Back when I was in high school, 25 years ago today, I went to a concert at a local Christian bookstore with a friend. The band was a local group and truthfully they were pretty bad. To give you an indication of how bad they were, the one song that I can remember that they played that night was titled, “Beefaroni or Be For Real.” During that concert, a group of girls were sitting in front of us. As the show went along, my friend and I started trying to figure out if the two girls that were in front of us were twins. They overheard our conversation and one turned around and said, “Yes, we are twins.” My world pretty much changed that night. The girl who turned around had the most beautiful eyes that I had ever seen, a great smile, and brown curly hair. We talked the rest of the evening, exchanged phone numbers, and as we left had no idea if we would meet again.
We talked on the phone about every day after that. A couple of weeks later we met again at her house and had dinner with her parents. At this point I am thinking, “I really want to get to know this girl and have her as my girlfriend.” All appeared to be moving swiftly toward that goal until one night when we were talking she said, “A friend of mine at school said that you are my boyfriend. Can you believe that she would say that?” I, of course, was confused but being the cool dude said something like, “Ummm…yeah…..How could she think such a thing?”
Shortly after that, she explained that her father would not let her date until she was 16. Well, that was less than a year away and did I tell you about those bright blue brilliant eyes? To make a long story short, it turned out that she really liked me too. As it turned out, other boys had liked her too and they were not really the kind of boys she wanted to be around. At that time, most of the early high school dating scene was more a name calling attachment than anything else and most could not even drive yet. It turns out that she was not really good at explaining that she had no interest in these other boys. I did mention the mesmerizing eyes and all, right? So, she went to her father and asked him, “Daddy, can you make a rule that I can’t date until I am 16?” I can imagine it didn’t take a good, protective father long to think about it and say, “Umm….sure honey.”
We continued to see each other almost every weekend. Sometime around Christmas time of that year I went to a music performance that she was in and when we were getting ready to leave her Dad said that she could ride home with me. I had gained his trust and respect over that time frame and he felt comfortable with me being responsible enough to take his little girl home. Needless to say, we started dating long before she turned 16. She eventually became my wife and still has those incredible eyes.
I tell you this long story to illustrate that her Dad was willing to be the bad guy. He was willing to provide a cover of safety for his daughter by making a rule, even if it was her own choosing that would protect her from situations that were difficult for her. Looking back at my experience as a husband and dad, a lot of my best decisions have come from times when I was willing to be the bad guy. There have been many times when my decisions wouldn’t make me popular, the cool dad, or even hated by some. When I look back, however, I am happy that I made the decisions that I did even though it might have meant I had to be the bad guy.
Before we go further, let me explain that our role is not to pride ourselves on being the bad guy. In fact, there are in reality only a small number of situations where I would encourage you to be the cog in the wheel. Most instances that I have found are situations where it seems the popular and dare I say politically correct answer may not be best.
For example, let me use church as an example. I encourage everyone to be involved with a local church and to get the most out of it you need to be pretty active. How easy is it for a wife to get involved with helping out in several areas of the church and have all of her time consumed? With churches, the more involved you are the more likely you are to get asked to become more involved in other activities. Your wife wants to serve God and wants to be a good church member so she keeps saying yes until she is stressed out and loaded with responsibilities. The same thing can happen to a man. He can take a leadership role which leads to another role which leads to another role until he is tied up completely with fulfilling his responsibilities. So, what happens when there is a Fall Carnival at church and Mommy and Daddy are tied up serving corn dogs for an hour here and handing out game prizes for an hour over here and letting people go up the giant inflatable slide for an hour over there? Did the children get to enjoy the carnival? Did they get to have a great time with their family? How about you? Did you enjoy the family time at the carnival? You probably spent a majority of the time looking at your watch hoping it would all end soon.
I use this example not to mean that you should not help out with church events. The real point is that you should be willing to make a stand and say my family is too important for me to be tied up the whole night. Yes, working an hour is reasonable and maybe having both work at different times so one could be with the kids would make sense, but we too often fall into the trap of committing ourselves and then when there is a shortage in help we over commit ourselves.
Every family is different so evaluate your own family’s situation. It could be that even though dear Deacon Smith from the nominating committee has seen a vision from the Lord that you need to teach the 3 year old Sunday School Class, it may not be in the best interest of your family or even an area that is one of your gifts or talents. Stand strong in protecting your family and yourself even under circumstances that are laden with guilt and pressure. Any church choir members ever feel like they are weighed down with their commitment to the point that it may make it hard for them to actually worship? It is so easy for them to feel entrapped in the system to the point that they feel that if they take a week off to sit with their family that they are letting their church down and their ministry to God.
Let me give you another good example of where I had to be the bad guy in a situation where one might feel they were doing ministry. Several years ago, my son had a classmate from school that we decided we would try to get involved with church. I think we started by inviting them to come along for a vacation bible school and then shortly after that, started bringing them on Sundays to church activities. It all began well and things were going along pretty smoothly. Over time the child seemed to figure out that their parents weren’t there and there was only so much we could do to control them. After making our son’s church attendance miserable for awhile it finally became apparent that our “do good” ministry was horrible for our own family. I explained to the kid’s parents that it was not working out for us to take their kid to church with us and we had to stop. It was a situation where I had to be a bad guy and it was a good decision.
Be a bad guy with your time. Protect your family’s time together as much as you can. I have found that I have hardly ever regretted a decision to protect my family’s time together. Be willing to stand up and evaluate what the cost is going to be for your son to play baseball, football, or soccer. Those are all great things and I am not saying that they shouldn’t play, but if it is going to cost you every night of the week, Saturday, and potentially Sunday with them I find it hard to see where it can be justified. Evaluate your wife’s commitments and even evaluate your own commitments away from work and see if they are taking too much time away from your family.
When it comes to being a bad guy, you may have to consider the impact your job is having on your family. It may be that you have an opportunity for a promotion at work but the responsibilities may mean that you have to spend a lot more time at the office. Will you consider if the promotion is worth the time you are going to lose to your family? How about if you are considering a job that is going to have a ton of travel? Is the extra money going to replace the time you will be missing from your family? I understand that you are saying, “Dude, I work so hard to support my family, I cannot pay all of the bills for my family without this job. The hours are long and I do miss the time with my family but…..” I am not saying that we shouldn’t be the best workers that we should be. I only ask that you evaluate if it is having an adverse effect on your time with your family. If there is extra time needed for the job you are in or a lot of time away required, I asked you to evaluate if the job is to support your family or to support a new car, a new house, or a new boat.
Lastly, when it comes to your family, be ready to be the bad guy. You can help them get away from a lot of uncomfortable situations by taking the blame and being the bad guy. Let them know that it is alright for them to say no to something because you said no. It is even alright for them to ask you to say no to something. When it comes to everyday things it is so much easier to just say yes, especially with the kids. By making a decision and saying no when needed you are teaching them to be able to accept no as an answer and that saying no is acceptable for them as well. Be the bad guy for your family today. Sometimes being the bad guy can be the most loving thing you can do.