What Makes a Dad?

By: Bill Hybels

Some time ago I was at a conference with 20 Christian leaders. Our assignment was to describe the person who had made the greatest contribution to our lives. Nineteen of those 20 men credited their fathers. Man after man said, “My dad loved God and was never ashamed to say that. He was secure enough to be tough on me when I needed it, but he could also be tender when I needed comfort or encouragement.”

Recently my brother and I spent a lunch hour discussing the mark our dad left on our lives. Dad wasn’t a perfect man, but he was authentically masculine. He love God deeply and knew how to be firm yet compassionate.

My brother and I reminisced about the times we had sailed with him on Lake Michigan. We remembered the violent storms with 50 mph winds. All the other sailors would dash for the harbor, but Dad would smile from ear to ear and say, “Lets head out farther!”

We talked about the tough business decisions we had seen him make. We winced when we remembered his firm hand of discipline that blocked our rebellious streaks. Dad was strong, tough, and thoroughly masculine.

Yet for 25 years he spent nearly every Sunday afternoon standing in front of 100 mentally retarded women at the state mental hospital. Gently he led them in a song service. Few of them could even sing, but he didn’t care. He knew it made them feel loved.

Afterward he stood by the door while each of those disheveled, broken women planted kisses on his cheeks.

As little guys, my brother and I watched our six-foot-three, 220-pound, thoroughly masculine dad treat these forgotten women with a tenderness that marked us.

As a dad, what kind of mark are you leaving on your children, especially your sons? Your little boys are watching closely, trying to figure out what maleness is all about. In you, they need to see a deep uncompromising love for God and a divine blend of toughness and tenderness. If they do, you have served them well; they will be forever grateful.

Your little girls, too, will benefit because they’ll grow up with a clear vision of the kind of men who make godly husbands.

As a husband, what kind of mark are you leaving on your wife? Every married woman longs to be loved by a truly masculine man. Not an emasculated man devoid of energy,spirit, and confidence, or a macho cowboy who uses cheap bravado to prop up his male insecurities, but a God honoring man who is secure enough to be divinely elastic. A man who can be both tough and tender. A woman can respond to such a man with respect and love.


Football players facing the Chicago Bears say there’s nothing quite like looking across the line of scrimmage into the eyes of all-pro linebacker Mike Singletary. It’s a frightening experience to peer into raw manhood–into intensity, drive, and determination.

But if, as the poets say, eyes are the windows to a man’s soul, there’s more in Mike’s soul than raw manhood.

I’ve seen Mike’s eyes glisten with tears as he spoke of the influence his godly mother had on the 10 children she raised in difficult circumstances. Sickly as a child, Mike received loving care from this woman who, he claims, “taught me to be a man.”

I’ve seen Mike’s eyes sparkle with laughter when he bounced his daughter on his knee or tossed his son in the air. I’ve seen love in his eyes as he embraced his wife or told of her surprise birthday celebration or thanked her for her help and support.

I’ve seen Mike’s eyes close as he prayed for a friend who is shipwrecking his own life, and to ask God’s help in being a more righteous man.

I’ve seen his eyes search the pages of the Bible for truth.

What is authentic masculinity? It’s intensity, drive, determination, desire. It’s tears, laughter, love, spirituality.

It’s balance and completeness. It’s God’s design for every dad.


When Daddy prays the house gets still,
His voice is slow and deep.
We shut our eyes; the clock ticks loud.
So quiet we must keep.

When Daddy prays, he doesn’t use
Those words the preacher does.
He prays for lots of different things,
But mostly it’s for us.

His prayer gets awful long sometimes,
And hard to understand.
So I just wiggle up quite close
And let him hold my hand.

I can’t remember all of it;
I’m little yet, you see.
But there’s one thing I can’t forget:
My daddy prays for me.

Author unknown

(The above material was adapted from the book Honest to God? and published by American Tract Society in Garland, TX.)

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