The Dad Difference

IMG_4587Take a long, hard look at America and its families, and you’ll see, by in large, there is a leadership void among men. I personally believe the crises in our nation – dysfunctional homes, school dropouts, extreme violence, and teen suicide, to name a few – flow from deteriorating leadership on the part of men. In fact, recent stats tell us that men commit 90% of major crimes, commit 100% of rapes, commit 95% of burglaries, commit 91% of the offenses against the family, and comprise 94% of drunk drivers. Essentially, too many men are dropping the ball and everyone feels the damaging affects.

One such aspect of male leadership that has gone awry in our culture is that of an effective father-son relationship. Consequently, we won’t see the tide turn in America till dad picks up the slack and intentionally sets his sights on raising his son(s) with a strong moral and biblical compass. Fortunately, there are a number of good books and organizations that can help men grasp this all-important truth: A dad can make a world a difference!

The phrase that may best describe the father-son relationship comes from Proverbs 17:6: “…the glory of sons is their fathers.” Robert Lewis, in his book “Raising a Modern-Day Knight,” helps us understand the meaning behind this verse when he writes:

“As grandchildren are to old men, so a father is to a son: a source of wonderment and delight … a reason for boasting. A son wants to feel like a champion in the presence of his dad.”

But how? How does a dad become the “glory” of his son? Perhaps a personal example — my father — will give us a bit of insight into one idea that will help put some flesh to this phrase from Proverbs.

With earned degrees, a high position, and extensive travel under his belt, my father is, to me, the consummate dad. And yet, oddly enough, it’s not those humanly impressive accomplishments that I remember most. What I remember most are the times dad honored me by simply listening. Whether we were riding in the car, playing Wiffle ball in the back yard, enjoying a vacation, talking around the dinner table, or watching a game, dad made listening a common practice, nodding and raising his eyebrows while I chattered incessantly (I’m not sure, however, if my constant rambling was looked at so nonchalantly at that time!). By listening, dad communicated to me that I was important, that my opinion mattered, and that he needed and loved me. He said far more with his eyes and head than he did with his mouth. This, in turn, instilled tremendous amounts of loyalty in me towards my father, which made listening and following his lead a natural result.

Probably the fondest memory in regards to this happened just a few years ago when, upon being offered a prominent position at a Christian ministry, he called to ask what I thought he should do. Wow! I thought. He cares what I think! Whether or not dad really needed my input is immaterial. In the simple phone call, he communicated massive amounts of approval and affirmation, the things every son looks for and longs to receive from his father. It’s when sons receive these things from their dad that he becomes their “glory,” their reason for boasting.

So, from a “father-of-four-who-was-once-a-son-to-a-father-of-three,” here’s a simple tip for dads: listening actively can help you love and lead your son. Regardless of the arena, whether it’s your home, office, or ministry, make listening a top priority. In doing so you’ll be exhibiting love and exerting leadership in ways that affect him now and for years to come, and you’ll have the incredible reward of being the “glory” of your son.

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