Father, as the noun that denotes a male parent of children, has a long and varied history etymologically. The English word shares a sound with its Latin, Greek, Old Norse, German, and Sanskrit counterparts. It’s a word that holds meaning across many cultures, and its use is a marker of fatherhood’s sacred significance to families around the world.
Fathers play a critical role in the lives of their daughters and sons, providing them with a healthy perspective on masculinity and giving them strong moral compasses that will help them through life’s most difficult challenges. In their role as mentors, they model responsible parenting and foster a love of learning that is deeply embedded in the children they raise.
But there are some misunderstandings about what it means to be a dad, and these myths can have serious consequences for the health of modern families. Fathers have to be willing to challenge these myths and to work with their kids, partners, and community to build a future of happiness and fulfillment.
The most important thing a father can do is to show their children what it looks like to be a gentleman. This can be as simple as holding the door for strangers at a supermarket, or keeping their promises even when it’s easier to lie. It also means helping them learn to respect others and themselves, and to take pride in their work and in their appearance.
Another part of being a gentleman is understanding that our children are bound to make mistakes. Whether it’s getting into a car accident, failing a test because they didn’t study, or making a foolish purchase with their savings, our children need to be allowed to experience the joys and pains of living so that they can learn from those experiences.
Lastly, the best fathers are supportive of their children, both when things are going well and when they’re not. This doesn’t mean that they should shelter their children from the pitfalls of society or that they shouldn’t discipline them when necessary, but it does mean that they should encourage and support their children as they pursue their dreams.
The word “father” carries some negative connotations—think goofy dads who can’t be bothered with serious responsibilities—but the fact is that fathers are essential to the health of families. And it is a responsibility that is sacredly honored in the Bible. In fact, God calls His followers to “be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45; Leviticus 19:2). When we imitate the example of our Heavenly Father, we are truly being fathers in a way that is worthy of our calling. It’s a high bar to set, but one that we can reach with the help of our Savior. He’s the perfect example of a loving and honorable father, and His teaching can guide us to be the same. In fact, His instruction is the highest standard of all: “Let your conduct be excellent; with great wisdom and discretion you teach your children, rebuking them when they are wrong, and training them in the ways of the Lord” (Proverbs 6:23). That’s a pretty tall order—but it’s one that every father can achieve through the power of the Holy Spirit.