Fathers have authority. However, one is much more likely to hear how that authority has been abused rather than to hear how it has been used well. Frequently, fathers are not sure how to apply their authority in a way that is honoring to God. Then, the use of authority is uneven–sometimes too harsh and sometimes too weak. The result is frustration for all concerned. Let’s take a brief look at some biblical principles that will make the application of authority more productive.
The overriding principle is that authority should be used to build up. 2 Corinthians 13:10 says:
This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority–the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
Note the important qualifier: authority is to be used to build up. And Paul is personal here–he says to his reader that the authority is for building you up. Here, the biblical goal of authority is to leave the one who is under authority with the sense that he as been built up. This cannot be a random, harsh use of authority that leaves behind a trail of discouragement and disillusion. This is the kind of authority that leaves behind a reaction like I’m really glad Dad spoke to me about that; I really needed his help. If your wife or children seldom have this response to your authority, perhaps a tune up is in order. Here are three things that go hand in hand with authority that builds others up.
First, listen with an ear to learn what is helpful in order to build others up.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
He who answers before listening–
that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13
These two verses underscore the importance of being a skilled, aggressive listener. If you listen intently to those under your authority you will give them confidence that they have been heard and that you actually understand what they have explained. This attentiveness shows respect for those you to whom you are listening. It also indicates that you view your authority as a trust given to you so that you can serve others. In contrast, answering quickly, without fully understanding the intent of the words you hear, shows a lack of concern for others.
Second, when you do speak, use language that is pleasant and gracious. Harsh tones and short sarcastic answers do not build relationships.
The wise in heart are called discerning,
and pleasant words promote instruction. Proverbs 16:21
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
The father’s role is to impart the gracious words of life to those under his authority. Harsh, sharp language indicates that the father considers himself to be the most important. Gentle language tends to focus on what is needed for growth. Harsh language tends to focus on self and self-righteousness. Which type of language do you think is more appealing to your hearer?
Third, beware of anger. Anger and authority should not be often seen together.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20
Anger is not the tool of a builder. Anger puts the emphasis on the fact that you, the father, have been offended. Rather, the focus must be on God. As a father, you should want to point your wife and children to Christ. Verse 20 of James 1 reveals the intentions of your heart. Man’s anger does not promote God, but man. Don’t excuse your anger just because you think others deserve it. Anger will drive those close to you far from you.
These three principles will help fathers develop relationships that will build up those under their authority. (These principles also work well for moms.)
Happy Father’s Day!