Good Memories From Bad Fathers

I don’t have any good memories of my father. I don’t recall a kind word. He never said, “I love you.” He never, ever said, “I’m proud of you.” I was never physically abused by my father, but his love for me was never affirmed and abuse can go way deeper than a trauma to the body. You might ask, “where’s the good memory then?” Through a life-changing set of events during my college studies I became a Christ-follower and was determined to live in a way that would bring glory and praise to Jesus. I married a wonderful girl and settled into a career. Then it happened! She was pregnant! What was I going to do? I had experienced no positive reference for fatherhood and I knew the statistics of children of bad fathers often becoming bad fathers. I was determined to be different with my child. I discovered Colossians 3:21 that says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” After a significant amount of prayer asking for God, my very real heavenly Father, to be my guide, I decided to take 5 actions in the life of my soon-to-be-born son. #1. I would pray for him every day of his life. #2. I would verbally tell him I loved him every single day of his life. #3. I would spend significant amounts of quiet moments with him… father and son. #4. I would verbally tell him I was proud of him. #5. I would prayerfully give my best effort to obey Proverbs 22:6 and embrace its promise, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” These 5 actions became a lifestyle and produced some amazing memories for my son and me. I began whispering, “I love you, son” while he was still in the womb and kept it up. When he was going off to pre-school, grade school, even throughout his high school days, we never parted without a mutual proclamation of, “Love you.” Now that he’s grown, living his own life with a wife of his own, we never end one of our regular telephone conversations without saying those fantastically powerful three words. In a culture where kids are often squeamish with public statements of affection it’s huge to have that relationship affirmed again and again… even in the presence of his buddies. What a memory! One of my fondest memories was “Boys Night Out.” These were not only great man-to-man bonding times but also gave Mom a much-appreciated break. Starting when he was about seven years old, these were special nights of quiet conversation as men. We didn’t go to fast food places. I approached these meals as if he was a professional client. We went to mid-range restaurants. He observed his dad treating servers with respect and watched how men moved in social settings. I considered these outings as opportunities to demonstrate, not just lecture, on the “way he should go” including unashamed prayers before public meals. And what fantastic conversations we had! We discussed school, friends, and church. As he grew, we talked about bullies, girls, sex, and drug abuse. We were two men talking about “man stuff.” A tremendous boon to our relationship and his self-awareness and confidence. Fantastic memories we both hold dear! The last and perhaps most important outcome of these conversations was that, when discipline was necessary, we had a foundation of conversation. We sat down and talked about the infraction, discussed the principles of conduct that were pleasing to God and man, and that, in spite of the coming punishment, my unconditional love and pride was not diminished in any way. Even a few swats were an affirming event with positive memories built right in. So, with God’s help and instruction from His Word, I overcame the impact of bad fathering and passed on godly wisdom, self-confidence building, and loving memories that can change family for generations to come. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction And do not forsake your mother’s teaching; Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head And ornaments about your neck. Proverbs 1:8–9

Len M. Allen is an Author, Speaker, & Teacher, and has spent 30 years working in television, radio, and newspapers. He has been a Vice President, Salesman and manager, Pastor, and church Lay-Leader and is currently Adult Ministry Assistant at Silverdale Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His blog website is:​

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