Roland Warren: I just didn’t want to be what was modeled for me. And I had this perspective that I need things to be different, for myself and for my children. And it was a healing process for me to try to make those things different. So, I just sorta became a student of fatherhood. I watched guys do it, some good examples, some not good examples, but it just became a process where God was leading me to different people who were helping me see the way that I should go and that made an enormous difference in my life.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: That’s Roland Warren, talking about the important role that dad plays in the family and you’ll hear more about dads and being a better dad on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Focus president, author and father of two, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: All right, John, well, you’re a father of how many?
John: Six, last I counted.
Jim: That’s pretty good.
John: Well, whatever the Lord gives is a good number, right?
Jim: (Chuckling) Yeah, there you go. That is a very good answer. Hey, you know, I wish it were so simple that we could say, “Do these four things, formulaically and everything’s gonna work out fine.” But you know what, bein’ a dad, it’s not that simple. And frankly, we tend to complicate it and last time, if you didn’t hear the program, I think our guest did a fantastic job of talking about the lack of role model. If you don’t have it, what do you do? If you didn’t see a good dad in your own life, what are some things you can do to find it? That’s something close to my heart.
I thought one of the intriguing things, John, talking about the fact that Satan has a diabolical plan against us as fathers. I think that’s enlightening. It does say in the Scripture that he has come to steal, kill and destroy and I think particularly, that area of fatherhood and it’s happening in our culture each and every day. I think if you look at it, the statistics which we talked about last time, 85 percent of men in prison not having a dad in the home, a[n] almost 70 percent of teen suicides occurring without a father present in the home. Dads in the home make a huge difference and we are just beginning to figure that out. So, I’m excited to come back today with our guest.
John: Well, he does have a lot of great insights and encouragement. Roland Warren is an author, speaker. He’s a ministry leader and former businessman. He brings a lot of practical advice and biblical wisdom to this topic and has written a book called Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid.
Jim: Roland, welcome back to Focus.
Roland: Glad to be here. Glad to be here.
Jim: Hey, last time, I just really enjoyed the discussion and we want to pick it up and talk more about those, perhaps a more refined way of saying it, the poor choices that dads made in the Bible (Laughter). But the title is catchy, The Bad Dads.
Jim: You know, when I say that, it sounds like a letter that we might get here at Focus or an e-mail, you know, that I don’t know what to do, how to be a good dad. I didn’t have a good dad, from a young woman, you know. I am very brittle emotionally because I had a terrible father. You hear that echoed in the Scriptures, as well. Why do dads do such a poor job?
Roland: You know, one of the things that I think is kind of key to that is, that so many times, you know, we take a cue from our past and frankly, we take a cue even from our culture. I mean, one of the things that we’ve done as a culture, is we’ve actually defined fatherhood down.
Roland: You know, it’s interesting. I was very intrigued by the story that came out recently about Adrian Peterson and the issue with—
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Roland: –disciplining his son. And here was the thing that was really interesting. When you look at that, you know, he’s got six kids with six different women. And the culture really is not making an issue of that. But imagine if Adrian Peterson tried to play for six different teams simultaneously. Comes back to the league and says, “Hey, I’m gonna sign six contracts with six different teams.” The sports radio would be, I mean, it would just be crazy.
Jim: It’s be horrible.
Roland: How could he do that? He can’t play for six different teams simultaneously. He can’t be committed to all six teams at the same time. How’s he gonna be there? And here’s the interesting thing. We have a higher standard for football than we do for fathers.
And that perspective, I mean, it’s a huge, huge change and shift in our culture. And unfortunately, that’s the kind of modeling too often that happens. And particularly if you’re a boy who’s not seeing that model, a proper model in the home — a father who’s loving you, loving your mother, ideally united in marriage, then you take those messages from the culture.
My view is that, you know, the real lesson from that story was not the switch that he used, but to stop switching women. And so, we don’t talk about those things in the culture anymore. And as a result, you know, we’ve sown the wind and we’re reaping a whirlwind of negative consequences for fathers and for families, as well.
Jim: Well, last time we also talked about that modeling and there in the example you’re using with Adrian Peterson, you do have that, as well. I was intrigued that his defense was, “Well, this is what my dad did with me.”
Jim: We talked about how powerful that modeling role is, particularly for boys. I think we learn that way. I think God has created that situation that men learn in their environment, that boys learn in their environment how to be men. And there aren’t again, a lot of good role models in that regard. What are some of those basic mistakes that so many fathers make with children—
Jim: –that begin to blow up the relationship?
Roland: Yeah, well, you know, I’ve talked about fatherhood, you know, from my perspective, I always kinda break it down to these three things, that you provide, you nurture and you guide—providing, nurturing and guiding. Those things are really, really critical.
Roland: And when you think about provision, it’s not just about like what you can get economically, which unfortunately is how the culture defines fatherhood. You pay child support, if you’re, you know, a divorced dad or you know, you pay your taxes if you’re a married dad. But providing is not just economics; it’s about providing your presence, not just presents, with a TS. It’s also presence with a CE.
And it’s a really, really important aspect of being a father. And this nurturing piece is important, too. That’s not just mom’s role, it’s dad’s role, too. And I really think about nurturing from a perspective that, that means that you’re connecting heart to heart with your kids, that you’re involved in every aspect of their emotional well-being of your children. That’s a key aspect of nurturing. And then the guiding piece, which is instilling in your kids a set of values that are in their best interest and that are in the best interest of society at large.
And so, from a fathering perspective, we want to have this holistic perspective. And once you think about that from a Christian perspective, that means that you’re connecting physically, emotionally and spiritually to your children. That’s really how God designed us as humans and frankly, it’s really the call that all dads have to do that, to make that kind of connection. And when we don’t do it, it’s very difficult for children.
Jim: Let me ask you this, ’cause last year I came out with a book called The Good Dad, (Laughing) kind the same theme, but you called it—
Roland: Buy both.
Jim: —Bad Dads.
Roland: That’s right.
Jim: But one of the things—
Jim: –in the research I did on that book, you know, you look at it. Dads, I think in the Christian community particularly, we have a desire to be perfect and that’s tough in this life. Jesus said that’s gonna be tough. And the fact is, He came to cover the sins that we have as our Savior and that’s the Good News. That’s called the Gospel.
And so, what I tried to get across in that book is, you don’t have to be a perfect dad. And you know, for us as dads, Roland, we so want to hit the scoreboard. We want to hit the home run. We want to throw the touchdown pass. We want to do it well when we do it. And I think that’s one reason maybe that dads get discouraged, because we don’t always bat 1,000 being a dad. Sometimes you’re battin’ 100. And when you do, how do you lift yourself up to say, okay, I need to apologize? I need to do it better. What do you do when you’ve let not only your kids down, but yourself down?
Roland: Yeah, well, I think one of the things that was really important for me, particularly even in writing the book, was that you know, there’s this process that you go through, at least from my perspective, that reflection, correction and connection.
In other words, so if you make a mistake and you stumble, which we all do at some point, that you spend some time reflecting on that mistake so you understand fully where that’s coming from. And lots of it can come from your own past, your own history. I talked in the show before about how, you know, I had a difficult time hugging my son and I was about to make this huge mistake because of something that happened in my past. And you reflect on that and then once you do that, it gives you the ability to correct that mistake and then now, connect to your kids. So, it’s reflecting, correcting and then connecting.
And what I find so often, I think with us a lot of times as guys, we don’t want to spend the time reflecting. It seems like we’re not doing anything if we’re reflecting.
Jim: Right, no action involved.
Roland: Right, yeah and you hear that sometimes from women and wives. They’ll say, “You know, I tell him a problem; he wants to (Sound of finger snap) go fix it. That—
Roland: –kind of a thing, ’cause what does that mean? You’re not reflecting on that. You want to immediately go to correction and if you don’t reflect, then you’re not gonna correct the right thing in the right way and that’s gonna impact your ability to connect, as well.
Jim: Yeah. You know, in your book, Bad Dads of the Bible and the sub header is important, 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid, you talk about Abraham. Now listen, we give him the title “Father Abraham.”
Jim: So, he’s like the dad of the Bible and yet, you point him out as doing some things that were not that helpful. Tell us what that was.
Roland: You know, it’s interesting. That chapter was the most difficult chapter for me to write in a lot of ways because the mistake that I talk about with Abraham is that, he abandoned his child. And one of the things I thought about is, that you know, you hear a lot about Abraham and his relationship with Isaac. But what you don’t hear is about Abraham and his relationship with Ishmael.
And I started to think what an effect, that when Isaac was born, Ishmael was 13. And this is a kid, for 13 years who’d been told that you are the child of the promise—
Jim: The firstborn male.
Abraham: –the firstborn male. And I just can imagine Abraham has wanted this child for years and years and years and him taking him and putting him on his shoulders and saying, “That’s yours and this is yours.” And he’s telling him, is casting him, “You’re a child of the promise. You’re the child of the promise. You’re the child of the promise. You’re the child of the promise.” And then, Isaac comes along. He says, “Eh, not so much.”
I mean, imagine if you’re a child and then have it, you know, early on, you know, when Hagar runs out and the angel meets her and says to her, that Ishmael will be a donkey of a man and at war with … well, why is that? Imagine a child who’s been rejected so deeply at age 13. And eventually, you know, Abraham takes Hagar and Ishmael and they leave them where they almost die.
Sometimes our children end up paying for our mistakes. It was clear that, that was not God’s plan, for him to move forward with the plan that Sarah had presented, in terms of fulfilling that. And Abraham certainly had an opportunity to go back and ask was this how God wanted to fulfill this promise to him?
And kids a lot of times feel that. And I guess one of the reasons it was really hard for me was because I realized that I was an Ishmael. I grew up without my father. I know the sense of what that rejection feels like.
Jim: You’re a firstborn?
Roland: I’m a second born.
Roland: I’m a second born, but I know what that feels like. And we have so many kids that are experiencing that. And unfortunately, we’re raising a lot of Ishmaels in this culture. Our prisons are full of Ishmaels.
Jim: Well, in fact, I was gonna ask that, because in your book you talk about prison visit that you went to. How did that impact you?
Roland: I mean, it was powerful and there’s this guy that I met at one of the prisons and you know, it was interesting. We were talking about fatherhood, and he mentioned to me that, you know, it wasn’t his first time in prison. And I said, “Well, what happened?” He said, “Well, I came when I was a young boy. I saw my father here and I swore I’d never come to prison.” And then he came to prison and he’s also a father, as well in that process. And he’s been in prisons from the time he a teenager. So, there is a legacy that comes when fathers abandon their children. And I love Abraham. I love the message that God gave him to give. But the reality is, that there was a mistake that he made around fathering that we all can learn from.
John: Well, I appreciate the wisdom and the biblical perspective you’re offering, Roland. If you’d like to get a copy of Roland’s book, you can find details about it. It’s called Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid and we have it at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio, along with a CD or download of this entire two-part conversation.
Jim: Roland, one of the greatest difficulties I think we face, even and maybe especially in the Christian families, dads that we’re there, therefore we’ve fulfilled our commitment. We’re present, but we’re not engaged. There’s a big difference.
Jim: Meaningful time spent with your children, I think some of those research projects so it’s seven minutes a week. I mean, it’s abysmal. Talk about that present, but absent definition.
Roland: Yeah, you know, that’s a really good point. I learned that pretty early on. I started working in the business world and I’d gone on a business trip and I was gone for three weeks when my oldest son, Jamie was just an infant. And I was amazed when I came back how much he had changed just in three weeks.
Jim: I experienced that myself. It’s amazing!
Roland: It kinda blew me away. the insights that God gave me was, that you know, that time from a kid’s perspective is very different from time from ours. I mean, if you have a newborn baby, and you’re gone the next day, you missed 50 percent of their life. But when you do that same calculation for your own life, it’s infinitesimal. So, I started to think about, you know, that as a father, we have to start to get on kid time and start looking at time through the lens that kids use in terms of our presence with them. But the reality is, that kids spell love, T-I-M-E. It’s the time that you give to them that’s critically important.
Jim: Exactly right. Hey, one of our great friends was Truett Cathy. I mean, he was such a good role model. Of course, he’s the founder of Chick-fil-A. He passed away not long ago. And you quote him in your book and I like that quote. I’d like to read it and—
Jim: –get your response to it. But you quote him as saying, “In a real sense, I had been fatherless. My father was alive. In fact, he was home every night and I never knew him to gamble or drink or cheat on my mother. But he never told me, “I love you.” And when I needed help, like the time when I was sick on a rainy Sunday morning and had to get the newspapers delivered,” think of the founder of Chick-fil-A havin’ to deliver newspapers, he went on to say, “I knew not to even ask him. As I grew to manhood, my father and I never, never discussed the difficult issues in life.” His father in essence, what he’s saying is, his father closed his heart.
Roland: Uh-hm, yeah. You know, it’s a situation where, you know, being physically present, but emotionally and spiritually absent. And we shouldn’t really compartmentalize fatherhood that way. It is a holistic perspective, that you need to be physically present, emotionally available and spiritually involved with our children.
Jim: Let me ask you though, ’cause we’ve just grabbed a bunch of men by the throat (laughter) and they’re choking right now, because they’re goin’, “Okay, I don’t know how to do that. What does that mean? I’ve got a lot on my plate. I’m runnin’ a company.” I’m part of a company. I’ve got my own situation. I’ve got a lot. I mean, sometimes this sounds like me at times. I’m so busy.
Jim: I’m thinkin’ to myself, I can’t do it. Help me take my hand off my throat. What can I do tonight with my kids that’ll be different from what I’ve done every night before?
Roland: Well, you know, it’s in a lot of ways, I mean, we make this a lot more difficult than we need to. I mean, a big part of fathering is just being intentional. It really is.
Jim: What does that look like?
Roland: Well, I mean, frankly, you know, take your hand off your throat and put it on your child’s head and say, “I just want to affirm you for who you are.” That’s a key thing to do. I mean, kids when they have a father who affirms in that way, they just melt.
I mean, you think about how you engage in other areas of your life. If you’re a business person, you’re trying to get a new client. Well, what do you do? Well, you try to understand who they are. You try to understand their needs. You try to understand what’s important to them. You maybe sacrifice some of your time in order to engage them in a special way, really taking the principles that we use every single day to be successful in other areas of our lives are the same kind of principles that work in fathering. It’s a human relationship and the dynamics of other human relationships and the skills that you have in those areas are absolutely transferable for fathering.
Jim: Does temperament play in this? I mean, if you’re introverted, is it different than extroversion? The reason I ask that is, for some fathers it looks very natural. They do it and they do it well and I’m sure other dads look at that on the sidelines of the football game or the Little League game and they’re goin’, “I wish I could be that kinda dad.” But they feel they’re not able to be that kind of dad. What do you say to him?
Roland: Well, you really shouldn’t compare yourself to some other father because really your fathering is based on what your kids need, not what you want. So, you may be a very extroverted dad, but you may have a child that’s very introverted. And so, that extroversion doesn’t help you connect with your child. So, just like you would do with a client, you understand what the client needs and then you position yourself to try to meet those needs. And it’s the same with you as fathering. The big thing with fathering, what makes you a father is your children. Other than that, you’re just a guy. (Laughter)
Jim: I like that.
Roland: Really, so when you’re trying to define what good fathering is, you have to look at it from the perspective of what kids need, not from what you want or what you wanted to have, but from what kids need. That really is what defines fatherhood. And when you think about it that way, it’s a lot easier, at least I found it in my own life.
John: I appreciate the simplification of it, if you will, Jim, because as you said at the beginning of the program, there are formulas and I think a lot of us guys feel pretty guilty because I can’t even figure out how to do the formula. But really, just showin’ up and being around your child and being a student of that child is a great first step.
Jim: Hm. It’s true and I think so often we make it complex, when it is, do what’s in your heart. It’s just pay attention to it and then you’ll be in a better place, I think than where you’re at today.
Roland, I also want to ask about the big King Saul. I mean, man, there’s so many lessons to learn from King Saul, unfortunately, in mostly negative ways, things not to do–things not to do in the transitions of your life, things not to do as a dad. What caught your attention with King Saul?
Roland: Well, the bad dad mistake that he made was he made it difficult for his children to honor him. And you know, it’s interesting, because you know, there’s the Scripture. The fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother” and there’s the warning that comes along with that.
And I started to think about that in the light of, you know, Saul, because it’s easy to honor someone who’s honorable. Now that commandment is actually written for kids, but the reality is, there’s an implied command for parents. ‘Cause if you really love your children you’re gonna want them to live out the fifth commandment, which means that you’re gonna want to be honorable in your behavior. Why? Because it’s gonna make it easier for them to honor you.
So, that was the perspective for me. And so, when I looked at Saul’s life through the lens of fathering and you look at how he responded to his children and the things that he did and the things that he brought to the table that actually were very damaging for his kids, he made it incredibly difficult for his kids to honor him and that really is a bad dad mistake.
Jim: You know what, again, is so difficult to do sometimes, is to take these great biblical lessons and we almost over-amplify them. These people were human beings like we’re human beings. You have a modern-day story there that you mention in your book, about the famous story of Bernie Madoff.
Jim: Talk about the application here.
Roland: Yep, absolutely, I mean, there’s a lot of ways. I mean, Bernie Madoff and Saul have a lot in common. I mean, both of them had a lot of success early in life.
Jim: Describe Bernie Madoff’s situation.
Roland: Yeah, Bernie Madoff, he was a Wall Street financier. He was very renowned. I mean, he was one of the guys who even was at the beginning of, founding of NASDAQ, very well-respected, very wealthy, had a client list that people would just envy. I used to work for Goldman Sachs and I would tell you, the kinds of clients that he had were the kinds of clients that you want at a firm like Goldman.
And it turns out, for years and years and years, somewhere along the way, he started to basically create a Ponzi scheme, where he was essentially using money that was coming in to kind of finance and he was making …
Jim: Artificially make a return—
Roland: Artificially making—
Jim: –to investors.
Roland: –returns and he was inflating his returns and things of that nature. And his sons actually ended up turning him in, because it was all coming apart. He told his sons and then his sons, having basically the obligation to go and turn their father in.
And he basically destroyed his family. He certainly destroyed his marriage. He certainly destroyed his marriage. He destroyed his business. He destroyed countless others who had their life savings invested with him. And ultimately, one of his sons actually ended up hanging himself, while his … while Bernie Madoff’s grandson was in the other room. I mean, the legacy, it’s not anything you wish on anyone.
Jim: And in many ways, I mean, it sounds like a biblical story ironically. I mean, when you look at the deep, deep sorrow and the actions of him and his family at that time.
Jim: I mean, it is; it’s of biblical proportion. What can we do as dads to not make these same mistakes? I mean, something you talked about in your book is the love test.
Jim: You know, so many guys, “Oh, love.” They’re about ready to turn the station right now.
Jim: Don’t do it, because it’s important, the love test.
Jim: What is it?
Roland: Well, you know, it’s taking that verse out of 1 Corinthians 13, that talks about what love is. And just taking dad and replacing the word “love” with the word “dad.” And is dad kind? Is he gentle? Is he suffering, all these things. And you know, it’s really in a lot of ways, you may say, “Well, that’s a bit convicting.” But for me, it’s empowering, because it gives you a road map for the kinds of things that you want to do. Well John, we’ve talked about how you make this practical. You know, when you go through the love test that you have there is a very simple one. You can go through and you can evaluate and say, “You know what, was I this way?”
You know, did I believe all things as it pertains to my relationship with my kids and as it pertains with my relationship with their mother? And when you do those kinds of things as a way to break down what may seem like a very, very big task into some very easy and measurable things that you can do and very practical things that you can do every day.
Jim: Roland, that’s absolutely true and yet, so often as men, we kinda chide each other because when we talk about love and God’s tenderness and His mercy, we tend to think of those as effeminate qualities. I mean, it just is. So often I’ll get that criticism. You know, love, love is easy. Actually, love is hard to do.
Jim: And it’s manly to love. What about the dad who has failed and what would you say to that dad, kind of the dads you’re describing—
Jim: –out of the Bible. If you could’ve been their counselor, I know that sounds odd to be the counselor to Abraham or Saul or David—
Roland: Right, right.
Jim: –but if you could’ve been there—
Jim: –what would you have said to them in your observation, if you were their friend, their confidante?
Roland: Yeah. well, you know, it’s interesting, because what you find in so many of these stories of these bad dads is, that they actually did do these things and it was really what I talk about is these three things. You repent; you reconcile and you restore, you know. You see that with David in the situation with Bathsheba. You see that even with Abraham, in terms of things that he did. So, this notion of repenting is really, really important and when you repent, it gives you that ability to reconcile.
A lot of times a father will want to reconcile without actually repenting and it makes it more difficult and almost impossible in some situations, especially if you made some big mistakes, if you’ve been absent for a long period of time or if you’ve hurt your child in a very, very severe way, it’s important that you repent. It’s important that they know that you’ve repented and it gives you the ability to reconcile. And once you’ve reconciled, then you’re able to fully restore the relationship.
And the other thing that you have to say is, that look, you know, even when that process happens the right way, there’s still consequences and you just need to be aware that there’re gonna be consequences to our actions. But the reality is, that we’re accountable for repenting, reconciling and doing all that we can to restore relationships. And that’s where God holds us accountable for.
Jim: Roland, let me ask you this question, repentance. Some people won’t know exactly what that word is, ’cause we don’t use it regularly and perhaps someone’s listening who doesn’t know Jesus Christ as their Savior. We have that vocabulary. Describe what repentance actually is.
Roland: Yeah, the probably a simple way is saying that you’re sorry, but it’s more than that. It’s saying that you’re sorry and that you’re gonna be turning in a different direction. You’re gonna be going in a different direction from the one that you were on before.
Jim: It changes your behavior.
Roland: It changes your behavior and frankly, it changes your heart. And kids, they want to see that our heart’s changed. And I think one of the powerful and amazing things about fatherhood is that God gives us this ability to connect with our kids heart to heart.
Jim: Okay, I gotta ask you the tough question.
Jim: When did you do that with your boys?
Roland: Gosh, not as often as I needed to probably (Laughing) if they were being interviewed, you know, if they were being interviewed, you know, I can think about some times when I had to do that, you know, when they kinda brought a situation to my attention, where, you know, maybe I’d been too harsh on something. My wife also has been a pretty amazing one to kinda help me see.
Jim: (Laughing) Wives are good barometers!
Roland: Look, my wife has an emotional antenna that has been incredibly helpful for me. Listening to her and saying, “You know, you were too harsh here with them when you said what you said.” Or “You weren’t listening.” Or “You didn’t give them a chance to speak when they should,” or whatever, ’cause I’m a good talker.
Roland: So, you know, she helps me kind of with the situation to make sure I’m playing the record button more than I’m pushin’ the play button. I mean, those are the things that you need to do. So, you have people around you, who can help you see where you have blind spots and help you to repent. And then once you do that, it gives you that ability to reconcile and then to restore.