Learning from Your Past
About the Guest
We learn a lot from those who parent well. But we can also learn a lot from those who didn't. CareNet President & CEO, Roland Warren, talks about some of the parents in Scripture, like David and Jacob, who didn't do it right, and the valuable lessons we can learn from them.
Roland WarrenRoland C. Warren is the former President of the National Fatherhood Initiative and currently the President & CEO of Care Net, the nation’s largest network of pregnancy resource centers. He has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, CNN, Focus on the Family, Dateline NBC, BET, Fox News Channel, Janet Parshall’s America and others speaking on issues of marriage and fatherhood. His writing has also appeared in numerous publications such as The Washington Post, Christianity Toda...more
We learn a lot from those who parent well. But we can also learn a lot from those who didn’t.
Learning from Your Past
Bob: Every son and every daughter longs for a daddy who is engaged—a dad who is connected to their world and has a real relationship with them. Here is Roland Warren.
Roland: When my son, Justin, was like 25 years old, we were going through some old pictures. There was a picture of me and my son, along with his baseball team. I noticed, in the picture, there was an “X” across my face that someone had done with a pen. I looked at him; and I said, “Wow, I wonder what happened to this.” So, Justin—25 now—sheepishly looked at this and said, “I did that.” I said, “Why did you do that?” And he said, “Well, I was mad because you were coaching his team and you weren’t coaching mine.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. What can we do, as dads, to make sure we are better connected with our kids—that we’re engaged where they want us to be engaged?
We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I wish we were talking about something you felt a little bit more passionate about. I know this kind of—
Dennis: I’m kind of laid back on this subject—[Laughter]—really don’t have but a fiber or two of conviction on the subject of being a better dad. Roland Warren joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Roland, welcome back.
Roland: Well, glad to be with you.
Bob: You have the same passion Dennis has on this issue—the need for men to embrace responsibility, as a man, first—and then, as a husband and as a father—everything God’s done in your life and in your ministry; right?
Roland: Absolutely. It’s a critical aspect for me. I feel like it’s why God called me to do what I’m doing and why I’m so inspired to do it.
Bob: You spent more than a decade giving leadership to the National Fatherhood Initiative—just written a book called Bad Dads of the Bible.
In this book, you are espousing that the Bible is true because it does not sugar coat the mistakes of its heroes; does it?
Roland: It doesn’t. And we tend to airbrush our heroes in a lot of ways, and the Bible does not. I think, within the culture, when we do that, we actually make it more difficult for us to connect with them. So, I felt like—when I was going through, and hearing, and reading these stories about David, and Abraham, and Eli, and others—and looking at them through the lens of fatherhood—specifically, through the lens of fatherhood—it helped me connect. In a lot of cases, I could see myself in their stories.
Dennis: And you expose the patterns of dads who didn’t do it right. It’s interesting—you take a guy, who was said in Scripture—he was a man after God’s own heart—and you call him a bad dad. [Laughter]
Roland: Well, look—one of the things I try to do here with this—and it’s interesting because kind of the subtitle is 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid. See, mistakes are not who you are—they are what you do.
And David, even a guy after God’s own heart—when it came to this particular area—particularly, with his issue, which was being paralyzed by his past—
—he allowed a mistake that he made in his past impact his ability to father when it came to how he dealt with Amnon and when he raped Tamar; and then Absalom, and then everything that came from that. You know, it’s frankly tied to my own personal story in terms of when my wife and I got pregnant in college when we were dating.
My deal is really kind of looking at these bad dad mistakes and then saying, “What can we learn from them?” because the Bible has them out front and center. They are not varnished. They are not pushed to the side—they are out there. And just like the good things that we learn in the Bible—the good things that people do—all the great things that David did—also, there are some mistakes too. There are lessons to be learned for fathers everywhere on that.
Bob: And in David’s case, where he did make these mistakes, one of the conclusions you point us to is that a man cannot be paralyzed by his past failures.
Roland: Yes; yes.
Bob: So, what do we do with our past failures in order to keep from being paralyzed by them?
Dennis: Well, he actually uses an illustration of starting to have the birds and the bees discussion with his son—
Dennis: —that I think really captures, Bob, where a lot of men feel paralyzed by past mistakes, especially when it comes to sexual immorality in this culture.
Roland: Yes, my wife and I got pregnant in college; and we had two sons. We really wanted them to have the ethic of saving sex for marriage. That’s—we articulated that, we communicated that to them from the time they were just little bitty boys.
Dennis: You’d gotten married.
Roland: We’d gotten married, and that was our deal. So, it came to the time when I needed to have these conversations with my sons, more specifically, and particularly my oldest son. And I was paralyzed. I really felt like: “Oh my gosh! I’m going to tell him to do this, and”—
Dennis: And then, he’s going to ask you, “Well, Dad, did you wait?”
Roland: Exactly. And it’s funny. I had a friend I used to work with—had done a lot of drugs in college. He said to me once—he said, “Look, I’m not going to tell my kids not to do drugs because I did them; and I don’t feel like I can tell them not to do that.”
There are a couple of flaws that are in that kind of logic. The first is that you can project your consequences on their actions. See, actions and consequences are linked. So, your actions have a specific consequence. Their actions will have a specific consequence. He had some consequences, and everything turned out okay. He went to college—whatever. He was able to get through it. So, he thinks, “Well, my daughter will do the same thing.” That’s not the way that life works. Actions and consequences are linked. Their actions and consequences will be linked for them.
The second flaw is that confusing hypocrisy with growth. See, that’s where people come and say, “Well, my kids are going to say that I’m a hypocrite.” And that was one of the things I had to work from my head—was “Wait a minute!” A hypocrite means to tell someone not to do something that you are currently doing. Growth is if you tell someone not to do something that they once did.
So, you’re a hero if you talk to your kids about something that you did that God showed you / and life showed you was something that you shouldn’t do—so, “We shouldn’t allow you to do that.” That’s the device that Satan uses to paralyze us because he’s all about destroying the next generation.
Certainly, if you get paralyzed by your past, that’s exactly what Satan is able to do.
Bob: So, when you sat down and had that conversation with your son, what did you tell him?
Roland: We told him the unvarnished truth. [Laughter]
Dennis: So, you told him the story?
Roland: We did. It was really interesting, too, when we talked to him about that and we told him how he came into the world. I was all prepared for him to say, “Dad, you’re this, or that, or whatever.” And he asked me a really interesting question. He asked—
Bob: How old was he?
Roland: He must have been—I guess it was probably like 13.
Roland: Thirteen when we kind of really went there. Now, he knew about aspects of sex before, but this was the real sort of—you know whatever. And it was interesting. And he only asked me one question. It was: “Did you want me?”
Roland: Yes, I was thinking, “What are you going to do with this?” That was his biggest thing—“Did you want me?”
Again, it ties back to this notion of wantedness. That’s the same question, frankly, that I had for my dad all these years. You know, I never really got a chance to kind of ask him, in a direct way, even before he passed. But that was really—when I go back to it—that was really what the issue was: “Am I wanted? Did you want me?”
And that was the most important thing. We said, “Of course, we wanted you”; and he was fine. And we moved forward from there.
Dennis: Your dad had abandoned you. That’s kind of the genesis of the question for you; but your son—he went to those circumstances and said, “Okay, so, did you really, really want me?”
Roland: Yes; yes.
Dennis: And I think, sometimes, we really don’t understand where our kids are coming from around these issues. They just need their dads to be real with them—
Dennis: —and to get honest, heart to heart, and to share the facts of life and take him into the knowledge of that. They are going to hear it from the world anyway. So, why not hear it from you—from hopefully a man who is attempting to follow Jesus Christ?
Bob: You know, in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul—not speaking about fatherhood—because we don’t know anything about his marital status. We assume he was not married—didn’t have kids—but he did have a past.
At one point, he told the church at Philippi—he said, “I have this past.” He said, “Some of it, I used to glory in—I used to revel in. Yet, at the same time, I had a past that was embarrassing and a hard past.” And here is what he said. He said, “So, today, forgetting what lies behind, I press on.” A dad has to learn that your past is not to control your future—it’s to point you in a new direction and get you started on a better road.
Roland: Yes; yes. There is a wonderful Psalm—Psalm 65:3—that says, “When we are overwhelmed by sin, You forgave our transgressions.” You know, you have to rest in that security. That’s the antidote to being paralyzed by your past.
You’re going to be age-appropriately transparent about it; but at the same time, you’re going to not allow Satan to hit you with the stun gun, as I say, when you have a past issue. I kind of take you through that in a path to where I kind of do that in the book in a big way.
Dennis: As you talk about David being a bad dad and allowing his past to paralyze him—
—one of the things he was paralyzed about was really moving into his kids’ lives at points they made mistakes. He didn’t correct them. He didn’t discipline them. He didn’t engage them around stuff that was going to wreck their lives.
And in 1 Kings, Chapter 1, it talks about Adonijah, his son, who was setting himself up to replace David. He was going to be the king. And it says, “His father had never at any time displeased Adonijah by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’” In other words, David, the dad, had never corrected his son. In the end, it bit him—
Dennis: —right before he died.
Roland: Yes, it’s absolutely possible to have those kinds of situations. You know, I tried to put some humanity on that whole story about Bathsheba and David. You have to think about it—even with the situation with Tamar and Amnon—essentially, what Amnon did was the same thing that David did.
He took a woman that didn’t belong to him, and then, didn’t take responsibility for the action. It’s basically the principle is exactly the same, which is why it would have been difficult for him to step in there.
Bob: So, if you’re sitting down with a new dad—he’s got a one-year-old baby—and you say to him, “Son, don’t make the mistake David made.” What would be the mistake you’d point him away from that was David’s mistake?
Roland: The mistake, really, is allowing the enemy to take mistakes that he has made in his past to cause him not to speak into areas of his child’s life.
Dennis: In other words, don’t let the guilt of the past paralyze you today from doing what you’re responsible to do.
Roland: Absolutely. You know, we are accountable. These lessons that we’re learning in our own lives are ones that He wants to use for good. Remember, “All things work to the good of those who love the Lord who are called according to His purposes”—not just good things but also mistakes, if we allow God to use those mistakes. And I’ve certainly seen in my own life—mistakes that I’ve made—that when I set those mistakes at the feet of the cross, God uses them.
Dennis: This takes a lot of courage for a man to look at his mistake and go, “This can be a teaching lesson from me, as a dad, to pass on to my son / my daughter and future generations.”
Bob: And I think, for a dad, he’s got to be able to get a perspective on his past and on his failures that is the perspective that God has on them.
Bob: Because you see, we can look at that and go, “The shame of what I’ve done—the embarrassment of my past—how do I get rid of that?” And the only way to get rid of it is to say, “God has already gotten rid of it for you in Christ.”
Bob: “It’s nailed to the cross, and you bear it no more. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.” Once you see it that way, then, you can walk away and say: “You know what? If God no longer holds me accountable for the sin of the past, then, there is, therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I’m free from that.”
Dennis: I’m forgiven!
Dennis: And because I’m forgiven, as a broken human being, I can pass on some lessons to my son or daughter—who are going to make their own fresh set of mistakes in their own lives.
Roland: And it doesn’t—and this is one of the things that someone said, “Well, that means you’re going to have a cavalier attitude toward mistakes.” Well, of course not. “May it never be,” as Paul says very articulately, you know, because you love your kids and you love the Lord. So, you’re not going to want to make mistakes so that God can kind of clean them up for you; but you need to understand that when you do make mistakes, that God has a purpose even in that—that He can use those for your good and for His glory.
Bob: I thought it was interesting. One of the other dads you pointed to in the Bible, who made mistakes, was Jacob.
Bob: He had a dozen boys. So, what was his tragic flaw?
Roland: Well, when you have that many boys, or kids for that matter, you’re going to have sibling rivalry. And his issue was he turned a blind eye to the sibling rivalry, particularly, by picking a favorite son, Joseph. He was someone who understood, well, what sibling rivalry can do in a family—with his relationship with Esau.
And that was the other thing that was really an interesting principle there as I looked at that story because Joseph—actually, he had a flaw—he had a character flaw. He was boastful. Obviously, Jacob had a similar seed in his character. Joseph was in conflict with his brothers—well, guess what? Jacob had been in conflict with his brother. And actually, if you read through Scripture, he actually figured out how to restore his relationship with Esau. These are all lessons that he could have passed on to Joseph; but because he turned a blind eye to the sibling rivalry, he was not able to do that.
Dennis: One thing I want to point out here—there is a God-given alarm system that has been given to men to point out when a husband and a dad isn’t addressing sibling rivalry. It’s called our wives.
Roland: Yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: Barbara has come to me, on more than one occasion, and she’s said, you know: “Our kids need you,” or, “Those two need you,” or, “Those three, who are ganging up on this one, they need you to engage in this.”
Dennis: And the easiest thing to do in that situation is to justify, and defend, and say, “Oh, I’m a good dad!” It’s kind of like your book: “I’m a good dad! I’m not a bad dad.”
Roland: Part of the reason why Jacob didn’t get that counsel is because the two women he married had fierce sibling rivalry, as well, between the two of them. Rebecca was his favorite. Leah was not. Joseph was from whom?—Rebecca. Rebecca was dead. So, even in that particular situation, it was sibling rivalry that actually even stopped him from being able to get the kind of feedback that you and I would get from our wives to help us manage what we should be doing as a father.
So, it really is one that has an enormous impact in a culture. And we’ve seen it again, and again, and again. I talk about some great stories in the culture about this as well.
Bob: So, how far apart are Jamin and Justin?
Roland: They’re roughly two-and-half years apart.
Bob: Okay, two-and-a-half years.
Dennis: No sibling rivalry there.
Bob: We had some two-and-a-half year separation in our kids, and we saw some sparks fly. Did you?
Roland: They got along very, very well; but you know, one of the things I talk about in the book is that there was some stuff that even goes on, even when you don’t know it. One of the stories I tell in the book is about when my son, Justin, was like 25 years old. We were going through some old pictures. There was a picture of me and my son, along with his baseball team. And I now noticed in the picture, there was an “X” across my face that someone had done with a pen.
I looked at him, and I said, “Wow, I wonder what happened to this?” So, Justin—25, now—sheepishly looked at this and said, “I did that.” I said, “Why did you do that?” He said, “Well, I was mad because you were coaching his team, and you weren’t coaching mine.” [Laughter] So—and here’s the interesting thing. Now, Justin is my athlete. I spent more time, sports-wise, with him than with his brother. But kids have this deep, deep, deep desire for that connection.
You can still have those things that you aren’t looking for. And I, certainly, didn’t see that at the time. It didn’t—he didn’t act out in a big, big way; but it was just another pointer for me of how important sibling rivalry can be and how, as a father, you cannot turn a blind eye to it.
Bob: And I have a hypothesis—not a theory—it’s a hypothesis. It’s just one of those things I throw out there. I have to wonder: “If kids have a strong, healthy relational bond with their dad—one on one—each child feeling really connected to their father—I wonder if that has an impact on the rivalry that happens between the kids.” My hypothesis is: “If you’re secure in this love relationship with your dad, it may mute some of the natural rivalry that goes on between two brothers or even two sisters.”
Dennis: I think you are hitting a key point, Bob. I don’t think you are going to be able to eliminate sibling rivalry—
Dennis: —from your children—
Bob: Because they are selfish kids; right?
Dennis: It’s a broken world. And here is the thing I don’t want our listeners to miss—and I’ve said it many times: “Your home is an incubator that is teaching your sons and your daughters how two imperfect, selfish human beings relate to one another in the most intimate of all relationships, which is a family.” Guess what they are going to grow up and establish on their own some day?
Roland: And you know, you asked about Jamin and Justin. One of the things that my wife and I did was that we didn’t take conflict lightly—yelling or hitting—any of those things. A lot of parents, sometimes, we’ll have this notion that: “Kids will be kids.” That’s not really what God has designed parents to do. He gave parents the ability and the responsibility to step into those things because, if you are a selfish kid at the dinner table, you’re probably going to be a selfish business man at the negotiating table. It’s not going to go well with you. You read through Proverbs—you see again, and again, and again.
So, this is really a big, big area that you have to be focused on. I tell a few stories in the book, frankly, about situations where sibling rivalry went very, very bad and can have some very, very dire consequences if you don’t step into this. You can’t turn a blind eye.
The last thing I would say is that that’s a really important role for fathers and mothers and husbands and wives—and if you are not married, certainly—to not allow your children to be able to kind of position you because you see some of that happening. That was kind of the situation that happened with Jacob and Esau, where Jacob was Rachel’s favorite and Esau was Isaac’s favorite. So, because of that, the parents weren’t even in unity; and as a result, it makes the conflict even more significant between the children. And I think it’s an important point that you have to focus on as well.
Dennis: Let me just read something out of Proverbs 15. It says: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of fools pours out folly.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place keeping watch on the evil and the good.” You think it’s talking about sibling rivalry here? [Laughter] Verse 4: “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.”
That whole passage is assuming that a dad is instructing / a dad is coaching. Is it exhausting?—absolutely. Does it seem like it’s never ending? Oh my goodness! Barbara and I thought, at points, we were raising juvenile delinquents! [Laughter] I mean, we thought, “We’re”—and we’re on the radio for goodness’ sakes. But our kids are not perfect. Of course, they’re not perfect. They are related to their parents. But the assignment for every dad is to take the mantle of responsibility to be the dad and to get in there with your kids.
Coach them on these life lessons, and to respect their brother / to respect their sister, and not speak with a hateful tone / a disrespectful spirit but to learn how to love in a family. That’s really one of the chief assignments of a mom and dad—I’m convinced.
Bob: Well, at one level, it’s really helpful to read the accounts in Scripture of dads who have blown it because, first of all, you don’t feel so alone because you’ve blown it—
Bob: —and you will again; but then, secondly, this helps point you in the direction: “Don’t do this. This is what happens when you do this.” So, you can learn from somebody else’s mistakes, along the way.
We’ve got copies of Roland Warren’s book, Bad Dads of the Bible, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. And I want to encourage our listeners, “Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, click in the upper left-hand corner of the screen where it says, ‘Go Deeper,’ and you can order from right there.
Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, I think if we’re going to be good dads, we first of all have to get our arms around what it means to be godly men. Of course, that’s what is at the heart of the book that you wrote, Dennis, called Stepping Up. And it’s at the heart of the video series that our team put together that takes themes from your book. Our team, here at FamilyLife, is really hoping that this summer a number of our listeners would get this Stepping Up® video resource and would take a handful of guys through the material.
And we’re offering a little additional incentive this week. If you call us to order the video series, we will send along, for free, five manuals for the guys you want to take through this series. So, you get the DVDs—we’ll send the manuals. You have the guys over to your house and go through this stuff this summer—
—or if you want to wait and do it in the fall, that’s fine as well. But you need to call this week or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “Go Deeper,” and order the video series for the Stepping Up ten-week series. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions or you’d like to order over the phone. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
We have had the opportunity to see tens of thousands of guys go through that material and get equipped, as men—get trained in what biblical manhood is all about. It’s one of the things we are committed to, here at FamilyLife. We want to effectively develop godly families because we believe godly families change the world, one home at a time.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the best example of fatherhood found in all of the Bible—what we can learn from that example. And I bet you don’t have to think too hard to figure out who it is we are talking about; right? Hope you can join us back again tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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