Dictator or Servant-Leader? – Part 1

I recently received an e-mail with this suggestion for a Dad’s Corner:

“You mention in a previous Corner that you think ‘many dads are dictators and are only thinking about themselves. You also rightly point out in other Corners that fathers are heads of their families and should make family policies for the good of the family.

“What are the differences between a dad who is a ‘dictator’ and one who is fulfilling his duties as spiritual leader and protector? This is an area in which I sometimes struggle as I try to lead and protect my wife and young daughter. I do not want to be legalistic or frustrate my wife, but I do want to keep ungodly influences out of our lives and our home as much as possible. My wife and I do not always agree about what or who may be a bad influence, although we are both fairly conservative Christians.

“How does a dad find the proper balance between honoring his wife, seeking her input on decisions, and being the leader without becoming a dictator?” A Dad’s Corner Reader

This is an excellent question, and one I believe all fathers would be good to ask themselves. First, let’s define “Dad—the Dictator.” He assumes sole and absolute power that in practice is unconstrained by the Word, the Lord’s leadership, or the pleas from his family. In essence he selfishly and hypocritically misuses his God-given authority to lead his family even though he may appear to others to be very religious. He might feign to follow God’s Word, but has no regard for anyone else’s knowledge of Scripture. He becomes the sole source for all spiritual discernment because there is no one else that he would look to with respect or from whom he would seek counsel.

“The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined” (Psalms 10:2). Since he has the power of authority, he will make decisions for his own entertainment, comfort, or pleasure. I know of one dad who would spend every Saturday away from home on his hobby leaving his wife alone and behind to watch the young children. His wife would have loved his companionship and help around the house, but Dad was seeking his own fun. Praise God that later he came to repent of his selfish focus.

In Dictator Dad’s pride, it is his way or no way for his time usage. His family may be starving to death spiritually, yet Dad is too busy to feed their souls the Word of God: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock” (Ezekiel 34:2-3). He is focused on the flesh and things of this world, but he is not willing to expend a little effort to raise his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The Dictator may set family policy that is actually good, but he will cause resentment because he doesn’t abide by those policies himself. He might set a policy of no TV and yet watch movies on his computer. He could banish sugar consumption from his children’s diets and yet have his special treats when he is away from home or the children are in bed.

You will likely see Dictator Dad setting down his rules and policies with an I-don’t-care-what-you-think attitude toward his family. He doesn’t make the effort to lovingly and compassionately explain his decisions to them. Communication takes time and energy, but he isn’t willing to do this because he is focused on himself.

The Dictator may be very religious, but looks down on others who are not at his perceived level. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican” (Luke 18:11). He often will have a critical spirit toward his wife, and she won’t be able to please him because he views her as less of a person than himself. Therefore, there is no need to ask her opinion on things because her opinion is of no value to him.

Dictator Dad’s main concern with others is how they can serve him. If he doesn’t get his way, he will be angry, because it is his way or no way. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). Because of his pride, he is quick to mock, belittle, and throw a fit.

Dad the Dictator sounds pretty awful, doesn’t he? Can you imagine a woman vowing before God and man at the marriage altar to obey and follow him? I’m sure the wife in this position has had the same thoughts on occasion. We have met so many dictators through the years. It is easy to fall into a selfish, proud spirit, and it is amazing that it doesn’t happen more often for all dads. When you consider what the Word says about our hearts, it is a wonder we are ever the servant-leaders the Lord has called us to be. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Dad the Dictator is not a nice guy. Proud, angry, mocking, and hypocritical character qualities are not the type that will draw the hearts of his family to him. “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5). Clearly, he is an abomination to the Lord.

This Dictator Dad description should be enough to give each of us something to consider. Are there areas of our lives and leadership where we resemble Dad the Dictator? If we are saved, then we go to the cross first in repentance and then to those we have offended asking for forgiveness and working toward restoration. The Lord is quick to forgive, and if we are sincere, our families will be as well. Next month, we will look at the servant-leader dad, his qualities, and how he leads his home.