Growing up on the South Shore of Long Island in the 1970s and ‘80s, I wanted to be one of three things, or maybe all of the following, if not all at once: 1) a catcher for the New York Yankees 2) a columnist for a national newspaper or magazine or 3) a radio talk show host.
Yet if I had known then what I know now about life, I would have put another profession high above all of those dreamy pursuits: A father.
The pleasure of being a dad to our 3 sons is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m also convinced there is no professional success that will ever surpass the joy of fatherhood.
I was blessed to have my own father show me the way, a quiet, humble and steady man who devoted his entire life to his wife and five children. He wasn’t flashy – he was faithful.
Jim Batura started working when he was six at a neighborhood drug store to help his parents make the ends meet and didn’t stop providing for his loved ones for the next sixty years. He was a family man, took a train to an office for 44 years, traveled the world for his work, and yet was more often than not home for dinner almost every night.
He sang at church, volunteered at Boy Scouts and Little League, built us a clubhouse in the backyard, and gave us motor boat rides down at the pool. For his two weeks of vacation, he piled us in the station wagon and took us to rustic cottages on lakes in Maine.
My dad went to Heaven over six years ago, but our fathers never really leave us. “You can always understand the son by the story of his father,” observed the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. “The story of the father is embedded in the son.”
Most fathers don’t have a chalkboard or lesson plans to pass on values and qualities. Some may be more intentional than others, but as Dr. James Dobson often says, “Values are caught, not taught.”
I was thinking about this the other day while listening to an old Dr. Adrian Rogers sermon on fatherhood. In the course of the message, he was warning about turning over your parenting to institutions and organizations. In the course of doing so, he listed 21 critical qualities that every dad would want to pass along to his son or daughter. My dad modeled these for us – and we would be wise to do our best to do likewise for our own children.
Here is the list:
- Contentment: Are we always wanting more or do we demonstrate how to appreciate what we have?
- Courage: It was Winston Churchill who said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” In a culture of shifting values, our children need to see us taking stands for what is right.
- Courtesy: This goes well beyond good manners. It’s thoughtfulness and “other” thinking.
- Discernment: Are you raising sheep or instilling in your son or daughter an ability to think critically – and live differently?
- Fairness: A much misunderstood word today, fairness is not equity – it’s dealing justly.
- Friendliness: Do you smile easily and warmly greet people? It’s the art of putting people at ease.
- Generosity: When you recognize that everything comes from the Lord, our miserliness should melt away. Don’t just give money but give of yourself.
- Gentleness: More art than science, tenderness is not timidness but strength under control. Scripture is replete with counsel on the importance of this quality, such as “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1) or “A gentle tongue is a tree of life: (Proverbs 15:4).
- Helpfulness: Offering a hand or an encouraging word improves everything. Get out of yourself and give of yourself.
- Honesty: It’s not only the best policy – it’s the “first chapter in the book of wisdom,” said Thomas Jefferson.
- Humility: C.S. Lewis said it best: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
- Kindness: There are countless ways to show consideration and affection. Knowing how to get along with people begins with knowing how to treat others well.
- Obedience: Another lie of society is that true freedom is being liberated from rules and expectations. Scripture tells us that we follow God’s commandments “so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Deut. 5:16).
- Orderliness: The apostle Paul urged, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). A well-ordered life doesn’t major in minor things and prioritizes.
- Patience: So much human misery stems from impatience and refusing to wait on God’s timing. It was Warren Wiersbe rightly stated, “Some of your greatest blessings come with patience.”
- Persistence: How many people give up just short of success? As my dad used to tell us, “Carry on until they carry you out.”
- Self-Control: The secular world stresses willpower as the source of restraint, but Christians recognize it is our trust in God. Long-term happiness is in direct proportion to our ability to restrain our raw impulses and we do that by turning our lives over to the Lord.
- Tactfulness: Don’t use a hammer when a fly swatter will do. Be gracious and deferential whenever possible.
- Thriftiness: So much frustration and unhappiness are brought about by outspending and outliving our income. Stretch a dollar and you’ll save a lot more than money.
- Wisdom: Without wisdom all of these other qualities will be difficult to cultivate. Solomon tells us to turn “your ear to wisdom” and apply “your heart to understanding.”
Zeal: As Christians, we have an obligation and every reason to bring enthusiasm to life. When you can live with confidence that comes with the promise of eternal life, you should be able to live with energy and optimism.
I’m so grateful that my father modeled these values – and I remain convicted to try and pass them along to Riley, Will and Alex. Perhaps you can take one per day and use it as a point of conversation around the table or as you drive in the car. It would be meaningful conversation. Most importantly and effectively, live them out each and every single day.