By David H. McKinley
AUGUSTA (BP) — What makes a good father? In one word, I believe it is character.
Nothing has contributed more to the destructive trends of social poverty, perpetual anxiety, sexual identity, personal insecurity, rage, rebellion, anger, and even insanity than failed leadership in the home because of an absent or aloof father.
Earlier this year, I read the book Becoming a Leader of Character by Gen. James Anderson and his son Dave. Their thesis was this: “Most leadership failures are character failures.” This is certainly true in life, but it is especially true in the home and family.
Dwight L. Moody defined character as “what you are in the dark.”
This year we saw national headlines unmask the shame of some of the highest profile celebrities, personalities, and success stories. Marriages, families, careers, and brands were destroyed once impulsive and indulgent acts were exposed. In the aftermath of these stories, I felt it important to gather a group of men at my church in order to address the topic, The Character Challenge. We examined four essential aspects of character:
Each of us has to take responsibility for who we are. We cannot pass this off or blame it on others. As grown men, we have to own our lives, our decisions, our commitment – our character!
We embrace words like relaxation and recreation, and often resist words like responsibility. But responsibility has everything to do with character.
Other people hold us to accountability; we hold ourselves to responsibility. Responsibility is akin to the four-letter word, DUTY!
Duty is doing what needs to be done without waiting for directions. It is taking responsibility for both the big and small things.
While emotions matter, they cannot and must not dictate what we do every day. Every time we choose duty over delinquency, we pass a test of character. “You have to DO what you want to BE,” as James and Dave Anderson write.
Respect has everything to do with values because we honor, protect, and guard what we respect.
Respect begins with God our Creator, and He is our Father through Christ our Lord. It is the knowledge and awareness of this relationship that changes everything about how we live.
With respect for God and as men of character, we respect women. In February, I wrote an article for Baptist Press to husbands and said, “Your wife needs your respect more than roses.” But this is not limited to our wives.
Women deserve our respect as counterparts in God’s creation and co-recipients of His grace in salvation. While I fully subscribe to a complementarian view that God made us different to make us one in His design, I believe we are distinct, but equal.
Galatians 3:28 exhorts us to honor and respect women, and it disallows any place for demeaning, dishonoring, or abusing others. Men of character must reject and repent of the all-too-common misogynistic attitudes and frequent objectification of women.
Our society is filled with multitudes of little girls and women who suffer emotional pain and physical or sexual abuse because they are devalued as human beings and disrespected because of their gender. This is more than an issue of culture; for men, it is an issue of character.
Restraint applies to both responsibility and respect, and it is the opposite of selfishness. Many character flaws come from selfish impulse and indulgence.
Lives are saved and reputations are forged through selfless acts of sacrifice, while lives and reputations are lost and destroyed by selfish acts of indulgence. Restraint understands that life is not just about us. Unrestrained lives communicate life is all about us.
We need something greater than our own best efforts to overcome our self-driven impulses. Divine intervention and motivation change us from the inside out. Only God can do this through His saving grace and by the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.
Character is something we need God to shape in us – not something we simply squeeze out of ourselves. Character building is what God does in the lives of all who come to Him in Christ. This is what makes the Gospel both powerful and personal.
Character is forged and seen in endurance. We face the relentless realities of fatigue, frustration, and failure while seeking to be faithful to each task. We must be resilient to stay the course as we struggle with endurance.
Character development is hard, but remember this: The road of life is littered by the debris of many men who have been talented and successful but failed because of their flawed character. My charge to men, to fathers, is to step up to The Character Challenge.
David H. McKinley is pastor-teacher at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta.