By: Joe Battaglia
Whether we like it or not, all fathers are teachers.
Some are absent.
Some are reluctant.
But children will learn SOMETHING from their dad.
Even if it’s nothing.
The question is what do we want them to learn, and from whom?
I became acutely aware of this scenario in a rather strange way—by shopping with my daughter when she was about 13-14 years old.
While we were at a mall, my daughter asked to go into a very hip, fashionable store for teens to buy a shirt. It must have been more than 20 years since I’d set foot in that store. As I entered, I stopped dead in my tracks. I thought I was in the wrong store—that I’d walked into an X-rated video establishment. Pictures of half-naked young women (probably not much older than my daughter) lying on top of equally undressed young men adorned the walls.
After spending my life in marketing and communication, there is no mistaking what those images and messages were meant to communicate. They were very clear—our culture has sacrificed the innocence of our youth on the altar of sexual glorification. It’s no longer about selling clothes; it’s more about selling our souls.
My daughter knew me all too well. She knew I’d likely say something and not merely slip away into the night, momentarily decrying the decadence of the situation and then doing nothing.
As I approached the counter to pay, I observed the young man and young woman who were standing there to service us. They were probably around 19 or 20 years old. I placed the shirt on the counter and then informed the young man that I was really offended by the display on the walls.
“Please pass my comments on to the manager,” I insisted.
Of course, I didn’t stop there, even though my daughter, embarrassed by my approach, was turning quite red.
I asked the young man, “How do you feel about working in this environment, particularly working alongside a young lady?”
Well, he kind of sheepishly looked down, not knowing how to respond, I suppose.
Then I asked the young lady, “How do you feel about all of this? Are you offended, even a little bit? Does this promote the wholesome way in which you’d like to be perceived by the young man working alongside you?”
At that point, my daughter blurted out loud, “Dad, they don’t care!”
On cue, the young man turned back to us and said, “I wish my father cared as much.”
That was his exact quote. I’ll never forget it.
“I wish my father cared as much.” Those words just resonated in my heart.
As we left the store, my daughter sighed. “You know, he had to say that.”
“No,” I replied to my daughter, “he could have said any number of things, like, ‘I’ll tell my manager.’ Honey, you will learn that people say what is on their hearts to say.”
Jesus said that out of the heart come the issues of life. And I suspect that, in this young man’s heart, rarely did he see evidence of a man standing up for what he believed to protect his child.
This story is a good illustration of an important lesson for any father to learn: Take the opportunity to be with your child “along the way” as Moses commands fathers in Deuteronomy 11:19.
A father will be the teacher by his actions, his love, and his verbal opportunities to communicate character and truth in everyday experiences.
That’s because every experience is an opportunity to teach.
Joe Battaglia is a broadcaster, author (“Fathers Say! Give the Gift of Blessing to Your Children”), and president of Renaissance Communications. For more than 15 years, he’s been involved in the promotion of highly successful faith-based hit movies including “Soul Surfer,” “Heaven is For Real,” “God’s Not Dead,” “War Room,” and “Miracles from Heaven.”