Who you are when no one is around is the most contagious part of you.

Dear 22 Year Old Nathan,

This is the last letter I’ll be writing you regarding your daughter. If you only take one to heart; make it this one.

When Acacia is about two, you’ll have coffee with an older man whose adult children are doing well and so he as a deserved reputation as being a pretty good dad. You will pull out a notepad and pen to show him how serious you are to get down his nuggets of information – imagining at least a page of notes.

But he is only going to say one thing:

“She will be like you.”

This will be disappointing at the time. You were hoping for steps to take. Techniques to implement. You will be tempted to write this off as too simple.

But, listen, he is right.

He understands something about character formation which you will be slow to understand but eventually find to be 100% true.

Since you are a bit of an academic snob at this point in your life I’ll rephrase it a few ways as accommodations to your pride.

  • The medium is the message.
  • Values are caught, not taught.
  • The buffered self is an illusion.
  • Who you are when no one is around is the most contagious part of you.

Maybe those will help. But only if you admit the real reason you are adverse to what he is saying.

The real reason you are resistant is not the simplicity of what he is saying. It’s because there are parts of you which you’d hate to pass on to your little girl. You imagine it is easier to be a good parent than a healthy person. As if those were two different things.

But take heart, as you grow in grace and maturity thanks to the relentless work of the Spirit in you, screwing her up will become less worrisome to you because there is less of you to worry about. Although, you will never have the sense you are anywhere near done; you will still be able to delight in how far you have come.

As well, the heart of God is so heavily slanted in your favour. He delights to mute the failures of the parents and increase the volume of their successes (Exodus 20:5-6). You wont abuse this promise, but you will take comfort from it.

She will be like you.

So worry less about intentional parenting and focus on becoming the kind of person you dream about her being.


Thanks to everyone who read these. Special thanks to those who expressed appreciation in person or who forwarded them along on social media.

Also, if you remember reading the upcoming Father / Daughter Banquet at PAC was what prompted this series of posts then you’ll be glad to hear it has sold out!

Nicely done dads.

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