“…set an example…” 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
One of the biggest challenges in parenting is being a good example for one’s children. I was reminded of this when my daughter, Christie, said she wanted to speak to me about something that was bugging her. I could tell by the look on her face that she wanted my undivided attention. Staring me straight in the eye she said, “Dad, I don’t like the way you’re overloading the van. I think it’s wrong. It’s against the law. You’re putting ten people in a seven seat vehicle and I’m not happy about it. Dad, I want you to stop doing it . . .”
I was somewhat dumbstruck by the intensity of the complaint. Several thoughts were racing through my mind at once: Should I tell her to mind her own business? Should I explain that we were on a tight budget and couldn’t afford to run another vehicle? Or should I point out that two children are the equivalent of one adult which meant in effect that we only had seven and a half people in the van, and who was going to quibble over half a person?
But I did none of the above. I knew it would be wrong to try and justify my actions. So I apologized and assured her it wouldn’t happen again. I think I got it right, but I’ve messed up on other occasions.
Example is better than precept. What we do is more important than what we say. Consider these challenging words: “. . . you then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” (Romans 2:21). That’s a meaty thought. As an old saying puts it, we must “be what we would make others.” No wonder Albert Schweitzer, the missionary doctor and 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing!” So let’s not forget that everything we say and do sets its mark on others. Our actions speak louder than words. To help our children grow up right, we must live right. In the words of Abraham Lincoln; “There’s only one way to bring up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel that way yourself.”