The captain of his family: 4 ways to practice humility in fatherhood

Written by Aaron Sharp
Published on July 28, 2020

Every guy has a list.

He creates it in his formative years. Some of it may come from his dad, maybe some from a grandfather, and probably a bit of it from his mom. A few of the items exist because they are things he wants to emulate, while others are things he’s never seen practiced personally. 

It is dynamic in nature, this list. The things that a boy wants to be when he is a man often change throughout life. Every man’s list is unique. But for the Christian husband and father, there should be a few things in common. 

Unfortunately, whenever manhood in general and fatherhood in particular, are discussed in church, we still seem to miss the most basic concepts.

Manly things and God’s character

A lot of men become dads knowing more about how to do “manly” things than how to exemplify God’s character. We may know how to change the oil in a car, throw a curveball, or grill a good steak. But do we know how to please God through our actions as men and fathers? 

In some ways, the greater Christian community has responsibility in what it prizes from its dads. But don’t be deceived, there is an element of personal responsibility too. After all, what has more of an immediate return on our investment: a nice, juicy steak or a well-developed character

When we reach fatherhood, the time has come to own whatever baggage or flaws we carry around. 

For most of us, humility isn’t something we regularly identify with fatherhood. We understand the general meaning: humility means thinking less of ourselves and consequently more of others. But for whatever reason, the concept of humility can’t escape the orbit of just existing as the opposite of arrogant. 

You see a player win a game and talk about what a good job his teammates did. You say to yourself: “He’s humble.” You see a player spend a whole interview talking about how well he performed. And you think: “Man, he’s arrogant.” 

But humility is about so much more than simply avoiding arrogance.

Sacrifice without humility

When a man becomes a father, he is quickly faced with the reality that loving and caring for another human being means giving himself in a way that even marriage doesn’t require. 

We tend to categorize this mentally as sacrifice. But if that sacrifice isn’t an outgrowth of humility, there is sure to be trouble on the horizon. When we sacrifice without a humble attitude, we are creating an internal conflict

If we attempt to give ourselves in a manner that is self-reliant, our actions won’t be sustainable. It is only when we allow our actions to flow from an obedience to God that we can achieve sustainability. We must follow the model showcased for us in the person of Christ (Philippians 2:1–11).

Humility is one of those funny traits that is self-perpetuating. 

In other words, the way to be humble is to practice humility. Sure, there are things we can do to help. But ultimately, humility in fatherhood is an action that grows out of what is in a man’s heart. 

When our hearts are right and our actions are humble, we will be strengthened

4 ways to practice humility in fatherhood

With that in mind, here are four ways to practice humility in fatherhood.

  1. Get over yourself. 

This part of humility takes place largely between our ears. 

As a dad, it is easy to begin to think of ourselves in terms of being the most important member of our family’s herd. We put roofs over our kid’s heads and feed them. 

It is our job to lead and raise them, so it’s easy to elevate our importance. But here’s the truth: our kids are made in the image of God every bit as much as we are. They are under our care and direction, but that doesn’t make them, their needs, or their feelings any less valid or important. 

We may be in charge. But until we get over ourselves, we won’t be humble. 

  1. Get used to saying things like, “I’m sorry,” “My bad,” and “I was wrong.” 

Admitting we are wrong may not be our strong suit. But in theory, we should have started learning this necessary skill when we said, “I do.” 

Whether we’ve proven to be a good learner or not, we need to wrap our minds around humbling ourselves before our kids. We need to admit when we are wrong. 

It isn’t fun, but owning up to our mistakes will have a greater impact on our kids than almost anything else we can teach them. 

Give them an example of someone who is confident enough in his place in Christ to recover from a self-inflicted wound. 

  1. Hoard the dirty jobs. 

Mike Rowe has made a career out of handling dirty jobs on well over one hundred episodes of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs series. 

A husband and father should be his family’s Mike Rowe. Dirty diaper? We are their guy. Bodily fluid spill on aisle three? Here we are! 

Is this just about not grossing our wives out? No, but that is a huge benefit. 

Handling the dirty jobs will help us grow in humility. After all, it is hard to be anything but humble with a plunger in our hand. Being the designated dirty jobs guy will also teach our children about humility. 

If Dad is willing to get his hands dirty, then maybe they can too. 

Although this may not be a big issue, since them getting their hands dirty is probably why we are taking on the dirty job in the first place.

  1. When you learn something from your wife or children, proclaim it loudly!

Many people lack humility because they stopped learning how to learn

It is hard to learn if we aren’t humble, because we don’t think we have anything to learn. To follow Christ is in many ways to submit ourselves to the life-long task of learning to be like him. 

We need humility, and we need to keep learning. 

When someone in our family teaches us something, or when someone else is right and we are wrong, don’t miss an opportunity to point it out. 

We must let our kids see us learning in humility. We must let our wife see our willingness to learn

Be a team captain

What is the end result of focusing on humility? 

Well, there are many, but one of the most important was focused on by Adam Grant in his WorkLife podcast, “There’s evidence that in teams, humility can be contagious.” 

Our firstborn’s love of the animal kingdom led us to talk a lot about being a herd. But as the kids have grown older and more familiar with sports, I’ve turned to talking about being a team. 

A dad who exhibits humility is like a team captain infecting his teammates with the same thing.

Practice humility. It’s contagious.

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Aaron Sharp

Aaron E. Sharp is the author of three books, including You Got This, Dad: The Expectant Father’s Guide to Surviving Pregnancy, and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. His writing has appeared in In Touch Magazine, Fathom Magazine, and as a columnist for the Odessa American newspaper. He and his wife, Elaina, live near Dallas, Texas, with a zoologist, a ballerina, a fashionista, and a Jedi – their four young children.

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