A father has enormous power. For good or bad, by his presence or absence, action or inaction, whether abusive or nurturing, he has a profound influence on the lives of his children.
For example, take the power of a father’s words in these contrasting statements: “I believe in you, son.” “Why can’t you do anything right?” “I am so proud of you.” “Why could you not be more like your sister?” Words like these will stay with a child for the rest of his life.
Deuteronomy 5:9 and other Old Testament passages describe the three to four-generation influence of fathers. We have power and responsibility simply because we are fathers.
Though some dads today are careless with their father power – or ignorant of it – there are many committed dads giving their best for their families, wanting to use their influence for good.
Some of those dads face a key roadblock: they have never had a healthy model of what a father is. What can a man know about effective fathering if his primary model walked out on him, abused him, or was physically present but emotionally distant?
Often, these men have a sense of emptiness in their lives and want to give their children something better. But if they fail to replace their father’s model with a better one, they likely will end up using him as their model by default.
Of course, all dads are imperfect to some degree. Thinking about our dads is like reading a compass. From most locations, a compass does not point to true north, but to “magnetic north,” somewhere in the Arctic Circle.
Detailed maps give compass declination – the degree of difference between magnetic north and true north – and wise explorers will make the necessary adjustments to find their way.
A father’s power is like “magnetic pull.” As a son, you cannot deny your father’s influence. He gave you identity and direction, and he is an important figure in your life. But he falls short of the original design for fathers, and if you try to take your bearings from him alone, you may wind up lost in the wilderness.
You ultimately should adjust your life’s compass to true north, your Heavenly Father, the ultimate reference point and source of truth.
For us as fathers, this takes the pressure off. Since we can never be perfect, the best thing we can do is help our children find true north in a relationship with God.
Still, we strive to be the best dads we can be. Speaking through Paul in Ephesians 6:4, God instructs fathers to bring children up “in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
That sounds like a big responsibility – and it is. But God does not give us a task and then not equip us to complete it.
Dad, you have God-given father power. You may not feel adequate to the task, but you are. Use that power for the future of your family.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ken Canfield is founder of the National Center for Fathering and served as president of the organization from 1990 to 2005. He is author of The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers. This feature was originally published on LifeWay.com. Used with permission.)