When you first find out that you’re going to be a dad, you immediately start dreaming about what kind of dad you might be. This is quickly followed by visions of cool and inspiring things your kids might do when they grow up. It’s a fun and exciting time to consider all of the possibilities.
As dads, we obviously play a critical role in shaping our kids' future. But what exactly should we be doing to help steer our kids in the right direction? It begs the age-old question: what is our purpose as fathers?
The answer you hear quite often is, “I want to equip my kids to be more successful than I was.” This isn’t a bad goal, but by itself is a bit shortsighted. I mean, what exactly is success anyway? It depends who you ask of course. In many ways, it’s society’s made up concept based on the quintessential American dream. There are plenty of examples of both men and women, past and present, who achieved what many would consider success yet were admittedly very unhappy individuals. As dads, if we merely strive to raise successful kids, we’re doing them a disservice.
"As dads, if we merely strive to raise successful kids, we’re doing them a disservice"
So let’s think bigger. What can we do for our kids that they aren’t necessarily able to do for themselves?
I propose that there are three basic life lessons that dads should teach their kids. Ones that will equip them to thrive as both children and adults.
God never promised us that life would be easy. So, when life gets us down, it’s important to maintain a joyful spirit. Teaching your kids the difference between joy and happiness will help them be more positive and resilient in times of struggle.
We find joy in the presence of God. When we pursue Him and allow his Spirit to transform us, we experience true joy, which resides deep inside us. We also find joy by accepting who we are and why God made us that way, leading us to discover our divine purpose as well.
Happiness is certainly not a bad thing, but it’s only triggered by external forces like people, places, things, or events. As kids grow and encounter hard times, their spirit inherently seeks to be comforted with joy. But if they grow up mistaking happiness for joy, then they’ll end up pursuing joy in all the wrong places, often with dangerous or tragic results.
We live in a restless day and age. We are rarely satisfied with our jobs, our homes, cars, or clothes. Yet society continually sells us a lie that we need these things (mistaking happiness for joy). We allow our self-image to be based on our material possessions. As a result, it’s awfully easy to fall victim to the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. Things of this world can’t fulfill us—that’s not how we were designed.
As dads, it’s our job to point our kids to Christ. Only through Him are we able to find true contentment. We must teach—and demonstrate—that it’s not our circumstances that dictate our contentment, but our conviction in Christ. His power, provision, and plan for our life are sufficient to anything we may encounter.
We’ve all held grudges, grievances, or even longterm resentment towards people, but forgiving them is essential to the health of our own souls. This is a lesson that is important to grasp early in life and one that dads can demonstrate early and often to our kids.
Yet, while forgiveness is an easy concept to grasp, it’s definitely one of the most difficult to practice.
Many people view it as a weakness when in reality, forgiving people requires inner strength. Anyone can remain angry at another person, but it takes strength of character to choose the high road and move on.
Others confuse forgiveness with acceptance of what another has done, implying that we should not only forgive, but also forget. While we don’t have to forget about a wrongdoing, God does expect us to forgive, because as sinners, he forgave us.
But the biggest roadblock for many is forgiving in the absence of regret. When we’re wronged by someone, we’re owed a debt, usually in the form of an apology. The greatest example of forgiveness that I can think of was provided to us by Jesus. He forgave those who nailed him to the cross and watched him die, despite their lack of remorse or regret. Yet his forgiveness was genuine and complete. As we strive to be more like Christ, we also have to be willing to cancel the debt that is owed to us and genuinely forgive our wrongdoers.
So as we strive to be the best dads we can be, raising our kids to the best of our abilities, keep these three lessons in mind. When our kids know how and where to find joy, are content with who they are in Christ, and are capable of forgiveness, they will be a true light in this world.