reliance on Him. We need to repent daily and be more like David in his reliance on God, The Good Shepherd.
In Psalm 23, David says of the good father:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
4 Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.
Read Psalm 23:3 again. “He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake.”
For His sake. As in, not yours. All of our daily work must point to God—not ourselves—or for what we stand to gain from “doing right”.
Consider your motivations for wanting to be a better dad. Then, consider the following. Here are some weak motives, biblical motives and some adjustments we offer if you’re in the warning zone.
Some weak motives for being a good father:
- To get sex from your wife.
- For your kids to want to be like you.
- So your friends respect you.
- To prove you’re better off than your parents were.
- To avoid paying alimony.
- So you don’t get divorced like everyone around you.
Some biblical motives for being a good father:
- Because you will give an account (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
- Your child, like you, has a sin nature and must be taught (Romans 3:10-12 and Proverbs 22:15).
- You are convinced that God’s way is the best way (Psalm 1:1-13; John 10:10).
- Because you have a goal in mind (Colossians 1:28).
- To give your child a biblical worldview.
- To be a credible leader in the home—”managing their children and their own households competently” (1 Timothy 3:12).
- So that God’s name is glorified “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 516).
Some ways to adjust if you’re in the warning zone:
- If you’re in the wrong, admit it (Matthew 7:3-5).
- Headed toward adultery, put on faithfulness to God and your wife. You can guard your heart (Hebrews 13:4).
- If you’re threatening divorce, put on forgiveness and reconciliation (Romans 12:18).
- When you’re overly strict as a dad, put on patience, nurturing and love (Ephesians 6:4).
- Not being present in training your child, put on instruction and discipline (Proverbs 29:17).
- If you’re unloving or impatient as a husband, put on love and being considerate (1 Peter 3:7).
- Lacking spiritual leadership in the home, put on spiritual leadership (Joshua 24:15).
- If you’re only fathering to garner your wife’s affection, seek to understand Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.”
I write this post while looking through the log in my own eye. But brothers, consider your motives. Could it be you’re seeking the right things for the wrong motives? The Good Father, like The Good Shepherd, not only does he lay down his life for the sheep, but he spends his time loving and teaching His sheep. His sheep hear his voice. His sheep know him, and they follow him.