7 Things I Learned From My Father

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Mark Twain, the American humorist said:

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

While I was in college, I was asked to write a paper about the greatest man I’d ever met or read about.  It was an easy and immediate decision. . .I wrote it about my Dad.

I often think about the character qualities I learned from my father that would benefit others.

Proverbs 20:7 in the Amplified Bible says:

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; blessed (happy, fortunate, enviable) are his children after him.”

There are seven character qualities of a Godly father that I want to share with you today. . .based on the life of James Harold Herring, Sr., my father.

First, everybody was worthy of respect.

I’ve never heard my Dad say anything negative about anybody.

Now that may sound easy, but let me tell you that not all of the customers that Dad served for over 54 years in business were the easiest people to wait on or serve.  Anyone involved in retail selling knows that.

Nonetheless, my father would never allow me to disrespect anybody.  I learned at an earlier age there would be consequences.

When someone was acting foolish or unkind. . .my Dad would simply say “all that person needs is a good case of salvation.”

Dad never judged a man by the color of his skin, his neck or his bank account.

I was taught to say Yes, Sir and No, Ma’am and to call anybody older than me Mr. So and So or Ms. So and So.

I was taught to never enter a person’s home with taking my hat off.  He said to do otherwise was a sign of disrespect.

In essence, my Dad taught me to respect others.  Much of his teaching was not in words but in how he lived his life before a son who was always watching his every move.

1Thessalonians 2:11-12 in the Amplified Bible says:

“For you know how, as a father [dealing with] his children, we used to exhort each of you personally, stimulating and encouraging and charging you to live lives worthy of God, Who calls you into His own kingdom and the glorious blessedness [into which true believers will enter after Christ’s return].”

Either my Dad or Mom would read Bible stories to me at night. . .they still have that book.  Dad did teach me to respect the Word of God.

As an adult when I began going deeper in the Word I discovered powerful verses like Proverbs 22:4 in the Contemporary English Version which says:

“Respect and serve the LORD!  Your reward will be wealth, a long life, and honor.”

Second, be a person of character instead of acting like one.

3 John 1:4 in the English Standard Version says:

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

I’ve never heard anyone question my father’s integrity or his character.

John Wooden, the great basketball coach, said:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”  

Psalm 89:16-18 in The Living Bible says:

“They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation and in your perfect righteousness. You are their strength. What glory! Our power is based on your favor!”

A person with a good reputation. . .is most often a person of character. . .who will enjoy supernatural favor.

My Father taught me that a person should walk in integrity and that our word should be our bond.

1 John 2:5 in the English Standard Version says:

“But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him.”

Third, he taught me a work ethic.

During my lifetime, my parents were share croppers, owned a service station, grocery store, grill, Western Auto store and finally, a restaurant.

My Father has never been afraid of work.  In fact, he considered working a joy.  He also considered it a blessing to have his own business.

Proverbs 12:14 in the New Living Translation says:

“Wise words bring many benefits, and hard work brings rewards.”       

My Father also taught me to dress for the job you want instead of the one you’ve got…long before I read the book “Dress for Success.”

I don’t ever remember seeing my Father without a white shirt and tie.  He would change tires and the oil in cars. . .in his trademark shirt and tie.  I’ve seen my Dad go deer hunting wearing a white shirt and tie under his camouflage overalls.

My Dad appreciated the opportunities he had even though as the oldest child, he had to drop out of school in the 5th grade to work on the farm.

Colossians 3:23 in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition says:

“Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.”

That’s the work ethic my Father demonstrated for me.

Fourth, he taught me to be a servant.

The story is told of a father of five children who came home with a toy. He summoned his children and asked which of them should be given the present.

"Who is the most obedient one here? Who never talks back to Mom and does everything that Mom says to do?" He inquired.

There were a few seconds of silence, and then all of the children said in one accord: "You play with it Daddy!"

There is an old saying that there is more caught than taught.

I’ve seen my father serve others when it wasn’t personally convenient for him or when it was obvious that his sacrifice would never be publicly known.  But his godly example of service impacted and shaped who I am today.

Matthew 23:11 in The Living Bible says:

“The more lowly your service to others, the greater you are. To be the greatest, be a servant.”

Galatians 5:13 in the New Living Translation describes my father and it should describe each of us.  The verse says:

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

That’s my Dad.

Fifth, my Dad gave me an amazing sense of humor.

My Dad taught me that you can be funny and witty without being vulgar.  He also seeded some funny sayings which have become my own.


“That food’s so good it made my tongue slap my tonsils.”

“If you could buy that man for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth…you’d be a rich man.”

Proverbs 17:22 in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition says:

“A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”

Sixth, my Dad taught me how to treat those you love.

My father showed me how a husband should treat his wife.  He has always treated my Mom like the queen that she is.

Every dish. . .every meal my mother prepares is his best meal ever.

If Mom asks Dad what he’d like to eat. . .his answer is always “whatever you make will be good.”

I have people tell me how cute it is to see my folks walking together because they’re always holding hands.

My Dad always opens the car door for my Mom.

My Father even loved those who truthfully. . .were a bit unlovely. . .not so much in appearance as in actions.

Romans 15:1-2 in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition says:

“We who are strong [in our convictions and of robust faith] ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak; [we ought to help carry the doubts and qualms of others] and not to please ourselves.        2 Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually].”

That’s my Father.

Seventh, my Dad taught and continues to teach me. . .how to be wise.

I shared on numerous occasions before about my father. . .the soul winner.  He takes the Great Commission serious. . .for him it’s not the Great Suggestion. . .it’s a command of the Lord.

When my father was 69 he completed a correspondence course with Rhema Bible Training Center.

Proverbs 4:1-4

“Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.”

I know he’s a wise man because that’s what the Word of God says:

Proverbs 11:30 in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition says:

“The fruit of the [uncompromisingly] righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise captures human lives [for God, as a fisher of men—he gathers and receives them for eternity].”

One more thing and this is very important.

Some of you may not have had a godly father or, for that matter, a father who was around at all.  If that’s the case, never forget that your Heavenly Father loves you as no one else ever could.

Know that He sees the possibilities He put in you.  You must grasp the knowledge that He sees through your failures to see your potential for success.

Psalm 27:10 in the New King James Version says:

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.”

Steve Farrar, the author of Standing Tall, said:

"A godly father is the unseen spiritual submarine who lurks below the surface of every activity of his child’s life. A man who has put on the full armor of God and with that armor, goes to warfare on his knees for his children, is a force to be reckoned with…we cannot be with our children 24 hours a day…through our prayers we have the ability to affect situations even when we are not physically present. You may be undetected but that does not mean you are ineffective."

One final story on this Father’s Day.

Lucille Ball, shortly before her death, did a remarkable TV interview with Merv Griffin. He asked her a very serious and pointed question:

"Lucille, you've lived a long time on this earth and you are a wise person. What's happened to our country? What's wrong with our children? Why are our families falling apart? What's missing?"

Lucille Ball answered without hesitation: "Papa's missing. Things are falling apart because Papa's gone. If Papa were here he would fix it."

Let’s do a brief review of the seven things I learned from my father. . .truth be told these lessons came to me from my Heavenly Father through my earthly father.

Everyone is worthy of respect.

Be a person of character instead of acting like one.

Develop a Godly work ethic.

Learn to be a servant of all.

Develop a sense of humor.

Learn how to treat those you love.

What makes you a wise person….

These seven character qualities should be a part of all of our lives on Father’s Day and for that matter. . .every other day.

I had finished this teaching and was about to shut down my computer when the Lord said, one more thing.

He directed me to remind us that the scripture commands us to love our mothers and fathers.

Exodus 20:12 in the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition says:

“Regard (treat with honor, due obedience, and courtesy) your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land the Lord your God gives you.”

The screen doesn’t say honor them if you feel they deserve it. . .if they treated you okay growing up. . .if you agree with everything they do. . .it doesn’t even say. . .if they are Christians and living a righteous life.

It says. . .Honor your father and mother. . .no asterisk. . .no conditions.

If things aren’t right with your parents on this Father’s Day. . .take the first step to making it right.

Now that’s what I call the love of a Father.